Magic Can Find Inspiration in Super Bowl Outcome

By John Denton
Feb. 7, 2017

HOUSTON – In Houston – site of Sunday night’s thrilling Super Bowl LI – for tonight’s game against James Harden and the Rockets, the Orlando Magic are still holding out hope for a Tom Brady-like rally to this season.

Orlando comes into tonight’s game at a disappointing 20-33 after dropping six of the past eight, but it still very much in the race for a playoff spot because of the topsy-turvy nature of the Eastern Conference. Orlando came into Tuesday just 4 ½ games back of No. 8 Detroit.

Magic coach Frank Vogel told his team that it could draw inspiration from the New England Patriots’ rally from a 28-3 deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in Super Bowl LI. That game was played at Houston’s NRG Stadium, just a few miles away from the Toyota Center where the Magic will try and slay the high-octane Rockets (37-17) at 8 p.m. (ET).

``We get into the speech that I’ve said too often this year: `Hey, we can make this happen,’’’ Vogel said. ``We’re down, yeah. But crazy things happen in sports. Let’s see what we can make happen.’’

Magic center Nikola Vucevic is a native of Montenegro, but he fell in love with football nine years ago when he attended college at USC. His favorite NFL team is the Philadelphia Eagles from the one season he spent in The City of Brotherly Love as a NBA rookie. But his favorite NFL player is Brady, and Vucevic marveled at what the quarterback pulled off on Sunday across town in Houston. Now, he’s hoping the Magic can similarly rally – starting with tonight’s game against the Rockets.

``Those are the great stories in sports that show that it’s never over until it’s over,’’ Vucevic said. ``Down 28-3 midway through the third, I’m sure that most people who are Patriots fans turned off their TVs and was like, `Oh well.’ But they made a comeback, and even that was hard because they missed the extra point and had to go for two twice. It was one of the greatest comebacks not only in football, but all of sports and it was inspiring.’’

Orlando will be without forward Jeff Green tonight after his fiancé, Stephanie, had the couple’s first child on Tuesday morning. Green travelled to Houston with the Magic on Monday, but got word that Stephanie started going into labor later that night. Green hoped a flight to Miami and made it back in time for the child’s birth – something that he was incredibly excited about in the days leading up to Monday.

The loss of Green could hurt the Magic because his versatility on defense could have helped the team against a Rockets squad that prefers to play small-ball with a host of 3-point shooters surrounding Harden.

The Rockets have already set a host of shooting and scoring records and they are on pace to set the all-time NBA records for 3-point makes and takes for a season. Coming in to Tuesday, Houston ranks second in the NBA in scoring (114.1) and first in 3-point makes a game (14.44) and attempts a game (39.89).

``The scouting report I read this morning said ultra-elite offense – that’s what (assistant coach) David Adelman wrote – that we’re going against an ultra-elite offense and that’s what they are,’’ Vogel said. ``They’re second in the league in scoring and it’s a bombs-away approach shooting 40 threes a game with one of the best offensive players in the game (in Harden).’’

Orlando held its own against Houston on Jan. 6 at the Amway Center, slowing down the Rockets (45.3 percent shooting and 16 turnovers) and Harden (five of 15 shooting, 14 points). However, Houston escaped with a 100-93 victory thanks to making 15 3-pointers compared to only eight for the Magic.

Orlando will likely see a different Harden, who has been on a tear of late by scoring 41 and 42 points in his past two games. He missed notching a triple-double by one assist on Friday in a defeat of the Chicago Bulls – the fifth time this season that he’s missed a triple-double by just one rebound or one assist. Operating Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system for the first season, Harden already has 14 triple-doubles – 11 more than he had last season.

``Obviously guarding the three is the number one priority, but in doing that we have to make sure that we control James because he’s the one orchestrating the offense,’’ Magic guard Evan Fournier said. ``It’s obviously going to be hard to contain him, but we have a pretty good game plan and we played them pretty good the first time. That will be the keys – control the pace and control James.’’

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.

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