By John Denton
December 6, 2012
Well, all good things must come to an end – but not before the Orlando Magic showed why they have suddenly become a fourth-quarter force and a team that is never out of a game.
Despite being down as much as 14 points, turning the ball over 20 times and missing 14 of 15 3-pointers the Magic remarkably clawed back into the lead with 3:35 to play. The spark that helped them defeat the Lakers and Warriors on the first two legs of this nine-day trip seemed to have returned after a ragged first three quarters.
But Randy Foye hit his only shot of the game to give the Jazz the lead and Al Jefferson salted it away with two difficult jumpers with Nikola Vucevic’s hand right in his face.
After the game, the 22-year-old Vucevic was disconsolate and kept his head down as he sat at his locker. But that’s when veteran point guard Jameer Nelson showed once again why he is a Magic captain and the most respected voice in the locker room.
``Remember what I said – not too high and not too low,’’ Nelson said as he held an icepack to his left eye, which featured a gash from an accidental head-butt. ``You are covering the biggest dudes out there and they are going to make shots. Get your head up, we need you!!!’’
Moments like that are why this team has a unique chemistry and plays for one another out on the court. No, there are no superstars, but there is an exceptionally tight group that plays hard every night, trusts one another and believes in the basketball smarts and encouraging ways of head coach Jacque Vaughn. Some media outlets might have foolishly picked the Magic to win only 16 games this season, but from the look of things the Magic should eclipse that number early in 2013.
The Magic chartered back to California just after game feeling that it could build off the second-half comeback that put them in position to win a third straight game on this roadtrip. From the sound of things, we were getting out of Utah just in time with temperatures expected to dip into the teens and snow on the way.
Tuesday was a rare off day, with the players only required to get in a mid-day weight-lifting session with Strength and Conditioning Coach Joe Rogowski. With no media commitments, a group of us staffers – Magic Senior Vice President of Communications Joel Glass, Television and Radio Producer Tye Eastman, TV ``talent’’ Dante Marchitelli and myself – went in search of snow on the slopes of Brighton Ski Lodge.
Glass hadn’t skied since being on a high school team (who knew such a thing existed?) some 30 years ago, but hoped the skills would come back to him. Eastman was also a skiing veteran from his days of skipping classes in college and hitting the slopes.
As for Marchitelli and myself, it was the second time ever skiing for each of us. And for the first 90 minutes we both did great, sailing down the Level I and II slopes. We then stepped it up, going down a Level III area again with ease.
But that’s when the whole adventure went, well, downhill in a big, ol’ bad way.
Dante and I got on the lift thinking it was taking us back to the Level III area. But when we were still ascending up the mountain almost 10 minutes later, we realized right away that we were in big trouble. To make a long story short, we ended up in a Blue Diamond Area and things didn’t go well.
After blowing off course, Dante and I both had to traipse through snowdrifts at least 4 feet deep as more falling snow pelted us in the face. Dante used a stream of words usually only reserved for conversations with (George) Galante, while I may or may not have seen my life flash before my eyes. ``This,’’ I thought to myself, ``is how people die on mountains.’’
Eventually, we made it down the extremely steep hill after wiping out a few more times. Dante took it in short segments and did well, while yours truly walked some of the hill with my skis on my shoulder. Moral of this story: Know your limitations – especially when on the side of a mountain in a driving storm and little-to-know skiing skills.
Glass and Eastman made a few more Black and Blue Diamond runs, while Dante and I bellied up to the bar in the lodge. There, in the bar, I got to watch ESPN’s Around the Horn when they mentioned my story for OrlandoMagic.com regarding Dwight Howard’s desire to win a championship – even if it meant him leaving LA to do so. The national shout-out was very much appreciated, and here’s to hoping it landed a few extra thousand hits for our website.
As for the skiing experience, we some fun, had some rough times and in the end we were happy to leave with our ACLs, ankles and mugshots all in one piece.
Glass summed up the whole day when he had this to say: ``That was the best off day that I’ve ever had in the NBA.’’ That’s saying something from someone who has been around the Magic since the Shaq and Penny days.
Now, it’s back to Cali for Friday’s very winnable game against the Kings. We lost an hour flying to Utah, we picked that hour back up when we landed in Sacto. And on Friday night, we’ll lose that hour again when fly to Phoenix. Then, of course, heading back to Florida on Sunday, we’ll drop another two hours. It’s easy to see why not only does anyone on this trip know what day of the week it is, but we also don’t know what time it is either.
The fatigue of the road is hitting me hard, and I can only imagine how the players feel after playing three games in four nights. The team will practice in Sacramento on Thursday and then play the Kings on Friday. If the Magic can put a full 48 minutes together like Wednesday’s second half, the team should be in position to get its third victory of the roadtrip.
That’s all for now. Check back tomorrow for the updates from California’s state capital.
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