Postgame Report: Magic vs. Sixers (2/26/14)

By John Denton
Feb. 26, 2014

PHILADELPHIA – Incredibly, it had been 71 long days and nights since the Orlando Magic last won a road game. Remarkably, it had been 2 ½ months, more than 10 weeks and 16 games between proverbial drinks for a young Magic squad thirsty for validation in an opposing arena.

Heck, even the calendar had even flipped from 2013 to 2014 without Orlando silencing a road crowd and escaping with success. On Wednesday, the unsightly road skid took them to the doorstep of a dubious franchise record before something was finally done about it in Philadelphia.

Orlando rode the hot shooting of veteran point guard Jameer Nelson – someone who felt right at home on the road in Philadelphia – to topple the hapless 76ers 101-90 and end their road skid at 16 games.

``It’s definitely special to win and no matter who you are playing or where you are playing them you want to win,’’ said Nelson, who had the first double-double (16 points and 12 assists) of his 10-year NBA career in Philadelphia in 28 games. ``It’s one of the things that you have to learn (on the road). You have to do everything right. You are going to have mistakes, but you do them hard. As long as we take care of things that we can control we put ourselves in a good position to win on the road.’’

The Magic (18-42) won on the road for just the fourth time all season by breaking a close game open in the fourth quarter. Nelson, by far the most veteran Magic player, had 12 of 16 points in the final period to supplement a strong all-around performance from center Nikola Vucevic (21 points and 13 rebounds).

The Magic won on the road for the first time in 2014, snapping a 16-game skid that dated all the way back to the 83-82 win in Chicago on Dec. 16. The Magic narrowly escaped tying the all-time franchise record for consecutive road losses with 17 – a dubious mark set over the final 12 road games of last season and the first five away games this season.

``This is very nice because it’s been a long time since we’ve had a win on the road,’’ Vucevic said. ``We’ve had some wins at home, but not on the road. It feels good and we have to keep it going. … When we had the (road) losing streak going nobody was happy with it. With us losing so many games, it wasn’t fun. We can be happy we won this game, but we can’t be satisfied with it.’’

Philadelphia (15-43) traded away Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes last week and has lost 12 games in a row. The Sixers have the second-worst record in the NBA and are just ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks (11-45).

The game pitted the top two Rookie of the Year candidates in Orlando’s Victor Oladipo and Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams. In December’s double-overtime meeting, the two became the first rookies to have a triple-double in the same game. Wednesday’s game featured markedly less drama and production from two rookies who appear to be dealing with the rigors of an 82-game NBA season for the first time. Oladipo finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Carter-Williams had just eight points and six rebounds.

Nelson missed five of his first seven shots and had just four points in the first three quarters of the game. But playing just miles from his hometown of Chester, Pa., and with his mother sitting courtside, Nelson opened the final quarter with a 3-pointer, a short jumper and a layup set up by a fake pass. Down as much as eight points early in the third quarter, Orlando started clicking offensively and ripped off 11 straight points. And by the time the Magic’s 23-8 run was complete, they had a seemingly comfortable 65-58 lead. However, they couldn’t handle prosperity by giving up the final seven points of the third quarter to go into the fourth knotted at 67.

Looking like a team that had played a night earlier in Washington, Orlando was sloppy and sluggish in the early going. The Magic trailed 44-40 at the break in large part because they didn’t get back on defense and yielded 20 fast break points. And they compounded matters by making just 33.3 percent of their shots.

``It was an interesting game and it wasn’t very pretty by either team,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``We made some adjustments at halftime and had a pretty good third quarter to put ourselves in a position to win a ball game. We did some really good things in the fourth quarter, stayed the course and had an opportunity to get a win on the road.’’

Vucevic did his part to keep the Magic close early on, attacking the Sixers’ weakness in the middle with a variety of post moves and hustle on the glass. He had nine of Orlando’s first 13 points and he finished the first half with 13 points, seven rebounds and four offensive boards.

``it doesn’t matter who it is – all 30 teams – when you can go to an opposing venue and get a win it speaks to your preparation and guys doing the right things over the course of the game,’’ Vaughn said. ``We did some good things and we stayed together. That’s the most important thing when you are on the road.’’