By John Denton
February 13, 2013
``Their bigs were extremely physical and aggressive and they had double-digit more offensive rebounds than us in that first half and when that happens it’s multiple opportunities for good things to happen for them and bad for us,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said.
``For myself, when I played I took (bad losses) home also and it was a part of me. And hopefully those are the kind of guys that we have in the locker room,’’ Vaughn said later. ``You want them to care about it and this means something. This is not territory that we want to continue to live in. It’s OK to not accept it.’’
Three days earlier, Orlando whipped the Portland Trail Blazers by scoring 110 points, handing out 34 assists and placing six players in double figures. However, Orlando shot just 41.5 percent on Wednesday and they got whipped 54-41 on the glass. Andrew Nicholson and Nelson were the only starters to hit double figures with 10 points each. Center Nikola Vucevic had just six points and seven rebounds to see his streak of 30 straight games with at least nine rebounds come to an end.
The Magic went into Wednesday trying to win consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 19, a night when they were 12-13 and playing their best basketball of the season. However, since that point Orlando has dropped 24 of 27 games.
Frustrated by his team’s effort after Anthony Tolliver put back a rebound early in the third period, Vaughn pulled his five starters off the floor in favor of five reserves. The Magic will get a much-needed rest over the next four days during the NBA’s All-Star break. Vucevic and Nicholson will compete in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night in Houston during the all-star festivities.
The team will return to practice on Monday and then host the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday. The Magic are 1-1 this season against the Bobcats, winning in Charlotte and losing at the Amway Center.
``It’s just a break, but not a vacation. It’s a break to clear your mind a little bit and let your body rejuvenate and get ready for the remaining games. At the end of the day and as simple as it can be, you have to be ready to compete every night, especially with the remaining games that we have. We’re going to play a lot of playoff teams jockeying for position and our mental approach has to be sharp going into every game.’’
The Magic learned earlier in the day that they will be without veteran small forward Hedo Turkoglu, who was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for methenolone. Turkoglu, who is in his eighth season with the Magic over two stints, said that he took the banned substance over the summer while in his native Turkey as he was recovering from a shoulder injury.
Turkoglu’s suspension started Wednesday night and he won’t be eligible to return to the team until March 26. He has played in just 11 games this season because of injuries and illness and is averaging a career-worst 2.9 points per game.
``I feel bad for (Turkoglu) because as players you never want to see a guy go through something like that,’’ said Nelson, who has been a teammate of Turkoglu’s during his entire Magic career. ``I honestly believe that he didn’t know that he was taking something (on the banned list). I just wish him the best of luck. I hope he stays strong mentally and gets past this.’’
The Magic saw a six-point deficit after the first quarter turn into a somewhat shocking 57-36 Atlanta lead at the half. As good as they have been offensively all season on Monday, the Magic made just 42.1 percent of their shots in the first two quarters.
Horford and Smith combined for 30 points and 17 rebounds in the first half alone, nearly equaling the Magic’s 36 points and 18 rebounds at the intermission.
Orlando fell into a 25-point hole early on because it got pounded inside on the boards. Atlanta had eight offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone. And at one point in the second quarter, the Hawks’ 21-11 edge on the glass allowed them to get up 11 more shot attempts.
Nelson said it will be important for the Magic to come back after the all-star break with the right mindset that they will be ready to compete at a high level every night. Nelson said the team has done a great job battling through injuries and adversity so far, but the mettle of the group will be tested over the final 30 games.
``I don’t know how many games we’ve lost so far, but you want to win games and it’s tough right now. This is tough to embrace,’’ Nelson said. ``One thing you can’t do is you can’t accept it. You have to continue to work hard and stick together. We don’t want to ever accept losing at all.’’
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