By John Denton
December 5, 2012
SALT LAKE CITY – As the time-honored cliché goes, it is defense that wins championships. But as far as the Orlando Magic are concerned, it’s their offense that usually dictates whether they win or lose games.
When the Magic are especially good offensively, as they were Sunday in Los Angeles and Monday against Golden State, they are capable of shredding foes and winning in impressive fashion.
But when the player movement gets stagnant, the ball bogs down and the ball-handling is sloppy, the results are eerily similar to Wednesday night’s 87-81 loss to the Utah Jazz at Energy Solutions Arena.
The Magic (7-11) once again made a furious fourth-quarter comeback and briefly took a one-point lead in the final 3 minutes after trailing by as much as 14 points. But some quick shots offensively and an inability to stop Al Jefferson (31 points and 15 rebounds) derailed the rally.
``It just shows us how important it is to play the whole game,’’ said Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, who led the Magic with 18 points and added 12 rebounds. ``We can’t have little errors like turnovers. I turned the ball over today and we had shots that we should have made. We were still in the ballgame in spite of 20 turnovers. But I just commend our team for fighting back and I think it shows how much character we’ve got.’’
When the Magic shot just 44.2 percent from the floor, missed 14 of their 15 3-point shots and turned the ball over 20 times, it fell right in line with their stats this season when they lose games.
In Orlando’s 10 losses this season prior to Wednesday night, it averaged a mere 84.2 points, while shooting 41.2 percent from the floor and 28.5 percent from 3-point range. Compare that to the 105.7 points and shooting percentages of 47.7 (overall) and 40.8 percent (3-pointers) in the Magic’s seven victories and it’s not difficult to tell that the offense is usually the barometer for success or failure.
``It was the turnovers and us going one for 15 from three,’’ said Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, citing the culprits for the loss. ``We had a lot of good looks that I want my guys to take and I’m glad that they did. That (poor shooting) and the turnovers got us tonight.’’
Orlando took a 79-78 lead – its first advantage since the opening minute of the game – on a Davis dunk off a pass from J.J. Redick. But the Magic didn’t have a field goal over the final 3:35 of the game, missing four straight tries. Orlando’s only points down the stretch were two free throws from point guard Jameer Nelson.
``Guys were trying to make the right play, but we couldn’t. There was a little stretch where they put some pressure on us and we had some turnovers,’’ Vaughn said. ``But guys stayed in there and continued to fight and gave ourselves a chance to win the game.’’
Arron Afflalo had 16 points, while Nikola Vucevic had six points and 16 rebounds and Davis chipped another double-double. Nelson, who played the second half with a gash over his left eye following an accidental head-butt from Utah’s Mo Williams, scored 17 points. Redick had 14 points, but he made just five of 12 shots and missed all five of his 3-point tries.
``We just have to start better. We’ve been starting better and (fatigue) is no excuse,’’ Nelson said. ``We have to come out more aggressive and more physical than we did in the first half. We have to sustain that the whole game.’’
Nelson made the Magic’s only 3-pointer of the night in 15 attempts. Utah missed nine of its 10 tries and the only make was a 3-pointer from Randy Foye to put the Jazz ahead after Orlando had taken a one-point lead. Foye missed his other six shots in the game, five of them coming from 3-point range.
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