By John Denton
November 19, 2012

ATLANTA – Minutes before Monday night’s game, point guard Jameer Nelson was questionable to play for the Orlando Magic because of a troublesome chest cold and shooting guard J.J. Redick was still feeling the aftereffects of a nasty stomach virus.

By the end of the night, after the Magic had slogged through another sluggish offensive effort and was saddled with an 81-72 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, there was somewhat of a queasy feeling coursing throughout the entire team.

``We have to execute better, we have to screen better and we have to move the ball better,’’ Redick surmised afterward in a disappointed Magic locker room. ``I think we could use more structure, too. We’re trying to be unpredictable and sometimes our unpredictability doesn’t allow us to get to our strengths.’’

A roadtrip that was seemingly full of promise when the Magic (3-7) earned a clutch win in Detroit on Friday night concluded Sunday and Monday with back-to-back losses to the Toronto Raptors and the Hawks (5-4). Orlando started Monday’s game well, but quickly fizzled after the first quarter and shot just 36.7 percent with 19 turnovers.

``We had 19 turnovers for 24 (Atlanta) points. It’s pretty simple basketball,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``It’s a matter of making the easy play. Basketball is complicated when you make it (that way).’’

Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis was the only Magic starter in double figures with 11 points, but he made just five of 13 shots. Nelson, who bravely played through coughs and wheezing, was done by the early stages of the fourth quarter and scored just eight points. Redick, meanwhile, missed six of seven shots and scored only two points.

Cracked Redick: ``I felt about as well as I played. I hoped that I could help the team, but I feel like I did more harm than good. I didn’t have a lot of energy and I never was able to eat a pregame meal today. It’s not an excuse, but I just didn’t have the energy that I need to have and it showed in my play because I was terrible.’’

Arron Afflalo, playing out of position at small forward because of the injury to Hedo Turkoglu (broken hand), struggled with just six points. Nikola Vucevic contributed 13 rebounds, but had only five points. The Magic starters combined for just 32 points on 14 of 42 shooting.

Orlando will now be charged with finding some way to spark the offense to get itself back on track. The Magic are back at home Wednesday night when they host Detroit. The Magic topped the Pistons 110-106 on Friday night. The game is the first of a five-game homestand against the Pistons (Wednesday), Cavaliers (Friday), Celtics (Sunday), Spurs (Nov. 28) and Nets (Nov. 30).

``When I think about all of our losses, we’ve played extremely poor offensively with the exception of the New York game for three quarters,’’ said Redick, who was back after missing Sunday’s game with the flu. ``This is our fourth game where we’ve scored under 75 points and you’re just not going to win any NBA games doing that. Part of that is turnovers, part is spacing and part of it goes back to execution. We’ve got to make sure that we have guys in the right spots, and frankly I don’t think we have that right now.’’

One positive from Monday was the way Orlando’s reserves – Maurice Harkless, Kyle O’Quinn, Gustavo Ayon, Ish Smith and Atlanta native DeQuan Jones – scrapped in the fourth quarter and finished the game strongly. That group cut a 24-point deficit to nine (79-70) late in the game to keep things interesting. Harkless finished with eight points, eight rebounds and two assists.

``We just wanted to go out there and play hard because we can’t keep letting other teams play harder than us,’’ said Harkless, the Magic’s promising 19-year-old rookie. ``If the bench can outplay the guys on the other team maybe that’s something that will help us in the future.’’

NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, the man tabbed to replace retiring NBA Commissioner David Stern in Feb. of 2014, watched Monday’s game from courtside. Silver was asked before the game about Dwight Howard’s defection from the Magic to the Lakers and he said: ``It’s an unfortunate circumstance and I don’t want to sugarcoat it. … Dwight did have several good years in Orlando and (the Magic) played at the highest level in The Finals, and this is not the way we like to see it happen.’’

A dismal third quarter on the offensive end of the floor doomed the Magic. Orlando relied heavily on jump shots, had very little going toward the basket and didn’t get to the free throw line in the third period. After an Afflalo jump shot got Orlando to within 48-45, the Magic went the next six minutes without making a shot. And things didn’t get much better once they did finally find the range and the Magic trailed 65-49 at the end of the third period.

The Magic played well at the start of the game, but their play sagged in the second quarter and they trailed 41-37 at the break. Orlando made just six of 20 shots in the second period and turned the ball over six times.

Afflalo and Redick gave the Magic very little in the first half, while Davis again struggled to score inside against Atlanta’s bigger frontline. Despite wheezing and coughing at times during breaks in the action, Nelson led the Magic in the first half with eight points.

Longtime Magic killer, Josh Smith, looked disinterested and uninvolved in the first half for the Hawks. Smith missed all five of his shots, had just two rebounds and did not score in the first 24 minutes. To make matters worse for Smith, a heckler in the lower bowl seemed to infuriate him by criticizing his shot selection. Smith finished with just six points and two rebounds in 22 minutes.

Vaughn made it a major point of emphasis for the Magic to get off to a better start and the squad responded by leading 23-21 after one period on Monday night. Vaughn was irate on Sunday when the Magic fell into an early 13-point hole in Toronto. It was the seventh time in nine games this season that the Magic have trailed by at least eight points in the first quarter.

This time around, the Magic were much more focused on both ends of the floor and playing with more intensity. Eight players scored in the first quarter as the Magic shot 50 percent and held the Hawks to 38 percent shooting.

Now, the Magic head back to the Amway Center for their longest homestand of the season. It’s time, they hope, when they can get healthy and cure what ails their struggling offense over the next two weeks.

``We started this game off better and (the Hawks) shot under 40 percent for the game, so game plan-wise I thought guys were locked in a little bit more from the start of the game,’’ Vaughn said. ``There was a stretch that got away from us and the culprit was turnovers. You just can’t complicate this game and in the future we have to keep things simple. That will help us going forward.’’

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