Postgame Report: Magic vs. Timberwolves (4/5/14)

Arron Afflalo

By John Denton
April 5, 2014

ORLANDO – For most of three quarters on Saturday night, the Orlando Magic were forced to play from behind despite shooting better than 52 percent from the floor. Way too many turnovers and an inability to defend without fouling threatened to ruin an otherwise stellar showing for the home-standing Magic.

When the Magic finally figured out a way to stop giving away possessions and repeatedly sending the Minnesota Timberwolves to the free throw line, they were able to capitalize on their scorching shooting and pull away for a stirring victory.

Orlando got as high as 59 percent from the floor at one point, ended up shooting a stellar 54.4 percent for the night and got contributions from all over the roster in a come-from-behind 100-92 defeat of the short-handed Timberwolves.

The 54.4 shooting just missed equaling the season-best 55.7 the Magic shot early in the season in a home win against New Orleans. Orlando hit 11 of 18 shots and three of four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to wipe out a five-point deficit.

``We call the fourth quarter, `winning time,’’’ said Magic power forward Kyle O’Quinn, who had 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. ``We had to forget all of the `my bads,’ the mistakes and the ticky-tack fouls. If we’re within striking distance, it’s winning time.’’

The Magic (22-55) snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 18-20 at the Amway Center. The 16,992 roared with emotion throughout a fourth quarter where Orlando outscored Minnesota (38-38) 28-15 over the final 12 minutes. Both teams played a night earlier – Minnesota won in double-overtime in Miami, while Orlando fell in Charlotte – but the Magic clearly had more energy left in the tank by Saturday’s fourth quarter.

``Our energy and making excitement plays got things going our way and got the crowd real excited. It took the energy out of the other team and helped us tonight,’’ said Tobias Harris, who had two dunks, six points and five rebounds in the fourth quarter alone. ``The unit that was out there in the fourth quarter played with a lot of energy. We gathered everybody together and said we wanted to chip away at the (deficit). We played as hard as we could. When we play together and focus in on the defensive end, good things happen for us.’’

Harris and Maurice Harkless each scored 17 points and jump-started Orlando’s up-tempo attack in the second half. Victor Oladipo drilled two 3-pointers, hit seven of 12 shots just like Harris and scored 16 points off the bench.

And the Magic’s strong offensive play didn’t end there. Arron Afflalo had his best game in weeks with 18 points, while O’Quinn bounced back from a forgettable five-of-20 shooting night on Friday in Charlotte. And veteran point guard Jameer Nelson was efficient all night with 12 assists, his 11th double-digit assist game of the season.

``There were a lot of different storylines throughout the course of the game,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``I looked how we’d respond on a back-to-back. We were playing without Nik (Vucevic) again and I wanted to see how we’d respond. Kyle O’Quinn did not have his greatest game (Friday) night and how would he respond? He really stepped up. We just got a lot of contributions across the board.’’

Ricky Rubio scored 18 points and handed out 10 assists, but he made just seven of 17 shots.

Orlando won despite nearly turning the ball over more than at any point this season. The Magic kicked the ball away 23 times, resulting in 30 points for the T-Wolves. Orlando also had to overcome putting Minnesota on the free throw line 28 times (with 19 makes). Meanwhile, Orlando hit just five of nine free throws in the game.

The Magic were without Vucevic on Saturday because of soreness in his left Achilles’ tendon. It was the second game in a row and the 20th game this season that Vucevic has missed because of ankle, Achilles and concussion injuries. After Saturday’s victory, Orlando is now 3-17 this season without their 7-foot center.

Minnesota, which was eliminated from playoff contention a night earlier and won in double-OT on Friday in Miami, didn’t play Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin and Shabazz Muhammad because of injuries.

Orlando was playing Minnesota for the first time since Oct. 30, a game that saw the Timberwolves tie the game in the final seconds of regulation on a 3-pointer by Love and win it in overtime.

The Magic will be off on Sunday and Monday before returning to practice on Tuesday to prepare for Wednesday’s home game against Brooklyn. The Magic routed the Nets 107-86 at the Amway Center on Nov. 3 for one of their most impressive victories of the season.

Orlando made 12 of 20 shots in the third period and had hit 52.5 percent of its shots through three quarters, but remarkably they still trailed 77-72 heading into the fourth. The Magic were forced to play from behind because of 17 turnovers through three quarters that led to 26 points. Also, with a quarter still to play Minnesota had a 16-point advantage at the free throw line.

Orlando got within 48-46 at the half following a banked-in 3-pointer from the wing by Maurice Harkless. But that deficit had to be disappointing for a Magic team that seemingly hard control of the game early on and led by as much as nine points in the second quarter.

In a slump much of the past month, Afflalo was in attack mode on Saturday night and poured in 12 first-half points. He needed just two quarters to snap a streak of three straight games without breaking double figures in scoring.

Nelson got the Magic off to a strong start with assists on Orlando’s first six baskets. And O’Quinn played with a lot of energy early on following a forgettable game on Friday, contributing 10 rebounds and three blocked shots in the first half.

``I was just trying to, one, get everybody involved, and two, play the right way,’’ said Nelson, who narrowly missed his season high of 13 assists. ``We start games off at times with certain guys being a little passive, whioh we shouldn’t be that way. I just had to be assertive at the point guard position to get guys into their sweet spots.’’