I fully enjoyed that Andrew Nicholson facial. Magic Head Coach Jacque Vaughn has not been afraid to tweak his starting lineups so far this season. He’s now the proud owner of NBA-high 7 different starting lineups through eleven games. It’s that experimentation, whether out of necessity from injuries or not, that Stan Van Gundy was previously criticized about. Maurice Harkless was thrown into the fire Wednesday evening as his 8th career NBA game would be his first as a starter. The 19-year-old out of St. John’s had the arduous task of dealing with Tayshaun Prince, with Arron Afflalo sliding back to his usual spot of shooting guard and JJ Redick coming off the bench in a more appropriate 6th man role. It paid off for the Magic, who celebrated their first contest of a 5-game home stretch with a 90-74 drubbing they gave Detroit. Orlando improves to 4-7 and owe thanks to Detroit for providing half their wins. Rookie Andrew Nicholson poured in a career-high 15 points as he led Orlando in scoring. Glen Davis fought off foul trouble and managed 11 points and 14 rebounds. Arron Afflalo finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds despite banging his left knee and left elbow in the first half. JJ posted a solid 11 points and 7 assists. Jameer Nelson quietly had an efficient 10 points, 7 assists, and 6 boards. Oh, and that Harkless guy cruised to 7 points and 4 boards. Enjoy the Magic locker room interviews. Coming into tonight, Orlando led the league in 3-point and field goal shooting home-away differential. So with the Magic playing five straight games at home, you would assume it’d be a cure for anemic offensive output.
Pistons Coach Lawrence Frank on losing to the Magic twice in 5 days: “At this point in the season Orlando is better than us. That’s what it says…It’s very, very disappointing the way that we played but they’ve beat us twice.”
The first period saw more of the same scoring struggles with Orlando’s shooting woes throwing up a paltry 36 FG%, while Detroit managed a very strong 57.9 FG%. Jacque Vaughn’s men were down ten at one moment. The Pistons having twice as many turnovers as the Magic was a big reason why Orlando only trailed 27-21 after the first period. Orlando’s starters only posted seven points in the quarter as Orlando relied on Gustavo Ayon and Andrew Nicholson for scoring. Six points each came from ‘Goose’ and ‘Drew.
Arron Afflalo on tonight’s success: “That’s the key for us; we have to become a better transition team. And the only way we’re going to do that is to start getting some stops. That was very welcoming to see for us to put together a defensive effort like that, that kind of allowed us to dictate the game a little bit. We’ve been hurt in the 1st (quarter) so often. So hopefully we can carry that over.”
Orlando began the 2nd quarter finishing off a 14-5 run to tie the contest up at 29-29. Game on. The Magic went into the locker room down 48-45. The main difference between the two teams was Detroit’s 8-point advantage in points in the paint. Detroit Coach Lawrence Frank’s big men were once again pests down low. Andrew Nicholson was the only Orlando player to reach double figures going into halftime. JJ Redick dished out 5 of his team’s eleven assists in those first 24 minutes. At least the Magic starting five somehow posted double their 1st period output. During the intermission, a Magic fan banked in a halfcourt shot and won $1,000.
Glen Davis on Coach Vaughn’s halftime talk: “He came in here and said, ‘Okay’. He turned on film, and said, ‘Let’s go play hard. That’s it. Keep doing what you’re doing and we’re going to win this ball game.’ That’s it.”
I’m thankful that Tayshaun Prince didn’t put up an unstoppable offensive 3rd quarter like he did last Friday. I’ll give Harkless credit there. A 21-0 Magic run out of the third period gates got Orlando a 66-48 advantage, and in the correct direction towards victory. That’s understating the situation a lot. Detroit was done after that phenomenal stretch. Orlando had successfully run the Pistons out of Amway Center to the delight of the raucous 17,199 in attendance. It took a Rodney Stuckey free throw line trip with 2:15 remaining for the Pistons to finally produce their first point of the period. Andrew Nicholson posterizing Kyle Singler capped off a magnificent 71-56 lead entering the final quarter, as the Canadian was sitting atop a new career-high in points (13) at that instant. There wasn’t a statistical category the Magic didn’t own an advantage over the Pistons in. The relief of victory in the locker room was quite evident. Orlando has a day off to share time with their loved ones before coming back to Amway Center to play a Kyrie Irving-less Cavaliers club on Friday.