By John Denton
December 17, 2012
Jameer Nelson added 12 assists for a Magic team that shot 53.7 percent from the floor and had 31 assists on 44 field goals. It was the most assists that the Magic have had since they registered 34 in a win against the Lakers two weeks ago. Orlando had won two games in a row three other times, but Monday was the first time all season it was able to push the streak to three games.
The Magic are off on Tuesday and will host the woeful Washington Wizards on Wednesday at the Amway Center. The Wizards are a league-worst 3-18, are 1-10 on the road and have lost three in a row.
``It’s really big for us, especially with where we’re trying to head and the opportunity that we have over the next couple of days,’’ Davis said. ``You know, to get to .500, that would be big. We have to take them one game at a time. But we can’t lay back; our tempo has to be up and our motors have to be going to get these (wins).’’
Ricky Rubio, who was playing just his second game following knee surgery last year, was limited to 16 minutes and finished with four assists. He will rest on Tuesday when the Timberwolves play the Miami Heat.
Sluggish and down as much as 15 points early in the third quarter, the Magic made a furious run to get back in the game. Davis made all six of his shots in the period – three of them on dunks – for 12 third-quarter points. Josh McRoberts had a thunderous follow-up dunk and when E’Twaun Moore drilled a 3-pointer off a feed from Redick, the Magic had improbably come all the way back to tie the game at 74-all.
Said McRoberts: ``That’s some of the strengths of my game – getting rebounds and dunking. We were a little more focused on our game plan (in the second half). Glen did a great job of coming out in the second half ready to play. He did well for us.’’
Rare has it been the case where defense was the problem for the Magic, but that was certainly the case in the first half when Minnesota used its size and physicality to score at will at times.
Minnesota’s massive frontline smashed the Magic in the first half to the tune of a 61-49 score at the break. Pekovic, Love and Kirilenko combined for 43 of the Timberwolves’ 61 points in the first half while making 17 of 29 shots. Their play allowed Minnesota to double up the Magic on points in the paint (32-16) in the first half.
The Magic fell behind by as much as 11 early in the game as Minnesota scored 20 of its first 28 points in the paint.
``I didn’t like the way we played in the first half and I don’t think anyone on our team did,’’ Redick said. ``It was one of those things where you get in the trap of scoring points and not playing defense. We let Pekovic and Love go off in the first half. And in the third quarter we started clamping down. That was the difference.’’
Ultimately, the Magic got a handle on the post-ups and the penetration and played well enough to storm into a 42-41 lead. But the Wolves ended the half with a 20-7 run – 19 of the points came from the starting frontline – to boost their halftime lead to 12 points.
Redick, the last player to leave the Magic’s locker room on Monday night, marveled at the progress that his team has made over the last few weeks. He said Monday’s game, one where the deficit once swelled to as much as 15 points, was a game Orlando might not have won earlier in the season. It also gave the Magic revenge for a 90-75 loss to Minnesota on Nov. 7.
``It’s a mental toughness that we have now,’’ Redick said. ``(In Minnesota in November), we got down and we gave up and they went on a huge run and blew us out. We had a number of those games early in the season. But when we’ve gotten down lately we’ve fought back and put ourselves in a position to win. It’s just a maturation of our group.’’
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