By John Denton
December 15, 2012
CHARLOTTE – Over a two-night stretch, the Orlando Magic proved that they have the talent to beat one of the NBA’s hottest teams and also the discipline and grit to defeat one of the coldest, most inept squads.
A night after ending the Golden State Warriors’ five-game winning streak, the Magic extended the Charlotte Bobcats’ NBA-worst losing streak to 11 games with a coolly efficient performance in the clutch moments of a 107-98 victory at Time Warner Cable Arena.
After playing well most of the night, Orlando (10-13) found itself trailing 93-92 with 4:08 to play. But a Magic team that has made tremendous strides in the past weeks in learning how to close games made all the right plays down the stretch. A go-ahead basket by Arron Afflalo, a free throw by Glen "Big Baby" Davis and a dagger of a 3-pointer by J.J. Redick sealed the Magic victory.
The 15-4 run in the clutch proved the Magic’s growth late in games.
``There’s no reason to panic; it’s a basketball game,’’ Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said. ``You go out there and make shots and make plays. (Learning to finish games) is just one of those things that you have to go through during the course of a season and a game like this can help us out down the road. We go through these situations for certain reasons.’’
A Magic team that shared the ball exquisitely against Golden State and had six players reach double figures in scoring had five more players in double figures on Saturday, led by Afflalo's and Davis’ 20 points each. Orlando made 15 of its first 35 shots, scored at will in the lane (60 points in the paint) and shot 54.4 percent from the floor in the game.
Orlando won consecutive games for the fourth time this season. The Magic now have as many wins on the road (five) as they do at home (five).
``We showed composure, our huddle was composed, the players were composed and I think it showed on the floor,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of the way the Magic closed out the critical final 4 minutes. ``We drew up plays and guys executed them and it was great to see the process and our guys improving.’’
The Magic are off on Sunday before hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday at 7 p.m. The Timberwolves, who defeated Orlando 90-75 on Nov. 7, are finally at full strength with stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio back from injuries.
Nelson scored 16 points and handed out six assists despite playing through foul trouble much of the second half. Redick, who was booed all night because of his Duke University past in ACC country, chipped in 14 points and four 3-pointers. And center Nikola Vucevic, a night after grabbing 17 boards, added 13 points and 13 rebounds.
``I hope we keep hearing about the old guys and the young guys (playing well) because I love hearing about both of them,’’ Vaughn said. ``That means everybody was contributing and doing their part. It’s fun to see our guys come off the bench and give us a contribution. This is a tough game in a back-to-back against a team that is fighting for a win and for us to come on the road and win here that shows a lot.’’
Kemba Walker had 32 points for Charlotte (7-16).
Redick, whose straight-on 3-pointer was the shot that sapped the starch out of the Bobcats and the noisy crowd, was impressed with the grit his team showed in winning on consecutive nights.
``It’s our second straight back-to-back where we’ve won them both going back to our West Coast trip (last week),’’ Redick said. ``Both of them were challenging in their own ways. (Friday) night was a challenging game (against Golden State) and coming into this one after getting in late and playing a team that’s hungry, it was a really good win for us.’’
After falling behind by one point with 4:08 to play, the Magic made all five of their shots, drilled four of five free throws and had a stretch where it got four consecutive defensive stops.
Said Redick: ``Part of that (finishing out games) is just getting a better feel for one another and knowing what we want to run in the fourth quarter. We’ve done a better job of executing lately in fourth quarters.’’
Orlando pushed its lead to 11 points early in the third quarter, but proceeded to allow the Bobcats to string together an 18-6 run that gave them a one-point lead. Charlotte made nine of its first 13 shots of the second half, including its first three 3-pointers of the night.
But the Magic finished the third quarter on a strong note to regain control of the game. Orlando, which scored 50 points in the paint in the first three quarter, took an 81-77 lead into the fourth quarter.
``The first thing that I mentioned to the guys is the points in the paint because it shows our aggression and our ability to create for each other,’’ Vaughn said. ``Now the defense doesn’t know if they have to stop the ball or stop the player against us. We did a lot of good things tonight, turning down good shots and making them great. So we did a lot of good-to-great things tonight and that was fun to see.’’
After a rough start to the game – the Magic had three turnovers in the first 90 seconds of the game – they were a model of efficiency the rest of the first half. Orlando shot 54.5 percent in the first 24 minutes and scored 36 of their first 56 points in the paint. And the Magic’s ball movement was so good early on that they had assists on 12 of their first 24 field goals.
That stellar play on the offensive end of the floor allowed Orlando to grab a 56-48 lead at intermission. Nine different Orlando players scored in the first half, led by Nelson’s 12 points and Davis’s 11.
Vaughn said that his experience as a player taught him that during the second night of back-to-back sets of games that the reserves would be needed much more. Accordingly so, Vaughn had Redick into the game within minutes on Saturday and three other reserves were not far behind him. The reserves finished the first period and played well into the second quarter and extended Orlando’s lead.
Orlando made 15 of its first 25 shots (60 percent) by relentlessly attacking the rim in the first half. Of the Magic’s first 36 points, 26 came in the paint on drives to the rim or passes to cutters through the lane. Orlando had nine assists on their first 16 baskets, including nifty feeds for layups by E’Twaun Moore and Gustavo Ayon.
Redick, who is in his seventh season with the Magic, is greatly impressed by the growth of the squad over the past two weeks. Redick said when Orlando shares the ball and plays well offensively it can beat any team in the NBA.
``We had a lot of assists tonight (25 total) and that’s how we have to play if we want to be successful,’’ Redick said. ``Our defense has been solid throughout the season and the games where we have struggled it is because of our offense. We’ve hardly ever had a game where we’ve scored well and said that we had trouble getting stops. When we play well offensively and share the ball, we’re going to have a good chance to win.’’
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