By John Denton
March 4, 2013
``I begged him for (the ball) because the play before he had me wide open but he made the shot,’’ Harrington said. ``I was telling (Afflalo) that Anthony Davis can’t help himself because he’s a big man and wants to get into the paint. I told (Afflalo) if (Davis) stands there I’ll be wide open. He spun back and got it to me and I hit a big shot.’’
How good were the Magic on the offensive end of the floor in the second half? After scoring just 35 points in the first half – and going the final 6:20 of the second quarter without a point – Orlando had 34 points in the third quarter and 35 in the decisive fourth period.
It was quite a turnaround from 24 hours earlier when the Magic were routed at home by the Memphis Grizzlies. Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn had a feeling that his team would deliver a strong bounce-back performance on Monday.
``There was just a good vibe and feel in the locker room before the game,’’ Vaughn said. ``It was an interesting game because we got stuck on 36 for a little bit. But we went into halftime and regrouped and saw a few (video) clips. You could see the resolve and feeling coming out of halftime. They punched us in the mouth again, but we showed some resiliency and finished down the stretch.’’
Harrington, who missed 10 months after having four procedures on his knee due to a staph infection, scored 10 points. Afflalo and Tobias Harris had key free throws in the final seconds and Orlando (17-44) held on when Greivis Vasquez’ 3-point heave missed.
``I’m a player who is never satisfied and I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed and be one of the leaders of this team,’’ Afflalo said. ``For me, it’s relaxing understanding the situation here. I’m starting from this day forward trying to better my game and help us grow as a team.’’
Afflalo made all three of his shots, got to the free throw line six times (with five makes) and had two assists in the fourth quarter alone. Harrington had three baskets, two 3-pointers, four rebounds and two assists in the final period.
Jameer Nelson, who was playing for the first time in two weeks after missing six straight games with a bruised patellar tendon in his left knee, had 15 points and seven assists. Harris added 15 points and five rebounds – none more important than the board he got with 10.6 seconds remaining after Afflalo missed a free throw. Harris hit one of two free throws to put the Magic up three in the final seconds.
``That’s what the game is all about -- giving that extra effort – and I have been saying that every night,’’ said Harris, who has scored in double figures in five of his six games with the Magic. ``It’s about not stopping playing until the game is over. It was a two-point lead at that point and I wanted to do what I could for our team to help us win.’’
After playing nine games in the past 14 days, the Magic will have Tuesday off before playing the Miami Heat on Wednesday in South Florida. The Heat beat the Magic 112-110 in overtime in Orlando on Dec. 31. That night, center Nikola Vucevic set the Magic franchise record for rebounds in a game with 29.
The Magic are next at home on Friday when they host the Indiana Pacers at the Amway Center. The Magic topped the Pacers 97-86 on Jan. 16 at the Amway Center for one of their most impressive wins of the season.
Top overall pick Anthony Davis returned from a shoulder injury and had 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots. Gordon had 17, but he couldn’t stop Afflalo down the stretch. And Anderson – who spent the previous three seasons in Orlando, scored 13 points – including seven in a New Orleans (21-40) spurt that put the Magic down 97-88 with 3:30 to play.
Harrington got creative down the stretch, blitzing a pick-and-roll to force a turnover from Gordon. He missed the layup on the other end, but it was followed up for a dunk by Harkless. Harrington twisted his right knee on the landing, giving him a brief scare. ``I’m really sore and I’m definitely going to take all (Tuesday) off,’’ Harrington said with a chuckle. ``When I laid the ball up I wasn’t thinking about how I landed and I landed a little funny. I just tweaked my knee a little bit, but I’ll be fine.’’
Down as much as 17 at one point in the third quarter, the Magic put together a furious run during the third quarter to get back into the game. Orlando used a 19-5 surge – keyed by the shot-making from Nelson and Harkless’ ability to finish around the rim – to pull even with New Orleans at 66-all. The Magic trailed 76-70 going into the fourth period, but the fortitude showed by the Magic was especially impressive considering that the team was playing its second game in as many nights and its ninth game in the past 14 nights.
Up 36-31 midway through the second quarter and playing solid basketball, the bottom fell out over the final 6:20 of the first half for the Magic. New Orleans ended the half on a 15-0 run to take a 46-36 lead into intermission.
A night after mustering just 35 points in the first half of a loss to Memphis, Orlando sputtered to 36 points and 35.7 percent shooting in the first half.
During the drought, Orlando missed all seven of its shots and turned the ball over three times. Afflalo and Nelson missed three times each during Orlando’s poor finish to the first half – many of them on long, hurried tries at the end of the shot clock. Harris, who struggled through a three of 14 shooting night on Sunday against Memphis, showed some resolve by coming back focused and ready on Monday. He made five of his first seven shots, including a 3-pointer from the corner for 12 first-half points.
But curiously, Harris did not get a shot attempt over the final 7:27 of the second quarter. His nifty left-handed runner in the lane tied the game at 31-all. But it was his last attempt of the second period and the Magic offense suffered because of it.
``I couldn’t wait to get back out there to get rid of (Sunday) night’s game,’’ Harris said. ``It was an off shooting night for me (on Sunday), so tonight it was important for me to come out as a player and do other things. The first half I did a good job of scoring and in the second half I was just trying to make plays for everyone else. I just wanted to make the winning plays for this game.’’
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