By John Denton
January 5, 2013
ORLANDO – ``There are a few things that some of us along with coach have noticed come winning time,’’ Afflalo said. ``We’re doing a great job of staying in games and competing, but down the stretch … it’s our one-on-one defense and being smart about what we need to do to close games out. We clearly have to learn how to win. We’re competing hard, but we definitely need to learn how to win.’’
The Magic will depart on Sunday for a four-game, eight-day trip that begins on the West Coast and ends on the East Coast. The Magic play Portland (Monday), Denver (Wednesday), the Los Angeles Clippers (Saturday) and Washington (Monday). Magic coach Jacque Vaugh said his team is a resilient bunch and it will keep playing hard despite the team’s losing streak.
``At the end in the locker room I told our guys that this is about different challenges throughout the course of the season,’’ Vaughn said. ``Everyone wants to win and it makes us competitors. But we did a lot of good things tonight. Do I reference the score? No. Do I reference specifics in the game and how we stayed together, how we communicated and adjusted with each other? Those are the things I mention.’’
Orlando started the fourth quarter with an 89-81 lead, but that was Anthony’s cue to get going. He scored 13 of New York’s first 18 points in the fourth quarter. He had 16 in the final period – one point fewer than the Magic combined.
``It’s a luxury in this league,’’ Vaughn said of the Knicks have a player the ilk of Anthony. ``His ability to change the way you play defense (is difficult). ``We tried a lot of things and I give our guys credit for adjusting on the fly and adjusting during timeouts. This is the most we’ve challenged our guys and it’s extremely positive in the way that we responded. No defense is perfect – you are going to give up layups and dunks – but the way we responded throughout the game is extremely positive for us.’’
Nelson almost single-handedly willed the Magic through the third quarter, scoring 13 points and handing out five assists. In all, Nelson had his hand in 24 of the Magic’s 34 points in the third quarter. He drilled three 3-pointers in the period and got anywhere he wanted on the floor by staying in attack mode all night.
Nelson’s work allowed the Magic to lead by as much as eight points in the third quarter and take an 89-81 edge into the fourth period.
Said Vaughn of his point guard: ``He was great for us the entire night. He was trying to will us and it shows you his growth even though he’s (nine) years in. It just shows you that he cares, he cares for his teammates, and he cares for this organization.’’ Orlando led by as 12 points early in the game as it made 13 of its first 19 shots. But the Magic offense came unglued in the second quarter, allowing the Knicks to rally and take a 59-55 lead by halftime.
Nelson was in attack mode from the start, making his first three shots to give Orlando an early 14-2 lead. Nelson got in the lane and free for jumpers throughout the first half, making six of 10 shots for 16 points in the game’s first 24 minutes.
Vaughn had to use some unorthodox lineups because of the Knicks’ bevy of shooters and size on the inside. He used Josh McRoberts at all three spots on the frontline – guard Anthony on the wing, Amare Stoudemire in the post and keeping Tyson Chandler off the boards. He contributed seven rebounds and five assists in the first half as a glue player for the Magic.
Orlando used DeQuan Jones, Maurice Harkless, Hedo Turkloglu and McRoberts on Anthony in the first half with little success. He drilled two 3-pointers, got to the free throw line six times and scored 18 points in the first half.
McRoberts, a power forward throughout his career, is playing small forward for the Magic to give the team more size on the wings while Hedo Turkoglu (zero for five) works his way back into shape after missing eight weeks with a broken hand. In the matter of six days, McRoberts has had to guard James, Chicago’s Luol Deng and Anthony – and not with much success versus the three all-star small forwards.
``I’ve never guarded a wing in high school, college or the NBA and this year I’m getting a pretty big taste of it,’’ McRoberts said. ``It’s not a lot of fun, but I’m trying to do what I can to help us get wins.
Then, McRoberts paused and said sarcastically: ``I pretty much shut (Anthony) down tonight.’’
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