Denton's Pregame Report: Dec. 5

By John Denton
December 5, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY – When the Orlando Magic endured some late-game struggles early in this NBA season, head coach Jacque Vaughn and several of his players stressed that in time the new-look team would become more familiar with one another and better learn how to close out games.

Now into the second month of the regular season, the Magic have already become one of the NBA’s fourth quarter teams.

The Magic (7-10) head into tonight’s game in Utah against the Jazz (9-10) ranked third in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring (24.5 points per fourth quarter). That’s by far the Magic’s highest-scoring quarter and one where they have suddenly become very proficient.

``That’s just about playing with one another and understanding where each other is on the floor,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said Wednesday morning. ``I think guys are more in tuned with what we’re trying to achieve at the end of games. Guys are in their places and the ball is being delivered on time.’’

The Magic set a franchise record on Sunday in Los Angeles when they haded out 13 assists in the fourth quarter alone. That led to a 40-point explosion in the fourth period and produced a 113-103 defeat of the Lakers and former Magic center Dwight Howard.

On Monday in Golden State, the Magic scored their second win in as many nights with another spectacular performance down the stretch. Tied at 69-all heading into the fourth quarter, Orlando outscored the Warriors 33-25 over the final 12 minutes. In that fourth period, the Magic shot 60 percent from the floor, drilled four 3-pointers and had 11 assists on their 12 baskets.

Remarkably, in the last two fourth quarters the Magic have 24 assists on their 26 baskets. In light of having one dynamic player who can create his own shot, the Magic are using teamwork and pinpoint passing to set up others for open looks.

``We’re getting more comfortable with each other and the group that we’ve been finishing with there are a lot of offensive options and we have size with (Glen Davis) and Nik (Vucevic) so that we can get some stops,’’ said J.J. Redick, who has 13 points, eight assists and three 3-pointers in the fourth quarters against the Lakers and Warriors. ``So it’s a good group to finish with, I think.’’

The Magic’s fourth-quarter success could come into play against a Utah team that struggled mightily in the final period on Monday night against the Los Angeles Clippers. Utah led by as much as 14 points in the third quarter before the Clippers outscored them 32-21 over the final 12 minutes for a 105-104 victory.

Davis, one of the Magic’s go-to scorers in the fourth quarter, said he knew it was just a matter of time before Orlando became a team that learned how to close games down the stretch.

``We’re a new team and we’re building and we’ll go through growing spurts, but we’ll also learn really fast,’’ said Davis, who has scored 17 points in the last two fourth quarters combined. ``If we just keep the same mindset that we have, listen to our coaches and stick together we’ll be OK.’’

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