Magic Come Up Just Short Against Jazz

Tobias Harris

By John Denton
Dec. 18, 2013

ORLANDO – Back home after a long string of nights on the road and missing their most consistent player, the Orlando Magic looked like a frustrated and fatigued team most of Wednesday night.

Shot after shot clanged off the rim, small leads withered away when the Utah Jazz executed better and in the end the Magic simply couldn’t get enough defensive stops in the tense moments.

Still, the Magic had every chance to win and actually led the Jazz by seven points with 8 minutes to play. And even after they clawed back into it, Orlando had the ball with 10 seconds left and a chance to tie, but Jameer Nelson’s high-arching layup rimmed out.

When it was all over, Orlando was left to contemplate all that had gone wrong in an 86-82 loss to the Jazz before 15,574 fans at the Amway Center. It was just the way that the Magic didn’t want to start a stretch of six games that is the longest home stand of the season.

Orlando (8-18) was hoping to capitalize on the momentum of a stirring win in Chicago two nights earlier, but it fell on Wednesday largely because it was a mess offensively without standout shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who was unable to play because of an illness. The Magic shot a dismal 32.6 percent from the floor after hitting just 28 of 86 field goal attempts.

Nelson, who scored 17 points and hit three 3-pointers, had a chance to tie the game and salvage the night for the Magic in the final seconds. He made a hard move right past Trey Burke (a career-high 30 points), but he had to chance the loft of his layup to avoid the reach of Derrick Favors.

In his fourth game back following an eight-week absence following a high ankle sprain, Tobias Harris had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Center Nikola Vucevic struggled through a dismal shooting night (five of 18), but he also had a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Magic rookie Victor Oladipo suffered through the worst game of his young career, missing 11 of his 12 shots. He finished with three points in 36 minutes.

E’Twaun Moore played well off the bench and scored 10 points. He opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, hit another triple three minutes later and had a pull-up that gave Orlando a 76-69 lead with 8 minutes to play. However, a streaky Utah team scored the next nine points to re-take the lead.

Wednesday’s game was the first of a six-game home stand for Orlando. The Magic will host Sacramento (Saturday), New York (Monday), Detroit (Dec. 27), Atlanta (Dec. 29) and Golden State (Dec. 31) on a home stand that will take them to the end of 2013.

The Magic were without standout shooting guard Arron Afflalo, the only Orlando player to start the first 25 games of the season. Afflalo, wo missed the game because of an illness, is in the midst of a career year while averaging 21.6 points per game. He’s scored a career-best 43 points in a game, hit the 30-point plateau four times and topped 20 points 13 times.

With Afflalo out, Harris made his first start since the end of last season when he was a standout scorer for the Magic. He averaged 17.3 points and 9.5 rebounds over the final 27 games of last season, greatly raising expectations for this season.

But Harris suffered a high ankle sprain on Oct. 20, a serious injury that kept him out of action the next eight weeks. When he returned last week, Harris’ rhythm was missing and his shot was mostly offline. In his three games prior to Wednesday night, Harris had made just 10 of 31 shots and only one of 11 3-pointers.

Trailing by 10 at the half, Orlando opened the second half with a much more aggressive tone. Three baskets by Davis, two 3-pointers from Nelson and five free throws helped the Magic surge into the lead at 56-55.

But Orlando went cold again late in the third period and trailed 68-62 heading into the final quarter. Through three quarters, Orlando had made just 31 percent of its shots and Oladipo had missed 10 of 11 tries.

The Magic greatly missed the consistent jump shooting abilities of Afflalo in the first half when they shot a forgettable 32.6 percent from the floor. The shooting woes combined with their inability to get stops in transition led to Orlando falling into a 49-39 halftime hole.

Locked in a tight game midway through the second period, Utah ripped off 10 straight points during one stretch to blow out to a 49-37 lead.

Already without one starter, Orlando suffered another blow late in the first half when Davis went down with what looked like a twisted knee. As he tried to get back to his feet, Davis was hit by referee Tony Brown and he went down again.

Burke, who edged Oladipo for the Wooden National Player of the Year award and Big 10 Player of the Year award last season while in college, got the best of the Magic’s prized rookie in the first half. Burke, who worked out with the Magic before the draft and struggled through Summer League in Orlando in July, shot the ball with confidence early on, made three 3-pointers and scored 16 first-half points.

Oladipo came into the game with just one turnover in the last 83 minutes of game action – a streak that dated back to the second quarter of Sunday’s loss in Oklahoma City. However, he had two turnovers in the first quarter and missed five of his six shots early on. Oladipo did have a highlight-worthy play when he chased down Burke and swatted his left-handed rebound into the stands.