By John Denton
November 21, 2012
ORLANDO – Forced to grind until the closing minute to get a win in Detroit last Friday, the Orlando Magic didn’t wait nearly as long to hammer the woeful Pistons on Wednesday night.
Down three points at the break, Orlando scored the first 21 points of the second half and nearly pitched a third-quarter shutout to take the life out of the Pistons early on Wednesday night. The end result was a much-needed 90-74 win for the Magic before 17,199 fans at the Amway Center.
``For a change, it good to be on a different side of a run like that,’’ Magic power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis said. ``The last couple of games we had been in the ball game, but in the third quarter it would turn into a 17-point (deficit) and then it blows out. You have to be on both sides of it to see how it feels and to stop it. We’re going to keep getting better and learn from our mistakes.’’
Orlando (4-7) defeated the Pistons (2-10) for a second time in five days. The Magic rallied last Friday in Motown to win 110-106 after J.J. Redick hit a clutch go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute.
This time, however, the Magic took the suspense out of it with a jaw-dropping, game-changing third quarter.
The Magic tied a franchise record in Wednesday’s third quarter by allowing just eight points. The Pistons missed their first 15 shots and turned the ball over five times while going 9 minutes, 45 seconds without a point and 10 minutes, 1 second without a made basket.
The Magic outscored the Pistons 26-8 in the third period and 45-26 in the second half to secure their third home win of the season. Orlando has defeated Denver (13 points), Phoenix (21 points) and Detroit (16 points) by wide margins at the Amway Center.
``Some of that was our defense because we locked in pretty well in that third quarter and some of it was just that they were having a tough night,’’ Redick said. ``I didn’t think we shot the ball particularly well, but we played well together. The ball was moving, our assists were up and our turnovers were down.’’
Rookie forward Andrew Nicholson scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the first half to help the Magic rally from an early 10-point deficit. Arron Afflalo scored 12, while Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis and J.J. Redick added 11 each. Redick chipped in seven assists, while Davis had 14 rebounds.
Jameer Nelson, who is still battling a chest cold, ran the offense beautifully and had 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Gustavo Ayon filled in nicely for the foul-prone Nikola Vucevic with eight points, five rebounds and three assists.
Raved Redick: ``Gustavo was el spectacular. I took Italian at Duke. He was really good for us. Everything he does for us has a purpose. Offensively he can really help us.’’
The Magic repeatedly gashed the Pistons’ defense by handing out 24 assists on their 36 baskets. Orlando hit 43.4 percent of its shots, while Detroit connected on just 32.9 percent. And what happened in that third quarter was shocking to the Magic even an hour after the game.
``We came out in that third quarter and scored eight or 10 quick points,’’ Affalao said. ``I remember us being up by six, then eight and 10 points and it was just kind of weird there pushing it all the way out to 20 the way we did. There might have been frustration on their part missing easy shots around the basket. But that’s basketball and it happens sometimes.’’
The Magic’s longest home stand of the season continues Friday when they will host the Cleveland Cavaliers. Orlando will host Boston (Sunday), San Antonio (Nov. 28) and Brooklyn (Nov. 30) on this five-game home stand.
``This is the time to get right because opponents are coming to our home,’’ Davis said. ``We can’t just sit back and watch. We have to get these wins so that we can compete in the Eastern Conference.’’
The Magic will help lift the spirits of 800 people on Thursday morning when they serve breakfast to those at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. It’s the 20th straight year that the Magic will work with the Coalition for the Homeless to make sure that the residents there have a good start to Thanksgiving. Magic CEO Alex Martins, GM Rob Hennigan, Vaughn and three players will serve breakfast and participate in the carnival for children.
The Magic started the second half locked and loaded, taking it to the Pistons on both ends of the floor. The Magic seven of the first nine shots of the third period and ultimately scored the first 21 points of the half to roar into a 66-50 lead.
Detroit was nearly historically bad in the third period. The Pistons missed their first 14 shots and had five turnovers early in the third quarter. Their first basket of the period didn’t come until it was 10 minutes, one second old. For the quarter, the Pistons made just two of 20 shots and got outscored 26-8.
``We had no energy to start,’’ Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said of the second half. ``It was like we had to call timeout before our guys started the second half. There was a void of the necessary energy to play the game.’’
The eight points allowed by the Magic tied a franchise low for points ever given up in a third quarter. It happened previously when the Nets scored just eight points in the third quarter of a 1999 game against the Magic. Orlando’s low for holding an opponent in a quarter is six points.
Magic rookie small forward Maurice Harkless got the first start of his professional career and finished with seven points, four rebounds and two assists. Harkless found out he was getting the start at the morning practice and he tried fighting his nerves all day.
``Definitely, I’m always going to remember this,’’ Harkless said of his first start. ``Before shoot-around Jacque came into the locker room and said, `Mo, you’re starting tonight.’ I was really surprised and a bunch of the guys were making jokes. Jameer and Glen are clowns and they were messing with me.’’
The Magic trailed 48-45 at the break, but it could have been much worse considering the slow start that they got off to in the first quarter. Late in the first period, Orlando was shooting just 22 percent after missing 14 of its first 18 shots.
They clawed back into the game with superior ball movement, handing out 11 assists on their 19 baskets in the first half. Redick, finally healthy following a 48-hour stomach virus, sparked the improved ball movement by handing out five assists in the first half and hitting a clutch jumper with four-tenths of a second remaining in the first quarter.
Fortunately for the Magic, the rookies got them back into the game. Nicholson made five of seven shots and 10 points and three rebounds in the first half.
Said Nicholson: ``I’m getting pretty comfortable. I’m still learning the game and still working hard.’’
Harkless took advantage of his first career start by contributing in several ways in the first half. He had a tip-in basket and a thunderous dunk in transition. And his best play of the first half came when he stuffed Corey Maggette on a drive to the hoop.
For the Magic, Wednesday was the best possible way to start a long home stand. The ball moved well on offense, the defense held the Pistons to eight of 44 shooting in the second half (18 percent) and Orlando locked up another lopsided home victory.
``It was just great concentration coming out of halftime,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``Guys were really focused and it showed.’’
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