By John Denton
October 26, 2012
ORLANDO – Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn had a singular goal going into his team’s final preseason game Friday night – to leave the exhibition season behind with a healthy roster intact.
In that respect, it was mission accomplished for the Magic. That’s a good thing because on the court there wasn’t much at all that went right on a night when the Magic shot just 39.6 percent, gave up too many transition buckets, pulled the starters at halftime and were throttled 108-92 by the Houston Rockets.
``I don’t care what the situation is, you never want to give up that many points,’’ Magic guard Jameer Nelson said. ``It was just a lack of concentration. It was a good old-fashioned butt-whooping and they showed us some of the things that we need to work on.’’
After almost a month of practicing and eight exhibition games, the Magic (2-6) can now look ahead to the start of the regular season. Vaughn protected his starters from the grind that’s ahead in the NBA’s marathon season, resting them throughout several long stretches of the preseason games.
Orlando now has a week to ready itself for the regular-season opener on Friday against the Denver Nuggets. The Magic are slated to practice once this weekend and then will hold an open practice for fans Monday at 7 p.m. at the Amway Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the event is free to fans.
``We wanted our guys going into the first game healthy and feeling good and we accomplished that,’’ Vaughn said.
Houston (5-2) used runs of 13-1 and 11-1 in the second quarter to put the Magic into a 55-41 hole by halftime. Vaughn didn’t want to risk injury to the starters and pulled them at the break. That allowed the likes of rookie forward DeQuan Jones (16 points), point guard Ish Smith (six points) and guard E’Twaun Moore (18 points) to play extensively in the second half. Smith was making his preseason debut after undergoing shoulder surgery in July.
Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis scored 12 points in 21 minutes, while center Nikola Vucevic grabbed 14 rebounds in the first half alone. Arron Afflalo, acquired in August from Denver, scored eight points in his first home game with the Magic. Afflalo missed the first two weeks of camp and the first six preseason games while recovering from a strained left hamstring.
``I actually felt better with my conditioning and each day next week in practice is going to be helpful,’’ said Afflalo, who made three of seven shots. ``I’m just glad that preseason is over and we can get down to business now. We’ve got some things to improve on and we’ve got to get ready for Friday.’’
The Magic were without standout shooting guard J.J. Redick, their most consistent player this preseason, because of a sore hip. Redick averaged 13.7 points and 8.6 assists in six preseason games. Redick’s soreness is considered minor and he should practice with the team on Saturday.
Jeremy Lin scored 13 points and made three 3-pointers for the Rockets. Chandler Parsons, an Orlando native who had approximately 50 family and friends in attendance, scored 12 points.
Orlando trailed 55-41 at the break following a sloppy first half. The Magic made just 16 of 47 shots (34 percent) and hit only one of seven tries from 3-point range. And defensively, the Magic were gashed by Carlos Delfino (11 points) and Kevin Martin (11 points) in the first half.
Houston started the second quarter with a 13-1 run and ended it with another 11-1 spurt to break the game open. The Magic missed their first nine shots of the second quarter and hit only five of 25 tries in the period.
``I think the most glaring weakness that we showed was transition defense. Make or miss they were able to get the ball up the floor and create scoring opportunities,’’ Vaughn said. ``I would say overall it was just sub-par effort in transition defense for us tonight.’’
There were so many misses in the first half that Vucevic grabbed 14 boards in the first half. Five rebounds came off the offensive glass. The 14 rebounds were one more than his previous career high set last season while playing for the Philadelphia 76ers.
``My goal every night is to rebound the ball,’’ said Vucevic, the likely starter at center on Opening Night with Gustavo Ayon out two weeks with a sprained thumb.
``Rebounding has to be my main thing. I’m the biggest guy on our team, so it’s my job to rebound.’’
Vaughn stretched out the minutes somewhat for Afflalo, playing him the first seven minutes of the game. The plan was to play the veteran shooting guard in longer bursts after keeping him to four and five-minute stretches in his first game back from a hamstring strain on Wednesday.
Afflalo had a step-back jumper for his first basket at the Amway Center as a member of the Magic. Then, following a transition 3-pointer off a feed from Hedo Turkoglu, Afflalo blew past Carlos Delfino off the dribble and converted a nifty reserve layup in traffic.
Now, mercifully, the preseason is finally over and the Magic can turn their focus to the games that matter. Vaughn said the week ahead will be an important one for a Magic team that needs to clean up some defensive flaws and some offensive inefficiency. On Friday, against the Nuggets, wins and losses will count and the Magic’s main rotation will see the bulk of the minutes.
``I like where we are as a team and our chemistry is still growing every day,’’ Davis said. ``We’re mixing the older guys and the young guys and it’s going to take us some time. We just have to keep talking things out. We’ll get on the same page and get it right.’’
John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.
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