By John Denton
March 17, 2013
Former Magic guard J.J. Redick, traded to Milwaukee in late February, had one basket and four points in 23 minutes. Orlando’s Harris, a key piece in the Redick trade, scored 14 points. Harris, a member of the Bucks the past two seasons had witnessed Ellis get hot before, but never to the extent that he did on Sunday.
``Not that many threes,’’ Harris said while shaking his head. ``He was hot and made some real tough shots. I mean, he made shots that were contested and shots where he had a lot of bodies around him. On the defensive end, it’s tough to call that out (critically). But our defense was doing all that we could ask for. He’s a big-time player and he made some big plays.’’
Sunday’s game had a totally different dynamic as Friday’s loss in Oklahoma City. On Friday, Orlando fell behind early and trailed by as much as 27 points before spending the entire second half putting on a furious comeback that got them within four points of the Thunder.
``It’s a process learning how to close out games, but we’ve lost a lot of these games that were close ones,’’ said Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who had 20 points and 15 rebounds. ``It’s not an easy process to go through and we wish we would have won some of these close games. But we’ll learn from it and do better in the future.’’
The Magic will be off on Monday and play the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night. The two teams have split the two games in Orlando earlier this season. Orlando’s four-game, seven-day road trip ends Wednesday in New York against the injury-riddled Knicks.
Ellis, who missed five of his first six shots in the first half, heated up down the stretch to put a charge into the game. With the Bucks trailing 97-85, Ellis hit his next five shots -- four of them 3-pointers and a dunk in transition – to draw Milwaukee back to within 104-102 of the Magic.
``Give Milwaukee credit for continuing to play throughout even though they were down 10 and down 11. But the game is not over until it shows zeros on that clock,’’ Vaughn said. ``The intensity has to be the same throughout. This is a tough one. Our guys, for the most part, played pretty well today. We’ll all do some self-examination and I’ll see what I could have done better today to put our squad in a better position to win the game.’’
The Bucks finally drew even with the Magic with 1:29 to play, but Harkless broke that tie with a scrappy rebound and a clutch free throw after he was fouled.
Up 10 after a stellar first half, Orlando seemed poised to surrender the lead when the Bucks scored the first seven points of the second half. But the Magic steadied themselves following a timeout and threatened to break the game open late in the third period.
When Harris drilled a floater and a deep 3-pointer from the wing, Orlando tied its biggest lead of the night at 81-68. That sent Milwaukee into a timeout and caused the fans to boo the home team.
The Magic picked up where they left off in Friday’s second-half furious comeback in Oklahoma City by gashing the Bucks in Sunday afternoon’s first half. Orlando shot 50 percent, forced Milwaukee into 10 first-half turnovers and led 54-44 at the intermission.
Harkless, who continues to make strides almost daily, poured in 17 points in the first half. He confidently stroked two corner 3-pointers and routinely got to the rim against Milwaukee defensive ace Ersan Ilyasova. Harkless, who had 19 points and a career-best 14 rebounds in Milwaukee on Feb. 2, made seven of his first 10 shots on Sunday.
``Going to the boards, getting rebounds in traffic for us and he helps us when Tobias gets in foul trouble,’’ Vaughn said of Harkless. ``I played Mo at the (power forward) and he answers with his ability to guard and coming up with some big rebounds at the end. Overall just a really solid effort.’’
Redick wasn’t much of a factor early in the game as he had just a slashing layup in the first half. He was greeted with cheers from the Milwaukee fans upon entering the game, but several Magic players along the bench playfully booed their former teammate.
Vaughn worried that Redick would be relaying the Magic’s plays to the Milwaukee bench because of his familiarity with the system. The Bucks did insert Redick into the game with 1.2 seconds left in the first half – not because of his defense, but because he knew the play Orlando would be running.
Sunday’s early tipoff had no effect on the Magic as they jumped to a 25-18 lead after one period and surged ahead by as much as 13 points in the second quarter. The same couldn’t be said for the Bucks, who took awhile to awaken and missed 20 of their first 27 shots.
Harris’ return to Milwaukee got off to a shaky start as he picked up three fouls in the first quarter. Vaughn likes to allow players to play through foul trouble at times, but the power forward picked up a third foul late in the first quarter while fighting for a rebound in the paint.
``We would have liked to come out of here with a win, but this is how it went,’’ Harris said. ``It would have been a good win for us as a team, but we came up short. It’s just a tough game for us.
``It was tough, especially fouling out,’’ Harris continued. ``But we fought as a team and you have to give them credit for coming back. As we move forward we have to evaluate this type of game and see what we can do better.’’
Follow John Denton on Twitter here