By John Denton
February 6, 2013
That ensured the Magic of an 11th straight loss and a 22nd defeat in the past 24 games. Nelson, back after a two-game absence with a bruised right forearm, exemplified Orlando’s late-game struggles by scoring all 18 of his points in the first half. He missed all five of his shots in the second half.
``They made some adjustments of denying me and blitzing me (on pick-and-roll plays),’’ said the 6-foot Nelson, who was guarded by 6-foot-7 defensive ace Matt Barnes much of the second half. ``I got off the ball and other guys (for the Clippers) made plays.’’
The Magic made just 30 of 86 shots (34.9 percent) and they turned the ball over 18 times.
``When you are working with different combinations and you are asking guys to do more than what we’ve asked of them in the past, it’s a tough adjustment to do that on a game-to-game basis,’’ Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``Playing with different lineups and different individuals on the floor doesn’t make it any easier, but that’s a part of basketball. It’s part of where we are with injuries and having guys out, so we’re going to have to deal with it, learn from it and try to get better.’’
The Magic have lost Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis for the season to a fractured foot and veteran forward Al Harrington has yet to play this season. They were once again without guards Arron Afflalo (strained left calf) and J.J. Redick (sore right shoulder) on Wednesday, but they hope both can return by Friday. Hedo Turkoglu also did not dress because of flu-like symptoms.
The Clippers were also playing severely short-handed. They were without all-stars Chris Paul (bruised knee) and Blake Griffin (strained hamstring) and super sub Jamal Crawford (sore shoulder) because of nagging injuries. Paul was actually injured on Jan. 12 against the Magic, a game that Orlando won 104-101 for arguably their most impressive victory of the season.
Magic center Nikola Vucevic scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, but he struggled through a poor shooting night by making just seven of 20 shots. E’Twaun Moore, the converted starter at shooting guard, missed 11 of his first 13 shots and finished with just seven points.
Magic rookie power forward/center Kyle O’Quinn continued his surge of late with 10 points, nine rebounds and three assists. His hustle and assertiveness came through on the offensive end as he grabbed five offensive boards.
``I’m just trying to win, and that’s one thing we need right now,’’ O’Quinn said. ``We can’t look at individual things, look to do X, Y or Z or go out there and try to get 10 rebounds. I’m just trying to do anything to win because that’s the thing we most need right now.’’
Bledsoe, Los Angeles’ highly coveted backup point guard behind Paul, scored 19 of his 27 points after halftime. DeAndre Jordan had a double-double (13 points and 14 rebounds) and Lamar Odom added six steals, while former Magic players Grant Hill (four points) and Matt Barnes (eight points) chipped in off the bench. Bledsoe, who finished with six steals and six rebounds, was prouder of his defense than his career-best scoring night.
``For the most part we knew that (Nelson) was the only person on their team who could get it going,’’ Bledsoe said of the Magic’s undermanned offense. ``I just tried to make it hard for him to get the ball.’’
Still recovering from a five-day, nine-game road trip, the Magic will be back on the road again Thursday night. Orlando plays the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Up a basket at the half after hanging tough in the first half, the Magic’s offensive inefficiency caught up to them in the third quarter. In addition to making just six of 20 shots in the period, Orlando turned the ball over six times, leading to six Clippers points. Bledsoe had nine points in the period to put the Clippers ahead 64-55 heading into the final 12 minutes.
Nelson showed no ill effects from missing the previous two games with a bruised right forearm, pumping in 18 points in the first half as the Magic took a 42-40 lead into intermission. Nelson hit six of 11 shots and hit three 3-pointers in the first 24 minutes to carry the Magic’s offense.
``It’s a little sore, but it’s part of it,’’ said Nelson, referring to his bruised right forearm. ``You have to play through some things, and (the arm) is well enough for me to play. When it first happened, it wasn’t well enough because I got hit in a spot where you don’t want to get hit in. It’s just one of those things I have to be cautious about.’’
With Afflalo and Redick out, the Magic needed every bit of Nelson’s early production what with the struggles of others. Moore missed eight of his nine shots in the first half, while Vucevic misfired on seven of his first eight tries. All of the new faces in the rotation had an effect as the Magic shot just 36.4 percent from the floor early on and turned the ball over nine times in the first half.
``It makes it pretty hard (not having three starters) because that’s who we practiced with all training camp and we practiced getting them the ball,’’ O’Quinn said. ``Now that we’re down those guys we’ve got to find other ways to put the ball in the hole.’’
ORLANDOMAGIC.COM FEATURES: Vucevic Earns Spot in Rising Stars Challenge
Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
Follow John Denton on Twitter here