By John Denton
February 10, 2013
Vucevic added 17 points for his 29th double-double of the season. Arron Afflalo chipped in 14 points, while Nelson had 10 points. Rookie Andrew Nicholson, who was added to the roster for the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge earlier in the day, scored 14 points.
Redick was available once again for the Magic after missing the past three games with a sore shoulder suffered last week when Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders landed on him. Redick was a starter in the three games before the injury, but was used in a familiar role off the bench Sunday night. In two games this season against Portland, Redick scored 29 and 22 points and hit a combined eight 3-pointers.
``It was a very consistent game for us in terms of our energy level from start to finish and the way we played offensively and shared the ball,’’ Redick said.
Out of the rotation of late, Ayon tied a career-high with the 16 points and his six assists were a new career high. He came into the game averaging just 3.3 points and had scored only 14 points over the past eight games before Sunday’s explosion. He had a stretch in the second quarter in which he drilled two jump shots, teamed with Afflalo for a steal and had a no-look dish to Nicholson for a layup.
``You have to forget about the game before and you have to think about the game that is coming up,’’ Ayon said through an interpreter. ``I have to stay positive and be ready for the game coming up.’’
Ayon led a team of reserves that incredibly made 23 of 37 shots (62.1 percent). To put that into perspective, the Magic had just 27 field goals in an ugly loss in Philadelphia on Monday when they scored just 61 points.
The Magic will be off until Wednesday when they host the Atlanta Hawks, their final game before the NBA’s All-Star break. The Magic are 0-2 this season against the Hawks, losing 81-72 in Atlanta on Dec. 19 and 86-80 in Orlando on Dec. 12.
Portland point guard Damian Lillard, the leading candidate to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, suffered through a dismal night. He made just one of his 16 shots and missed all eight 3-point attempts. All four of his points came from the free throw line and he did add 12 assists.
The Magic took a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter after making an efficient 10 of 18 shots in the third period. Nelson and Afflalo snapped out of poor first-half performances with two baskets apiece in the third period. And when Redick converted a reverse layup in transition, it put the Magic ahead 79-72 heading into the final 12 minutes.
``This was just a great team effort. We came out really aggressive at both ends of the court,’’ said Vucevic, who had at least nine rebounds for a 30th consecutive game. ``On the offensive end we really shared the ball and we knocked shots down. … We needed a win bad because we had lost a lot of tough ones and the games were close. It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve kept playing hard. We really earned this one. It was good to get this win and hopefully we can get one more before the all-star break.’’
Orlando led 55-49 at the half, but they got a major scare late in the second quarter. Redick tried chasing down a long pass, but doubled over in obvious pain after getting whacked across his sore right shoulder. Rather than run back up the court, Redick instead headed straight to the locker room for treatment on what looked to be a back injury.
Redick, who was back after missing the past three games with a shoulder injury, was otherwise phenomenal in the first half. He made six of eight shots, three times by getting to the rim for layups in traffic.
``With J.J., it’s will. It’s a mental fortitude to push through,’’ Vaughn said. ``He does a great job of willing himself throughout the course of the game.’’
Showing the resolve that has helped them remain a tight unit despite the struggles of the past six weeks, Orlando battled back from 11 down early in the first half to lead by as many as nine in the second quarter.
Redick got help early on from the surprising play of Ayon, who broke out of a month-long slump with some inspired play. Hustling past Portland’s J.J. Hixon several times, Ayon made five of seven shots, scored 10 points, handed out four assists and grabbed three rebounds. He also had the pass of the night when he took the ball at the high post and flipped a no-look backwards pass to a cutting Nicholson for a layup in the second quarter.
``Goose was incredible,’’ Afflalo said. ``He’s such an unselfish player and he does all of the small things. So once for him to be rewarded from a stats standpoint and get the proper respect he deserves it’s gratifying to me. He deserves it because he works hard every day in practice and sets all of the screens. Hopefully he continues to bring this effort every night.’’
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