Postgame Report: Magic vs. Sixers (3/2/14)

By John Denton
March 2, 2014

ORLANDO – After sleep-walking through nearly three quarters of sluggish and sloppy basketball on Sunday night, the Orlando Magic got exhilarating dunks just 90 seconds apart from Kyle O’Quinn and E’Twaun Moore to jar the team awake.

Down most of the night to a Philadelphia 76ers team that hasn’t won a game in more than a month, the Magic came alive just in time Sunday night to avoid what would have been a humiliating loss considering the opposition’s gutted roster.

O’Quinn broke a 69-all fourth-quarter tie with a thunderous put-back dunk and Moore sent the Magic on their way with a rare dunk following a dazzling cross-over dribble move. The dunks brought the Amway Center crowd of 16,704 to its feet and energized the Magic enough for a 92-81 defeat of the free-falling Sixers.

``I think that was kind of the turning point for us,’’ said Moore, who scored 11 points off the bench, referring to the big fourth-quarter dunks. ``Anytime you are getting spark plays that gets the crowd and the bench into the game, it just helps your team get the momentum.’’

Orlando (19-43) beat Philadelphia (15-45) for a second time in five nights and won the season series, 3-1. The Magic had a 26-12 scoring edge in the fourth quarter to send Philadelphia to its 14th consecutive loss. During their losing skid, the Sixers have lost by an average of 16.8 points and 11 of the 14 defeats have been by double digits.

``We knew as a team that this is a game that we had to win,’’ Tobias Harris said. ``We lost in Miami and I thought we played a pretty good game. It was a tough game mentally-wise for both teams because they played (on Saturday), too. Mentally we had to get ourselves ready before the game and then withstand it throughout the game.

Harris carried the struggling Magic offense most of the night and scored a career-high 31 points on 11 of 20 shooting and nine-of-nine free throw shooting. Nikola Vucevic scored 18 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, and he certainly had plenty of opportunities at rebounds considering that Orlando shot just 42.2 percent and Philadelphia made only 37.2 percent of its tries. O’Quinn had a second straight solid game with eight points and eight rebounds.

The biggest significance to come from Sunday’s win for the Magic was that they evened their home record at 15-15 for the season. Once 8-14 at the Amway Center, the Magic have won seven of the past eight games at home over the past five weeks.

The Magic were without leading scorer Arron Afflalo for a fifth straight game, this time because of a lingering illness. Orlando also didn’t have veteran point guard Jameer Nelson due to a sore calf. Nelson scored 12 of his 16 points of Wednesday’s fourth quarter to lift the Magic past Philadelphia. Ronnie Price got his first start of the season in place of Nelson, but he missed all seven of his shot attempts.

Leading Rookie of the Year candidates, Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams, squared off for the final time of the season. Oladipo (nine points and four assists) struggled through a three-of-10 shooting night, his second subpar game in as many nights. Carter-Williams (17 points, 11 rebounds and six assists) cooled off dramatically later in the game following a 12-point outburst in the first quarter. Thanks to a late third-quarter surge, Orlando was able to get within 69-66 of the Sixers heading into the final period. It wasn’t until Maurice Harkless (10 points and six rebounds) opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer did the Magic eclipse the 40 percent plateau from the field.

Harris relentlessly attacked the rim in the early going and converted five of Orlando’s 10 field goals in the paint in the first half. He made his first five shot attempts and sank eight of 11 early in the game. However, the rest of the Magic hit just nine of 33 shots (27.2 percent) in the first half as Orlando trailed 46-43 at the break.

``It was definitely my mindset to attack them and put pressure on their defense,’’ said Harris, who drilled two free throws with 14.1 seconds left to give him the career-best 31 points. ``I could see some gaps in their defense so I wanted to attack them. And they were focusing a lot on Nik (Vucevic), so I saw openings that I could use to my advantage.’’