Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Harkless Debuts as Minny Manhandles Orlando

Jacque Vaughn had no problem proclaiming this matchup in Minnesota as a big test of his team's character when it involves overcoming a heartbreaker in Chicago. Orlando failed miserably. Orlando fell 90-75 at the Target Center, dropping to 2-2 and longing to return home after their trip away from Amway Center didn't bring victory. It's tough to win a ballgame when only making 35% of your shots from the field. J.J. Redick had a team-high 16 points and claimed his fourth straight FOX Sports Florida 'Subway Sub of the Game'. The 5 turnovers stung. Arron Afflalo finished with an underrated 12 points. Andrew Nicholson and E'Twaun Moore contributed 11 and 10 points in the disheartening loss. What was joked about as a 'Montenegrin Melee' or a 'Nikola Slobber-knocker' center duel between Nik Vucevic and Pekovic proved to be futile hype. Rick Adelman, as he's proven no matter where he has coached, knows how to maximize offensive output from his roster. Even if that T-Wolves roster is without the services of studs like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Minnesota is showing its playoff capabilities even with a short-handed team as they're now 3-1. 
Coach Vaughn on the blowout loss: "You can't turn inwards. It has to continue being passing and screening and sticking together as a team."

Three airballs in the first 5 minutes of the game was not a great omen for the men in blue. DeQuan Jones' stint as a starter is over for now. Josh McRoberts looked beyond lost as the starting small forward on either end of the court in the first half. I'm terrified to report that 'McBob' made a 3-pointer and an 18-footer Couldn't spread the court nor could Josh stop falling for Andrei Kirilenko pump fakes. E'Twaun Moore couldn't guard Luke Ridnour, and Moore's shot looked putrid in comparison to what we've come to expect from the Purdue Boilermaker. Ridnour has a history of playing above his mediocre output against the Magic. The only bright side in that downright ugly first 12 minutes was Gustavo Ayon finally getting his first points in Magic pinstripes. 'Goose' still looks slow, confused, and a detriment the majority of the time. Ayon is still hustling, but he's a shadow of his superb preseason self. Oh, and Maurice Harkless made his Orlando debut for Coach Vaughn with 5.1 seconds left in that eye-gouging quarter. Overall on the night, Harkless displayed a little bit of his potential of being a possible starter in the future for this franchise. 7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists isn't too shabby. Very smooth on the court, didn't get to really shoot, but his defense is more than respectable. Along with showing amazing hops and great alley oop finishing skills, Harkless has a knack for being in the direct vicinity of a loose ball. Derrick Williams looked like the veteran in comparison to Glen Davis, and Brandon Roy looked healthy and posted a 3-point, 5-assists, 3-rebound first period stat line. Wolves were up 25-12.
Coach Vaughn if he could change anything tonight: "I wish the rim would've opened up and the ball would've slid through it."

J.J. Redick couldn't do anything right at this point. The cringe-worthy climax came in the form of two missed shots and 2 turnovers in the initial minute of the 2nd period. Harkless' length came in handy with some nice rebounding and block production. The Magic and Wolves began the period a combined 0-for-16 before Afflalo finally made a field goal with 7:06 remaining. Maurice and Andrew Nicholson provided positive minutes when there wasn't much to be proud of. The two rookies played a huge part in upping Orlando's defense while contributing decently on the offensive end of what was a ridiculously low-scoring half. Somehow an E'Twaun Moore converted jumper in the final seconds had the Magic only down 38-34 at the break. Both teams set basketball back a half century with gaudy play. 32.4 FG% for Orlando including 2-for-10 from 3-point range doesn't get much worse. By comparison, Minny were 42.9% from the field. Confidence wise from Orlando's perspective, you're only down 4 despite a disaster of a 24 minutes. God bless Arron Afflalo, that is all. 'AAA' made 5 of the Magic's twelve first half field goals. 

So you'd imagine the situation had to get better come the 3rd quarter, right? Maybe? Nope. Josh McRoberts scored the Magic's first 4 points if you see that as a good thing. The problem? Minnesota was drilling 3-pointers and poking and prodding at every weak spot in Orlando's defense. Or lack thereof defense. Minnesota's 10-2 run placed themselves in a 51-40 lead. Orlando's effort was flat. No idea if it was fatigue or a case of reality hitting them. After missing his first 6 attempts of the contest, Redick's first 3rd quarter attempt went in. That got the Dukie going offensively, including feeding Ayon for a wide open dunk. 'Redickulous' would knock down a trey off a Andrew Nicholson block on Pekovic to bring the Magic to within 58-53 late in the period. The progress would unravel as Chase Budinger and Greg freakin' Stiemsma handed the Wolves a 68-55 advantage fueled by a 10-2 run to end the 3rd period. 

It was beyond discouraging to see Stiemsma annihilate and abuse Gustavo. Kyle O'Quinn came in with the Magic down 18 and spiraling out of control. Around the time Jose Juan Barea tweaked his ankle, Orlando was down 20 with 8:39 remaining in the contest and it was evident there was zero chance of a Magic comeback. From there it was scrub time with the outcome long decided. At least the thought of 'quitting' didn't cross my mind. Nicholson, Moore, Ish, Harkless, and O'Quinn kept fighting to the end. Even when you're out-matched, that's all I'm sure a Head Coach wants to see at minimum from his men on the floor. DeQuan Jones must be injured. Whether it has anything to do with his abductor muscle problem in his thigh/hip who knows. It could explain why the Miami Hurricane played so few minutes in his previous 2 starts. Jones was the only Magic man in warm-ups who didn't get a second on the court tonight. The Magic fly home, licking their wounds and learning a little more about what it'll take to win on the road. Orlando hosts the relocated Nets on Friday. Glen Davis needs to rest up and 'turn it up' again, as Big Baby had a dud of a back-to-back. Magic need the day off to get on track and maybe develop pride in continuing to protect its home court advantage. It'd be great to see DeQuan or even Maurice start at SF again, with hopefully Jameer Nelson returning to action. Magic fans should prepare themselves now to see a lot of fake Brooklyn Nets 'fans' in their still freshly tagged apparel. 

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