By John Denton
March 27, 2013
Harris scored a career-best 29 points, and rookie center Kyle O’Quinn had career highs in points (23) and assists (six), while also corralling 11 rebounds. Rookie forward Maurice Harkless chipped in 18 points, including a key 3-pointer that put Orlando up by five points in the fourth quarter.
``Kyle’s really stepped up to the challenge with us not having Nik (Vucevic). He’s really taken advantage of his minutes,’’ Vaughn said. ``He’s showcasing what he can do – he can rebound the basketball, he can pass it and he can knock down shots. It was a good effort from him.’’
Veteran point guard Jameer Nelson added 13 points and 11 assists. Rookie DeQuan Jones also scored 13 points for the depleted Magic.
Still without starters Vucevic (concussion) and Arron Afflalo (hamstring tear), the Magic also had to play without reserve power forward Andrew Nicholson on Wednesday. The rookie sprained his left ankle on Monday when he accidentally stepped on Chris Bosh’s foot while trying to post up. Nicholson did not make the trip to Charlotte and his availability for Friday is in doubt.
Because of the injuries, the Magic used their 24th different starting lineup of the season – second most in the NBA only to the Atlanta Hawks. Jones started at shooting guard for the 14th time this season, but the first time in weeks. That meant Orlando had three rookies (Harkless and O’Quinn were the others), Harris and Nelson in the starting group. That left only Beno Udrih, E’Twaun Moore and rookie Doron Lamb available off the bench.
Turkoglu was available to play after serving a 20-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. However, Vaughn chose not to play the veteran who has appeared in just 11 games this season due to injuries and suspensions.
Charlotte starting power forward Josh McRoberts, who was traded by Orlando in late February, had six points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Charlotte wiped out a seven-point halftime deficit and took an 83-82 lead into the fourth quarter behind strong play from Henderson and Walker. Henderson made his first five shots of the second half and had 15 in the third period alone. He and Walker – Magic killers in each of the four meetings this season – had 21 of Charlotte’s 32 third-quarter points.
``We started off well against them and they weren’t going early. But it’s a matter of continuing to focus,’’ Vaughn said. ``A big lesson is a 48-minute game is a long time. A lot can happen just within the last five minutes of a game. Your focus needs to be heightened and you need to continue to play for 48 minutes.’’
The Magic’s lack of depth seemed to catch up them in the third period when they got outrebounded 13-4 and got outhustled to several balls. Still, the Magic had a 50-34 edge on points in the paint in the first three quarters.
Orlando had a 58-51 lead at the break, but it belied the streaky nature of the first 24 minutes of the game. The Magic jumped to a 19-point lead in the first quarter and then had to hold on when Charlotte went on a 19-4 run to start the second period to draw within 43-39.
``There was a stretch in the second quarter where they sped the game up and we were looking at the scoreboard and admiring the lead that we had,’’ Vaughn said. ``Charlotte pushed the pace and pushed the ball at us. We let them get out on transitions and they had easy pull-ups and it made them hard to guard.’’
But the Magic were able to steady themselves in large part of the stellar all-around play of O’Quinn. The center, who was playing in pace of Vucevic, needed just a half to set a new career high in scoring with 14 points. And his effectiveness didn’t end there as he handed out four assists and grabbed six rebounds in the first two quarters.
``The only way that you can do something is when you are on the court,’’ said O’Quinn, who didn’t play much early in the season. ``If not you are just on the side you are cheering guys on. But I’m glad that coach (Vaughn) is giving me the opportunity to be out there. I just want to take advantage of it and make him proud.’’
The Magic got off to a dazzling start, making 70 percent of their shots (16 of 23) and four 3-pointers to take a commanding 39-20 lead after one period. Orlando was so locked in and efficient offensively that it had assists in 11 of its 16 field goals and it did not turn the ball over in the first 12 minutes.
The 39-point quarter was the Magic’s most in a first quarter this season and the most since they poured in 40 in the fourth quarter to beat the Lakers in early December.
Harris was seeking out shots early on, making two 3-pointers and scoring 12 points in the first quarter. O’Quinn also took it to the Bobcats in the early going, scoring 10 points and grabbing four rebounds as the Magic built the early 19-point lead.
``I’m just learning the game and anticipating different actions that teams might throw at me with preparation and film. A lot of credit for that goes to the coaches,’’ O’Quinn said of his growth as a player.
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