Denton's Pregame Report: Dec. 14


By John Denton
December 13, 2012

ORLANDO – While getting off to a better start is a major point of emphasis tonight for the Orlando Magic, there is also a hope that they finish the same way they did 11 days ago against the red-hot Golden State Warriors.

Orlando beat Golden State 102-94 on Dec. 3 in Oakland by dominating play in the fourth quarter. Orlando broke open a tied game with a 33-25 edge in the fourth quarter, and had three players (Glen Davis, Arron Afflalo and J.J Redick) score at least 20 points. The Magic’s ball movement and execution were nearly flawless in the fourth quarter of the win against the Warriors with them registering 11 assists on their 12 baskets in the final period.

That was the only defeat of the Warriors in their past nine games. Golden State had a three-game winning streak snapped by the Magic 11 days ago, but it has since won all five games on its seven-game road trip to the East Coast. That impressive streak has included victories against the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat.

``We took care of the basketball out there and we executed in the fourth quarter,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of the reasons for why the Magic defeated the Warriors two weeks ago. ``We kept them in front of us and we were the aggressors early in the game and that translated to some good things late in the game.’’

Tipoff tonight at the Amway Center is at 7 p.m. The game was originally scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. and be televised by ESPN, but it will instead start and hour earlier and will be televised locally by Fox Sports Florida.

A big key in beating Golden State again could come down to the Magic starting the game in a better fashion. Orlando has trailed at the end of the first quarter in 10 of its last 11 games. In Wednesday’s loss to Atlanta, the Magic fell behind 16-2 in the opening 6 minutes and actually outplayed the Hawks the rest of the way, but fell because of the poor start.

Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who was extremely upset on Wednesday at the lack of intensity that the Magic had going in against the Hawks, said it’s up to the team’s veteran leaders to make sure the focus is there tonight.

``We’ll do it as a group,’’ Afflalo vowed. ``I’d say myself, Glen (Davis) and Jameer (Nelson) just from experience and being leaders on the team, Nik (Vucevic) and Mo (Harkless) and everybody down the line, can’t take (the start) for granted. We have to start games and come ready to play. It will fall on the starters and the effort will be there.’’

Vaughn said he will stick with the same lineup of Nelson, Afflalo, Vucevic, Harkless and Davis. It’s unlikely to change until veteran small forward Hedo Turkoglu is set to return from a broken bone in his left hand. Turkoglu, who has missed six weeks after injuring himself in the season-opener, has started doing conditioning work and ball drills again in hopes of possibly returning to action next week.

Knowing that they are facing a high-powered offensive team like the Warriors, the Magic know that limiting turnovers will be a major key as well. Orlando had 16 turnovers on Wednesday, leading to 24 points for the Hawks.

Point blank, when the Magic have shot the ball well this season and kept turnovers to a minimum, they have usually been successful. To wit, Orlando had a season-low eight turnovers in the defeat of the Warriors 11 days ago.

``First and foremost we have to defend because they are a very good offensive team and have a lot of options,’’ said Redick, the Magic’s most consistent scoring threat all season. ``Secondly, we have to take care of the ball. It’s the same old story for us (with the turnovers).’’

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