Denton's Dish: Monday's Recap at Blazers (Part 2)

By John Denton
January 7, 2013

J.J. Redick had 29 points (two off his career high) and six 3-pointers and Arron Afflalo added 24 points for Orlando. Nelson scored 21 points and handed out 12 assists to eclipse Scott Skiles as the franchise’s all-time leader in assists.

Center Nikola Vucevic added 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Josh McRoberts chipped in 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds. The Magic were outscored 17-11 in overtime and they made just five of 12 shots in the extra period.

Portland (19-15) got 27 points from LaMarcus Aldridge, with five of them coming in overtime. Wesley Matthews had 24, while undersized center J.J. Hickson burned the Magic for 20 points and 15 rebounds.

The end of regulation was filled with wild swings. The Magic went from up four points with 5 minutes to play to being down by four points in the final 2 minutes. But Nelson made the shot of the game in the final seconds of regulation when he shook rookie Damian Lillard and drilled a game-tying 3-pointer with 8.9 seconds remaining.

``Toward the end of the shot it slipped a little bit. I don’t know what was going on because J.J. said one of his shots slipped as well,’’ Nelson said of the game-tying shot. ``I had a good look at it was a great play that Coach (Vaughn) drew up. He put me in a successful situation to tie the game up. You make some and miss some and I’ll take the next one, too.’’

Nelson became the Magic’s all-time leader in assists late in the first quarter when he artfully beat his man off the dribble, got into the lane to draw the defense and then dropped the ball to Andrew Nicholson for a dunk. It was his 2,777th career assist, one more than Scott Skiles, who held the franchise record for more than 18 seasons.

Nelson came into the game needing one assist to tie Skiles. He picked up that assist in charitable fashion when he dished to Nikola Vucevic for a running hook shot.

Vucevic dribbled before the shot, leaving the judgment of whether or not an assist should be awarded to the official scorer. Nelson was credited with the assist, earning him a spot in the record books.

Monday’s game was the first of a nine-day, four-game road trip for the Magic. Orlando is off on Tuesday and will play the Nuggets in Denver on Wednesday. After that, the Magic will be off until Saturday afternoon when they face the Los Angeles Clippers. The trip ends in Washington on Monday night.

``I just want the guys to grasp the situation that we have,’’ Afflalo said. ``We had a taken a small lead (late in the fourth quarter) and I wanted our guys to understand the importance of every possession. Our guys did a good job down the stretch. Me personally, I just have to step my game up and get to that next level and become a closer for us.’’

The Blazers responded to the Magic’s early aggressiveness with a stellar third quarter that took them from being down nine points at the half to up by as much as five points in the third quarter. But Redick brought the Magic back by continuously moving to get open and seeking out shots. He had eight quick points late in the third period to get the Magic even at 85-all by the start of the fourth period.

A resilient team all season, the Magic showed no ill effects of their losing ways of late at the start of the game and played one of the best halves of basketball this season early Monday. Orlando shot 51.1 percent in the first 24 minutes and led 57-48 at the intermission.

It was only fitting on a night when Nelson etched his name into the record books that the half began and ended with passes from the point guard to set up baskets. Nelson had six assists in the first two quarters, the final one threading the proverbial needle to find Afflalo for a fastbreak layup. Afflalo had a team-high 16 points in the first half by making seven of his nine shots.

Lost in the Magic’s losing ways of late has been the inspired play of Afflalo, who has carried the Orlando offense for long stretches. He scored 29 points in Saturday’s loss to New York and he came into Monday’s game averaging 22 points a night over the past eight games. Five times during that stretch he’s scored at least 20 points to boost his scoring average to 17.5 points a game.

Afflalo said that while the Magic are down about losing, the team still has plenty of fight left in it. Afflalo said this is the longest skid he’s ever been a part of, but he thinks brighter days are soon coming for the Magic.

``It’s tough because I’m used to getting a quick fix and sneaking in a win even if we’re not playing good basketball. I’m used to getting in a win here or there to kill that vibe for a split-second,’’ Afflalo said. ``It’s been a few weeks now (since winning) and that’s different.

``But there are no excuses and a big player a responsibility falls on the plays that you make down the stretch,’’ continued Afflalo, who had a turnover in both the fourth quarter and overtime. ``You can’t turn the ball over and you have to make shots. I’m going to learn from this. I’ll watch the film, be more patient and see how the defense is playing me to make sure I can come through for this team.’’


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