By John Denton
November 7, 2012
MINNEAPOLIS – Back in action less than 24 hours after a frustrating fourth quarter in Chicago on Tuesday cost his Orlando Magic a victory, head coach Jacque Vaughn was eager to see the response from his team Wednesday in Minnesota.
While the Magic did show some grit at times by making a couple of charges at the lead, the night was a mostly a forgettable one for an Orlando squad forced now to deal with its first losing streak of the season.
Despite struggling all night to get much going offensively and to consistently get stops defensively, Orlando stayed within striking distance of the vastly improved Timberwolves most of the night. But the lack of two starters (Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu) and some sloppy play ultimately caught up to the Magic and resulted in a 90-75 loss to Minnesota at the Target Center.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn wondered if there might have been some spillover from the Tuesday loss in Chicago to the one Wednesday in Minnesota.
``First back-to-back and it’s tough early in the season after our guys had really put out a lot of effort in Chicago … and to be asked to do it again the next night is pretty tough,’’ Vaughn said. ``This is a team and we’re going to need 1-15 (players) this year, so it was good to get some (other) guys out there and get them some reps.’’
The poor offensive night for Orlando (2-2) was surprising considering that it entered the game ranked fifth in the NBA in scoring (103.3 ppg.), eighth in field goal percentage (46.4 percent) and third in field goal percentage (48.9 percent). But on this night, Orlando had just 34 points in the first half and only 55 points through three quarters.
The Magic shot just 35 percent from the floor and had just two players (J.J. Redick 16 points and Arron Afflalo 12 points) reach double figures in scoring. Orlando, who got only 30 points from its starter, also turned the ball over 20 times, leading to 19 points for the Timberwolves (3-1).
``It’s difficult to play like this. And to go out there and lose and not play well, so that makes it extra tough,’’ Afflalo said.
Leading scorer Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis once again struggled to score over a big frontline and had only four points. He missed seven of his nine shots, but did have six rebounds. Redick rallied in the second half after missing his first six shots to start the game.
Minnesota, which was without Kevin Love (broken hand) and Ricky Rubio (knee surgery), shot 44.7 percent and got surprising scoring nights from Greg Stiesma (12 points) and Luke Ridnour (19 points and three 3-pointers). It was Stiesma, a free-agent signing from Boston, who scored the final three baskets of the third quarter to cap a 10-2 Minnesota run after Orlando had pulled to within 58-53.
The Magic suffered their first defeat of the season a night earlier in Chicago, falling 99-93 because of a poor showing in the fourth quarter. Vaughn wanted to see how well his rebuilt team could put the memory of that loss behind them against the T-Wolves. But the Magic seemed to have little life at times and it showed in their efficiency on both ends of the floor.
The Magic are off on Thursday before hosting the new-look Brooklyn Nets at the Amway Center on Friday night. The two teams then play again at the $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday.
Down just four at the break following a sloppy, disjointed first half, Orlando got within two points of the lead on a jumper by Josh McRoberts. But from there, the Magic came unglued defensively by allowing three 3-pointers and three Pekovic shots right at the rim. A 15-4 Minnesota run put the Magic back in a 53-40 hold.
The Magic clawed back again to within five of the lead before the 10-2 spurt to close the third quarter put the Magic out of their misery for good.
``We were fighting and got to halftime and felt like we were in pretty good shape. We weren’t shooting the ball well, but he had handled their inside play relatively well. We thought we had a good chance in the second half to win the game, but it didn’t happen.’’
The Magic shot just 32.4 percent in the first half, never led and fell behind by as much as 15 points early. But remarkably, they trailed only 38-34 because of sloppiness from the Timberwolves. The two teams combined for 22 turnovers in the first half, 13 coming from the Magic.
Orlando clawed back into the game by getting some nice contributions from rookies Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless. Nicholson had four points and two rebounds in the second period, while Harkless four rebounds, two blocked shots and a free throw. Harkless was making his NBA debut after missing all of training camp and the preseason following surgery to repair a sports hernia. He finished with seven points in 23 minutes.
``We lost so I’m not happy about that at all,’’ Harkless said. ``I was nervous when I first got out there, but I think I played solid. I can play better and everybody else on the team can play better. We’ve got to try to come back the next game and bounce back.’’
After holding Harkless out of action the first week, Vaughn felt it was time to get the rookie into same game action. Said Vaughn: ``I asked him if he had his jersey on and what number he was wearing and he answered both questions correctly, so I decided to put him in the game. It was good to see him play and you see some things from him that I can’t teach. It’s up to us as coaches to cultivate that talent and help him be the best player that he can be.’’
Afflalo, who kept the Magic within striking distance Tuesday night with a stellar second half, picked up where he left off in Chicago. He had 12 points and a 3-pointer in the first half while serving as Orlando’s lone steady threat. He got just three shots in the second half and did not score.
Davis and Redick, Orlando’s best offensive threats early in the season, had subpar performances in the first half. Davis had four points and five rebounds in the first 24 minutes, but he was removed from the game for a long stretch after two questionable shots to start the game.
Redick, meanwhile, missed all six of his field goal attempts in the first half and three 3-point attempts. The Magic were just two of 10 from beyond the arc in the opening half.
Already forced to deal with the loss of Nelson (strained hamstring) and Turkoglu (broken hand), Vaughn tinkered with the Magic’s starting lineup once again. He replaced rookie DeQuan Jones in the lineup with McRoberts, who changed positions to give the Magic more size and rebounding support along the frontline.
The night got off to a dismal start for the Magic, who had an airball on the first possession, a turnover on the second possession and seven misses on the first 10 tries. By the time that the game was 10 minutes old, Orlando already trailed by 15 points and was struggling mightily on both ends of the floor.
``I was hoping there wouldn’t be a carryover from Chicago as the minutes were concerned, but early on from my perspective I thought we needed to get the bench into the game so I went with (Gustavo Ayon) and Andrew (Nicholson) relatively early,’’ Vaughn said. ``It was a conscious effort to see if we could hold over and see if we could get some minutes from those guys at the end. I sensed that those guys were a little winded early in the game.’’
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