By John Denton
March 30, 2013
``I got my looks where I wanted them, but it was a matter of them not falling,’’ said Harris, who is averaging 16.3 points on 46.1 percent shooting in 19 games with the Magic. ``It would have been good to have my legs under me. I pretty much got the looks that I wanted, but they just weren’t going down tonight.’’
Nikola Vucevic was one of the bright spots for the Magic, scoring 17 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in his first game back after missing five games due to a concussion. The pregame plan was limit his playing time, but he played 39 minutes because he was so effective. It was his 15th 15-rebound game of the season and his 38th double-double of the season.
``I just wanted to get through that first wind and after that I knew that I would be fine,’’ Vucecic said. ``I did a couple of good workouts the past few days and I just wanted to get past that first wind. I fought through that and it was easy after that.’’
Beno Udrih, who started in place of Nelson, had 20 points, seven rebounds and eight assists despite a poor shooting night. Rookie Maurice Harkless played a solid all-around game with 17 points, four rebounds and three steals. DeQuan Jones, an Atlanta native playing in front of approximately 15 family and friends, had eight points, three rebounds and a blocked shot in 19 minutes.
Josh Smith had 21 points, while Ivan Johnson scored 21 points off the bench. Shelvin Mack also hurt the Magic with two 3-pointers and eight second-half points.
The Magic will be off on Sunday after playing their final back-to-back set of games of the season. Orlando will face the run-and-gun Rockets in Houston on Monday night. The five-game, 10-day trip also includes games in San Antonio (Wednesday), Chicago (Friday) and Cleveland (Sunday).
The injury-ravaged Magic were without Nelson, who sprained his right ankle in Friday’s home defeat of Washington. But they did welcome the return of Vucevic, who had been out since suffering the mild concussion last week against the Indiana Pacers.
The Hawks were also playing short-handed without Horford (illness), Zaza Pachulia (Achilles’ tendon surgery), DeShawn Stevenson (knee) and John Jenkins (concussion).
Orlando headed into the fourth quarter trailing 67-60, in part, because of their turnover issues and problems at the free throw line. Orlando turned the ball over 16 times in the first three quarters, leading to 19 points for the Hawks. And Orlando couldn’t make much of a charge at Atlanta’s lead because of 11 of 20 shooting at the free throw line.
Harris tried going right at Smith in the third period, but he continued to have troubles getting clean looks at the rim. He missed five of his six shots just after halftime and headed to the fourth quarter having made just four of 14 field goal attempts.
As is often the case with the Hawks, Orlando had trouble scoring in the first half and trailed 45-44 at intermission. The Magic shot just 38.3 percent and turned the ball over 10 times in the first 24 minutes, leading to 14 Hawks points.
The Magic’s best stretch of the first half came in the last two minutes of the second quarter when they ripped off a 10-2 run to grab a two-point lead. But the half ended poorly as Atlanta’s Smith grabbed a rebound and finished a layup at the horn to give the Hawks a one-point lead.
Vucevic had his playing time limited in the first half, but it looked as if he had never missed a beat after being off the past five games. He scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the first half to pace the Magic offense.
``Maybe I was a little fresher than the last few games I played (before the concussion),’’ Vucecic said. ``I hadn’t played for the last week, but I didn’t feel rusty and I actually felt good out there. I just tried to do my best to help my team win.’’
Harris, who was coming off career nights earlier in the week against Charlotte (29 points) and Washington (30 points), got off to somewhat of a slow start. Atlanta kept Smith on him most of the half, even inserting the forward when Vaughn brought Harris back into the game off the bench. Harris head up late in the first half, but he made just three of eight shots.
One bizarre sequence that occurred in the first half came when Atlanta’s Dahntay Jones ran under DeQuan Jones as he attempted a jump shot from the corner. Orlando’s Jones hit the floor on the play, but he was not injured on the play. Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant wasn’t so lucky last month when Jones ran under him on a last-second shot, causing the five-time NBA champion to suffer a severe ankle injury.
``That play it was in the left corner and I was more so focused on making the shot and I couldn’t tell you if his foot was under me or what the case was,’’ Orlando’s Jones said. ``I felt a little contact in my midsection, but it was not much at that point.’’
Orlando caught a bad break in the second quarter when Andrew Nicholson’s put-back layup was wiped off the scoreboard several minutes later when referees reviewed the play and deemed that the shot came after the 24-second shot clock had expired. At the time, Nicholson’s follow had given Orlando a 29-28 lead in the second quarter.
Orlando’s Harris said that it’s still a process with a young Magic team learning how to string together consecutive strong efforts so that it can put together a run of victories.
``Especially when you play back-to-back with two games in two nights, it’s important for us to bring it,’’ Harris said. ``At the same time, we’re getting there. But at the same time, we have to try our hardest to close out these games.’’
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