Frank Vogel Says Team's Young Players Are Showing Improvement

By John Denton
Jan. 1, 2018

NEW YORK – To start 2018 with a bang, the Orlando Magic must first put one of the final memories of 2017 out of their heads.

Orlando saw a promising start on Saturday against the Miami Heat dissolve into another frustrating finish. Up as much as 18 points early in the third quarter, Orlando couldn’t slow down Tyler Johnson or Goran Dragic over the final 24 minutes and lost 117-111 at the Amway Center.

The Magic (12-25) will look to rebound tonight against a much-improved Brooklyn Nets team (13-23). Since starting 8-4, Orlando is just 4-21, but five of those losses – including Saturday’s against Miami – have come after the Magic grabbed a double-digit lead at some point during the game.

Head coach Frank Vogel knows his Magic will have to be ready physically and spiritually against a Brooklyn team known for challenging foes with its speed and physicality.

``You’ve got to get back on defense and you’ve got to execute offensively because they play a physical brand of basketball,’’ Vogel said on Monday morning. ``Defensively, they are going to deny a lot of stuff so you’ve got to work to get open and execute the little things against their toughness.’’

Tipoff tonight from the Barclays Center is 7:30 p.m. The Nets are 6-9 this season in Brooklyn and won 119-84 there back on Dec. 22 in a rout of the Washington Wizards. The Nets also won in Miami this past week, but that was their only victory on a 1-4 road trip. Brooklyn fell 108-105 in Boston on Sunday.

Orlando and Brooklyn might not recognize one another after having not played since early in the season. The Nets won 126-121 in the second game of the season despite Magic center Nikola Vucevic scoring a career-best 41 points. Vucevic won’t play tonight as he is out several weeks following surgery to repair a fractured bone in his left hand.

Orlando, which has defeated Brooklyn in seven of the past nine meetings, rebounded on Oct. 24 to beat the Nets when Aaron Gordon scored a career-best 41 points. Gordon had the game-winning 3-pointer in that game after the Magic had fallen behind by a point in the final minute.

Gordon didn’t have the same sort of luck on Saturday, missing a potential tying 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining and leading to the Magic’s heartbreaking loss to the Heat. Still, Gordon had 29 points and Vogel is excited about the progress the fourth-year forward has made this season.

``He’s not just a spot-up shooter; he’s a pin-down shooter and that says a lot about his development,’’ Vogel said of Gordon, who made five of 11 3-point shots against the Heat on Saturday. ``We’re still not winning at the rate that we want, but our young guys are improving. That’s a very encouraging thing.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.