Frank Vogel Pleased With Team's Energy, Effort and Enthusiasm

By John Denton
Feb. 12, 2018

CHICAGO – Their momentum interrupted by a narrow loss two nights ago, the Orlando Magic will look to get back on track tonight against an opponent that has badly bedeviled them this season.

Orlando pushed the playoff-bound Milwaukee Bucks and superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo to the brink on Saturday before losing to see its three-game winning streak come to an end. Tonight, the challenge for the Magic (18-37) will be to beat the Bulls (19-36) and avoid a three-game losing streak to Chicago.

The Magic lost 105-83 to the Bulls on Nov. 3 when they were 6-2 early in the season but playing without two of their top three point guards. Orlando also lost 112-94 in Chicago on Dec. 20 when they were once again short-handed because of injuries.

The Magic have played much better of late, racking up big wins against Boston, Cleveland, Miami, Minnesota, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Lakers since Jan. 12. Orlando was trying to win a fourth straight game for the first time since December of 2015 on Saturday, but it couldn’t slow Antetokounmpo (32 points) and couldn’t find the mark from 3-point range. After starting the game seven of 13 from beyond the arc, the Magic made just one of their final 17 attempts from 3-point range.

Still, head coach Frank Vogel was encouraged by the energy, effort and enthusiasm his team showed in sharing the ball and playing together. He said his hope is that the Magic will continue to play that way and eventually the 3-point shots will fall again.

``This is what my teams should look like and this is what I demand of them,’’ he said of Orlando’s share-the-ball mentality. ``This is the standard of how we want to play – whoever is in uniform. We’re going to play extra-pass basketball and build an extra-pass culture and the competitive spirit on the defensive end is going to be about fighting, getting loose balls and physicality. It takes time for this stuff to develop, but it looks pretty good right now because guys are competing at a high level.’’

Orlando is 1-1 since trading starting point guard Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns. That move has meant more playing time for D.J. Augustin and Shelvin Mack, who have taken advantage of those opportunities. Augustin, the starter, had 18 points and nine assists in Thursday’s defeat of the Atlanta Hawks, while Mack kept the Magic within striking distance of the Bucks on Saturday by pumping in 19 points, handing out 10 assists and grabbing four rebounds.

The Magic will once again be without forward Aaron Gordon (strained left hip flexor) and Nikola Vucevic (fractured hand) and forward Jonathan Isaac (ankle) and Terrence Ross (knee) remain out. That should just mean more time for Magic young players Mario Hezonja, Khem Birch and Wes Iwundu – all of which have been playing solid basketball of late while working into the rotation.

``We’ve got to play a lot better defense because the last game (Chicago) got into the paint a lot – even though I wasn’t here and was in the G League,’’ said Birch, who had six points, nine rebounds and a steal on Saturday against Milwaukee. ``Just looking at the game film, we’ve got to keep them out of the paint.’’

Chicago, which had dropped eight of nine after losing to Washington on Saturday night, will look different to the Magic in that standout forward Nikola Mirotic has since been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, point guard Kris Dunn is out with a concussion and Zach LaVine is back after battling his way through a torn ACL. LaVine has averaged 17.3 points in his 12 games back and his play was especially impressive in Friday’s defeat of Minnesota when he scored 35 points. Orlando knows that slowing LaVine – who should return tonight after sitting out of Saturday’s second game in two nights – will be a must.

``When he’s making the perimeter shot like he’s capable of doing, he’s one of the toughest guys to guard in the league,’’ Vogel said. ``He can do it in so many ways. He’s a great driver and basket attacker and he’ll tear the rim down (with a dunk) if you don’t help early. Obviously, you’ve got to go over (screens) with him because of his ability to rise up and shoot elevated, Ray Allen-type of threes. They got themselves a heck of a player in that trade (with Minnesota for Jimmy Butler) and we’ve just got to do the best that we can on him.’’

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