The mission tonight for the Magic is to correct their errors from Sunday’s disappointing loss in Toronto and emerge from Monday’s game in Atlanta with a much-needed victory.
The top priority tonight for the Magic (3-6) against the Hawks (4-4) is to get off to a better start so that they are not fighting from behind all game. That has been a trend most of this season as Orlando has trailed by at least eight points in the first quarter of seven of nine games so far. Being focused from the opening tip and not digging a large deficit early in the game has been a point of emphasis for Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn.
``We can stress it, show it on tape and talk about it, but then we have to see if we’ll get a response from it tonight,’’ Vaughn said. ``The game is more than physical.
There’s a mental aspect to the game. It’s OK that when you are in your (hotel) room in the afternoon that you are thinking about your responsibilities for that night. You are doing your job, whether it’s (thinking about) matchups, schemes – you can think about that before the game starts. Coach said it’s OK to do that.’’
One thing that could help the Magic get off to a strong start would be the return of standout shooting guard J.J. Redick. Redick missed Sunday’s 97-86 loss in Toronto because of a virus that hit him Saturday morning and zapped his strength on Sunday. Redick is a game-time decision tonight, but he went through the Monday morning practice with the team and reported that he was feeling significantly better.
``I’m feeling better, but it was a pretty brutal 24 hours from 10:30 a.m. on Saturday to (Sunday) afternoon. I’m feeling better, but I have a ways to go to recover,’’ Redick said. ``We’ll see how I feel later today. I’m doing everything that I can. (Sunday) night was the first meal that I had had in 48 hours and I was able to keep that down. Part of regaining your strength is being able to eat.’’ Redick stayed back at the hotel on Sunday and watched the Magic fall behind by 13 points against the Raptors. And even after the Magic clawed back and led by one point with 9 minutes remaining, Orlando slumped badly down the stretch. Redick didn’t get to see the finish because he was stuck in traffic in downtown that was worsened by a parade that featured Santa Claus. Despite being weak from his virus, Redick got out of his cab and walked to the arena because the traffic was in a snarl.
``I had to leave at the beginning of the fourth, so I didn’t get to see the finish. And then with the parade, it took me an hour-and-a-half to get to the bus,’’ Redick said. ``I actually walked the last eight blocks. No, I didn’t enjoy my trip to Toronto.’’ Vaughn said that the Magic missed Redick on Sunday because he is one of the team’s best at spurring ball movement and player movement. Redick believes if the Magic are more in tune with the game plan and play with intensity the starts to games will be better for the Magic.
``The first thing is focus and our focus has to be on the game plan,’’ Redick said. ``You shouldn’t mess up game plan things in the first quarter and we’ve been susceptible to that all season. So there’s got to be a better focus. ``And secondly, when our offense plays well, we play better,’’ Redick continued. ``We have to play better offense in the first half. A lot of that just has to do with energy and moving the ball.’’
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