Magic Lose Heartbreaker to Hawks

Tobias Harris

By John Denton
Jan. 22, 2014

ORLANDO – After having put so much into the past 24 hours, battling through the fatigue of harrowing travel from snowy New York, playing a second game in as many nights and overcoming a daunting 19-point deficit, it pained the Orlando Magic greatly to lose to rival Atlanta on Wednesday.

For much of the final 17 minutes of the game against the Hawks, Orlando seemed poised to not only capture a feel-good win but also to equal their largest come-from-behind victory of the season. A Magic team that didn’t get back into Central Florida until after 3 a.m. surprisingly rose from the dead in the second half to go from down 19 points to up by five with just less than 3 minutes to play.

But that’s where the feel-good story ended for a Magic team that missed four of its last six shots – including two late tries by Jameer Nelson and a short jumper by Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis – as the Atlanta Hawks rallied for a 112-109 victory.

``It’s tough really because we had this one won,’’ said Magic guard Victor Oladipo, who played an extremely efficient game with 24 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. ``We’ve got to do a better job of playing `D’ down the stretch without fouling.’’

An Amway Center crowd of 16,713 roared with approval as the Magic (11-32) stormed back from an 83-62 deficit to take a seemingly safe 105-100 lead with 2:50 to play. But Orlando lost when it put the Hawks on the line for 10 free throws down the stretch.

Up 109-108 with 23 seconds to play, Nelson could have bailed out the Magic, but his shot attempt was blocked by Kyle Korver. After Atlanta took a one-point lead, Davis fired way long on a 12-foot try. And with the Magic needing a three in the final seconds the timing of the play was botched and Nelson’s heave never had much of a chance.

``The ball was tipped on the hand off. The play was drawn up and the timing just didn’t happen the way we wanted it to go,’’ said Nelson, who had 17 points and seven assists in the loss.

``When I actually got a grip on the ball I looked up and saw five seconds on the clock and you have to make an executive decision. You have to figure it out and be a basketball player.’’

The poor finish put a damper on an otherwise stellar revelation made by the Magic the last two nights. Lost in Tuesday’s otherwise forgettable loss in Brooklyn on Tuesday was Orlando’s second unit making 13 of 17 shots and scoring 34 points in the fourth quarter.

That unit, led by reserves Doron Lamb, Maurice Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn, also sparked Wednesday’s turnaround. Using Lamb’s long-distance shooting, Harkless’ perimeter defense and speed on the fastbreak and O’Quinn’s toughness in the paint, Orlando trimmed a 19-point deficit to eight by the end of the third quarter. And with 7:56 to play, Orlando had come all of the way back and taken a 96-92 lead on Harkless’ transition dunk and free throw after being fouled.

``We all just enjoy playing with each other – Kyle, Doron, Tobias and myself. It’s just evident how much we like playing together,’’ said Harkless, who had 12 points and three rebounds in 22 minutes. ``It’s like we’re all bringing energy and feeding off each other. Really, we pride ourselves on getting stops. We didn’t run a lot of plays, but we were sharing the ball. Our energy is what brought us back.’’

Lamb, who hadn’t scored more than eight points in a game all season, made five of six shots and three of four 3-pointers for a season-best 13 points that ignited Orlando. However, Lamb fouled out with 5:34 to play by picking up his final three fouls within nine seconds of one another. Orlando was leading 98-95 when he fouled out after playing just 19 minutes.

``It killed me,’’ Lamb said of not being on the floor at the end. ``I didn’t even know I had that many fouls until they said I had five fouls. I’ve just got to keep playing without fouling and keep learning from that.’’

Orlando was trying to beat the Hawks for a third straight time after ending an 11-game skid to the Hawks earlier in the season. Instead, the two Southeast Division teams split the season series at 2-all.

Orlando’s Tobias Harris played extremely well with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Orlando was outrebounded 42-33 by the Hawks (22-19). Paul Millsap scored 24 points, while Pero Antic – the fill-in for the injured Al Horford – had 10 points, 12 rebounds and five clutch free throws down the stretch.

The Magic were playing on the second night of a back-to-back set of games, and weather factored into their travels late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning. Orlando’s charter flight was one of the few planes to fly out of New York after the area was hit with approximately 16 inches of snow. The Magic didn’t get back into Orlando until 3:15 a.m., and many of the players didn’t get to their homes until after 4 a.m.

The Magic will be off on Thursday before hosting the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. L.A. will be without superstar guard Kobe Bryant, who is still rehabilitating following an injury to his kneecap. After that, the Magic will hit the road for a week to play in New Orleans (Sunday), Detroit (Tuesday) and Toronto (Wednesday).

Down just four points at the half, Orlando fell apart in the early stages of the second half for a second straight night. The Magic allowed Atlanta to make nine of its first 16 shots, including five 3-pointers. And by the time that the Hawks were finished with a 22-4 run, they had a commanding 82-63 lead.

But the Magic did finally show a pulse in the latter stages of the third period, getting to within 88-80 by the start of the fourth. Orlando ended the third with three straight 3-pointers – one from Doron Lamb and two more set up by Oladipo.

``I think you give a lot of credit to the guys that came off the bench,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``We were searching for a combination out there that was going to help us win tonight and there were a lot of guys that came off the bench and gave us a great effort. At the end of the day you want to see a number in the win column, but there was a lot gained from the guys that helped us.’’

Just three nights after shortening the rotation to seven players in a win against Boston, Vaughn went deep into his bench on Wednesday. He played all 10 players in uniform and got some nice production from Harkless (six first-half points) and Lamb (one 3-pointer) in the first half. Vaughn hopes that he might have found a good mix off the bench with Harkless, Lamb and O’Quinn.

``I just really think those guys want to play,’’ Vaughn said. ``They put in the work, they practice hard, the do the extra work and they know how (demanding) that I am. I’ve talked to them since Day One about being ready when the opportunity presents itself. And the last two nights they’ve had opportunities to play and they sure have taken advantage of it.’’