By John Denton
January 28, 2013

``The back-to-back took its toll on us. It was a tough back-to-back to play,’’ said Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, whose team played Sunday in Orlando, arrived in New York early Monday morning and played again Monday night. ``In the third we were able to cut it down to (seven). We had a chance to make a three. … The (Nets) lead from there developed pretty quickly.’’

Magic center Nikola Vucevic had 18 points, but he missed out on his 24th double-double by finishing with just nine rebounds. Queens, N.Y., native Maurice Harkless scored a career-best 16 points by making seven of 10 shots and drilling two 3-pointers.

``I’m just trying to learn from every game,’’ said Harkless, who is planning to visit with his former college teammates at St. John’s today while in New York. ``I’ve tried to just keep working. You never know when coach is going to call your number, so you always have to stay ready, stay in gym, stay in shape and stay focused on the game plan. Definitely it’s something for me to build on, but I have to keep working. This came with hard work, so I have to keep working.’’

Magic shooting guard J.J. Redick scored 31 points and made a career-best eight 3-pointers on Sunday, but he could never find the range on Monday. He missed 11 of his 13 shots and connected on only one of his eight 3-pointers. He did set a career-high with 10 assists, four of them coming during Orlando’s third-quarter charge.

The Magic were playing on the second night of a difficult back-to-back, having lost a night earlier at the buzzer against the Detroit Pistons. But because the Magic are playing the Knicks on Wednesday, they were afforded the opportunity to remain in New York for three straight days.

The Magic were also without starting swingman and leading scorer Arron Afflalo, who strained his left calf and Achilles’ tendon on Sunday. Afflalo was plenty sore on Monday and is unsure if he will be able to play on Wednesday against the Knicks. New York is 2-0 this season against the Magic.

Monday’s game was the first of a five-game, nine-day road trip for the Magic. After playing the Knicks on Wednesday, Orlando will face Boston (Friday), Milwaukee (Saturday) and Philadelphia (Monday).

The Afflalo injury allowed longtime Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu to work his way back into the rotation. Turkoglu, who broke a bone in his left hand in the season opener and missed eight weeks, hadn’t played in the previous nine games as he worked to improve his conditioning and strengthen his hand. Turkoglu scored four points in 12 minutes, but missed all three of his 3-point shots.

Orlando made its best charge of the night in the third quarter, cutting a 16-point halftime deficit to seven points by the start of the fourth quarter. Unlike a night earlier when Redick carried the Magic with his shooting, he did it with his passing on Monday night.

Redick had four assists in the third period alone, allowing him to eclipse his previous career high in assists with nine. His ninth and 10th assists came on beautifully executed pick-and-pop plays with Vucevic and Davis. He missed out on an 11th assist late in the third period when Davis bobbled a Redick pass, but still scored on the play. The Magic trailed 56-40 at the break because they were mostly defenseless against the Nets’ high-powered offense. Brooklyn made 56.8 percent of their shots and also buried seven first-half threes to jump ahead of the Magic by as much as 18 points early on.

A night after equaling a Magic franchise record for 3-pointers in a quarter (five), Redick struggled to find the range on his jump shot in the first half. His first and last shots of the first 24 minutes were airballs and he made just one of seven tries in the early going. But Redick did help out in other ways by handing out six assists in the first half.

``I was just taking my shots and I took the shots that were there,’’ Redick said of his tough shooting night. ``(Magic point guard) Jameer (Nelson) said after the game, `I didn’t realize you were two for 13.’ Youhave nights like this and it’s unfortunate. I felt like with Arron out that Jameer and I needed to shoot well to help our offense and that just didn’t happen.’’

The Magic fell into an early hole because they were unable to put up much defensive resistance against the red-hot shooting Nets. Brooklyn made a staggering 10 of its first 15 shots and six of nine 3-point shots. As he’s done so many times in his career, Deron Williams carved up the Magic with his penetration and passing in the first quarter when he scored 13 points and handed out three assists.

When Bogans ended the first period with a 3-pointer, the Nets already had a 30-20 lead.

Before Monday’s game, Brooklyn coach P.J. Carlesimo called Vucevic ``one of the most improved big men in the NBA,’’ and the Magic center backed that up with a strong start. He was extremely active around the glass, making six of eight shots for 12 first-half points. One of the Magic’s steadiest producers of late, Vucevic also had seven rebounds (three offensive) in the first half.

Nelson made just three of his 12 shots and struggled guarding Williams (20 points and nine assiste). After finishing with nine points and six assists, Nelson admitted that fatigue might have contributed heavily to the Magic’s latest loss.

``I think guys gave a lot, but we might have run out of gas,’’ Nelson said. ``It’s hard, but you have to fight through that. There are going to be times when you get tired and you have to play through back-to-backs. You just have to learn from it, especially the young guys who haven’t experienced a lot of back to backs this season.’’


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