By John Denton
April 15, 2013
``We have to come and play every night and we have to be tougher against these teams when they show toughness against us,’’ said Harris, who had 20 points and four rebounds. ``We started off well and then they got a little physical with us. And in the second half they just ran with (the lead). So for us, we’ve got to grow from this and bring a tough mentality back at these teams when they get physical.’’
At the end of Monday’s final home game, the Magic congregated at center court and applauded to the crowd of 17,297 fans. Rookie head coach Jacque Vaughn led the applause for the 32nd crowd this season of at least 17,000 fans.
``Just (thanking) the people who were still there at the end of this game,’’ Vaughn said of the mid-court applause for the fans. ``It’s been that way more than few times, multiple times throughout the course of the year, fans staying until the end of games and offering unbelievable support. It was just our small gesture of saying `thank you’ for being there for us the entire year.’’
Magic center Nikola Vucevic added 17 points and 14 rebounds for his 45th double-double of the season.
The Magic won their first two home games and four of the first six this season at the Amway Center, but finished just 12-29 at home. That equaled the home record of the 1989 expansion team and was the worst since the 11-30 mark in 2003-04.
``It’s weird. I think we play a little bit better on the road sometimes,’’ Harkless said. ``I don’t know why, but we have to learn to take care of home and win games.’’
Carlos Boozer made 11 of 15 shots and scored 22 points for Chicago (44-37). The Bulls also got back injured forwards Joakim Noah (six points and five rebounds) and Taj Gibson (12 points) to sweep the season series from the Magic.
Said Boozer: ``Our chemistry is amazing. We play really well together. That is one of our strengths.’’
The Magic close the regular season in Miami against the Heat on Wednesday night. Orlando nearly ended Miami’s midseason winning streak at 16 games, but lost 97-96 on a last-second layup by LeBron James. Miami won by one point in overtime in Orlando on Dec. 31, and won 108-94 in Orlando late last month.
Down 12 points at the half, things only got worse in the third quarter for the Magic when they struggled to get much of anything going offensively. Shots weren’t falling and the ball movement was partly to blame as Orlando had just seven assists in the first three quarters.
Unlike in Saturday’s loss to Boston when they never led, the Magic got off to a much better start on Monday night. They led most of the half before a poor finish to the second quarter put them in a 49-37 halftime hole.
Orlando led 23-21 after one period and by as much as five points early on. Harris got off to a good start, splitting a double team on one play and finishing with a thunderous dunk.
``We made some mental mistakes out there,’’ Harkless said. ``We’re just learning, and that comes with experience, us playing together and playing in this league. You look around and we’re playing with first- and second-year guys really. So we just have to learn and get better.’’
Despite battling a sore left wrist, Vucevic came out in attack mode and wasted no time in compiling his 45th double-double of the season. He had 14 points and 11 boards by halftime, almost single-handedly carrying the Magic with his shooting and toughness on the glass.
But soon after that, things started to badly unravel for the Magic. When Chicago dug in defensively, Orlando hit just four of 18 shots and turned the ball over six times. As a result, the Magic scored just 14 points in the second period – just one more than Deng and Boozer in the quarter. Chicago doubled up the Magic in the second quarter, 28-14, to build the 12-point lead at halftime.
One positive for the Magic was the 34 free throws against the Bulls. That easily bettered the previous season high of 27 free throw attempts on March 30 in Atlanta.
``I think when you take a look at us from the beginning of the year until now, I think we have multiple guys who are capable of getting to the basket,’’ Vaughn said. ``We have guys who can create foul opportunities and are aggressive doing so.’’
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