By John Denton
November 11, 2012
BROOKLYN – When the Orlando Magic arrived at the $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday their team bus pulled into an elevator that eerily lowered the massive vehicle into the bowels of the arena.
Just beyond the bus elevator there is also a spinning device that turns the vehicle around to save on concourse space in the dazzling, new facility.
Considering how poorly the Magic have fared against the re-tooled Brooklyn Nets over the last three days, no one would have blamed Orlando for staying on the bus, turning around and leaving the Barclays Center as soon as possible.
The Magic once again fell into a big hole against the Nets on Sunday, but showed plenty of pluck in the second half by making several charges at the lead. Orlando got within five points of Brooklyn with 2 minutes remaining, but struggled to convert down the stretch and lost 82-74 to the Nets.
``The way that we started the game was poor, but we did a great job of figuring it out defensively and team rebounding, but we just didn’t make the necessary offensive plays to tighten it up to get it to a one-possession game,’’ Magic guard Arron Afflalo said. ``We fought hard and we’re improving, but hopefully we’ll figure out what it takes from the beginning of the game to the end.’’
The result was a big improvement over the disappointing 107-68 defeat to Brooklyn on Friday, but the Magic took no solace in simply coming close against the Nets (3-2).
The Magic got within seven points late in the fourth quarter and twice within five points down the stretch, but defensively they yielded buckets each time. That led to sarcastic chants of ``Brook-lyn, Brook-lyn, Brook-lyn’’ from the crowd of 16,523 inside the Barclays Center.
``Growth is occurring and that’s the good thing. We did get better today,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``The last three quarters were excellent for us. The fact that we had a will to continue to compete and a will to try and get a win tonight was extremely pleasing for me as a coach. But as a team we have to have that fight from the start. That will give us a fair chance to get a win.’’
Since starting the season with stirring home victories against Denver and Phoenix, the Magic (2-4) have lost four consecutive games. Orlando is also winless on the road, losing in Chicago, Minnesota and Brooklyn.
Playing without starters Jameer Nelson (strained hamstring) and Hedo Turkoglu (broken hand), the Magic continue to have major problems offensively. After averaging 108.5 points in the first two games of the season, the Magic have averaged just 77.5 points per game since over the last four games. Orlando shot just 36.1 percent from the floor on Sunday.
``We were a different team out here tonight (from Friday). We figured they would take us lightly, but we made them play,’’ Magic forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis said. ``While we’re trying to find something out of this game, we didn’t win. We’ve got to put a whole game together. We’re not a team of superstars who can score 40 (points individually), so we have to use each other better out there.’’
Afflalo and Davis led the Magic with 19 points each. However, Afflalo made just seven of 16 shots, while Davis (10 rebounds) connected on just seven of 21 tries. J.J. Redick, who was inserted into the starting lineup and had 10 points, missed nine of his 12 shots and all four 3-point tries.
Second-year magic center Nikola Vucevic, who struggled mightily against Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez on Friday, had a nice bounce-back effort with 14 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Lopez had 20 points on Sunday, while Kris Humphries added 14 points and 21 rebounds to help the Nets hold a 55-41 edge on the glass.
The Magic are off on Monday and host the New York Knicks on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Amway Center. The Knicks are the only undefeated team in the NBA at 4-0.
The Magic were without Nelson, a team co-captain, for a fifth straight game. Nelson strained his hamstring in the season-opener and hasn’t played since. He made the trip to New York with the team, but just got treatment and did stretching exercises on the sore leg before the game.
Afflalo, who was visibly upset after the game because of the Magic’s poor execution down the stretch, said the loss of Nelson and Turkoglu hurts the Magic especially in the crunch time of the fourth quarter.
``Hopefully we’ll smarten up down the stretch and try to take advantage of what’s going for us in a positive way,’’ Afflalo said. ``(Nelson and Turkoglu’s) veteran swagger at the end of the game is what is missed the most. The guys playing now are competing hard, but sometimes when you have an eight-year or 10-year veteran they know the nuances of how to close out a game. Those are the things that we’re still learning – how to close out a game. Again, we’re competing hard, but you have to compete to win and not just compete.’’
The Magic trailed 50-36 at the half on Friday and similarly fell behind 50-35 at the break on Sunday. Vaughn inserted Redick into the starting lineup in hopes of injecting some movement into the starting lineup, but it didn’t show immediate dividends.
Orlando shot just 34 percent in the first 24 minutes and fell behind by as many as 20 points. The good news, however, is that the Magic got to the free throw line five times (and made all five) in the first half. No Orlando starter made a free throw on Friday and the team tied a franchise low with just four made free throws.
``We have to play with that sense of urgency in the beginning of the game,’’ Davis said. ``We went out there and limited their scoring (later in the game) and in the second half it was more of our type of ballgame. We just have to put a whole game together.’’
Afflalo, who moved over to small forward with Redick in the lineup, said he was actually happy that the Magic were playing the Nets again after such a lopsided loss on Friday. He came out in attack mode from the start on Sunday, scoring 13 points and grabbing six rebounds in the first half. Afflalo used his quickness advantage at small forward to get to the rim three times for baskets.
``There have been some instances this year where we have fought really hard, but now we have to put it together,’’ Afflalo said. ``It’s one thing to fight hard, but you have to fight for the win, too.’’
The first quarter looked like a carryover from Friday’s rout as the Nets stormed to a 35-17 lead against the shell-shocked Magic. The Nets made a staggering 14 of 24 shots in the first period, including five of eight from 3-point range.
The killer play of the first quarter for the Magic came when C.J. Watson drilled a 3-pointer and then stole Maurice Harkless’ in-bounds pass, hit a layup as he was fouled by Harkless. Watson hit the free throw to complete the six-point swing that put the Nets up 30-17.
The Nets once again dominated the glass, holding a 33-19 edge in the first half. Kris Humphries had 13 boards in the first half, five coming on the offensive end. He registered the fourth 20-rebound game of his NBA career.
Davis said that the Magic can’t afford to fall into a 20-point hole early in the game because the team’s margin for error is so small due to injuries and inexperienced players. When the Magic play harder and share the ball from start to finish, success will come again, Davis said.
``I can’t start off slow and I have to find some way to get myself going and get my other teammates too because we need everybody to win,’’ Davis said. ``When I got nine for 21 (shooting) and missing layups, that’s just not going to help our team. I’ve just got to keep working at it.’’
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