Postgame Report: Magic vs. Nets (4/13/14)

Maurice Harkless

By John Denton
April 13, 2014

NEW YORK – The Orlando Magic’s 2013-14 season will be largely remembered for the emergence of rookie guard Victor Oladipo, the growth of second-year players such as Kyle O’Quinn and Tobias Harris and the stirring midseason defeats of Oklahoma City and Indiana.

Sadly, it will also be remembered for the Magic’s record-setting woes on the road.

Orlando guaranteed itself of having the worst road record in franchise history when it saw a strong start come unraveled in a lopsided third quarter, resulting in a 97-88 loss to the playoff-bound Brooklyn Nets.

``For us, right now is about trying to get better every day and we’ll get to the point where we’ll win on the road and win more games,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``We’re in that period of trying to get there and we’ll get there.’’

Orlando (23-57) dropped to 4-36 on the road with only a game remaining in Chicago on Monday. The Magic’s inaugural team during the 1989-90 season won just six road games, meaning the current squad will be the new record-holders for struggles away from home. Orlando has won just once away from home in the 2014 calendar year, beating the woeful 76ers in Philadelphia on Feb. 26. Since then, Orlando has dropped its past nine games away from the Amway Center.

Orlando won only in Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago and Philadelphia this season. Because they also did not win a game West of the Mississippi River this season, the Magic were victorious in just one game (Dec. 16 in Chicago) outside of the Eastern Time Zone all season.

``Any time that we lose, be it on the road or at home, it bothers me,’’ said Harris, who had 18 points. ``But Brooklyn came out tonight ready to play. They obviously wanted this game (after) losing their last one at home. They were shooting the ball well and we didn’t adjust to stop them.’’

Orlando was without veterans Jameer Nelson (sore groin) and Nikola Vucevic (left Achilles’ soreness) on Sunday night. While Nelson’s injury is thought to be minor, the Magic announced on Sunday that Vucevic will not play again this season for precautionary reasons. Vucevic, who has averaged 14.4 points and 11 rebounds this season, hasn’t played since April 2 because of the Achilles’ pain.

``It’s disappointing because I want to be out there with my teammates and help them win games, but unfortunately this season I had a couple of injuries,’’ Vucevic said. ``It wasn’t anything major, but the concussion was the biggest thing that kept me out. With the Achilles, it was sore. It was feeling pretty good and I felt like I could have played tonight, but after talking to coach and the medical staff we all agreed that it would be better to rest it and have more time to attack the offseason and get ready for next year.’’

Harris, who has made a smooth adjustment from being a starter to a scorer off the bench, made seven of 11 shots for his 18 points. Oladipo, starting in place of Nelson, scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half. He played 26 minutes as the Magic continued to monitor his minutes because of the heavy workload he has had this season as a rookie.

The Magic led 49-46 at the half behind a strong start from Oladipo, but that advantage disappeared when the Nets (44-36) outscored them 33-21 in the third period. Veteran guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson combined for 17 points, five 3-pointers, four assists and three steals in the third period alone.

Power forward Andrew Nicholson scored 12 points for his first double-digit scoring effort in 56 games. He also snagged seven rebounds and had two thunderous dunks in the second half before fouling out with 3:24 to play.

Queens, N.Y. natives Maurice Harkless and O’Quinn each had 10 points for Orlando.

Joe Johnson, who had 31 points earlier in the week when Brooklyn lost in Orlando, scored 17 points. Mason Plumlee chipped in 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench, while Williams scored 16 points and made four 3-pointers. Mirza Teletovic also hit four 3-pointers and scored 20 points off the bench.

Following Monday’s final road game, the Magic close the regular season on Wednesday at the Amway Center against the Indiana Pacers.

Orlando led 49-46 at the half thanks to solid shooting (54.1 percent) and some stellar play from Oladipo. The only negative from the first two quarters for the Magic was their nine turnovers that led to 14 points for Brooklyn.

Oladipo started at point guard, but played in more of a shooting guard role early in the game. He didn’t have an assist in the first 24 minutes of the game, but he did make four of his first five shots and three 3-pointers for 12 first-half points.

Playing with his parents seated about 20 rows behind the Magic bench, O’Quinn – a native of Queens, N.Y. – was aggressive and in attack mode from the start. He made five of his first six shots and contributed 10 points and four rebounds in just 14 minutes on the court in the first half.

``(The road woes) don’t bother us; we just know that we have to come out and play the same way that we play at Amway,’’ O’Quinn said. ``This is a tough loss. We just beat these guys and we know that we can beat them, but it just didn’t bounce our way tonight.’’