After two recent disappointing defeats, Orlando concluded their 5-game Western Conference road trip 3-2 as the Magic snatched a win 98-90 in Phoenix. Orlando shot 51.9% from the field. Jacque Vaughn's men are 8-12 overall on the season. Arron Afflalo drilled a long 2-pointer with 1:22 to go to put Orlando up 97-88 and clinch the victory. Tonight was rookie Andrew Nicholson's night. Career-highs galore: 9-of-11 shooting, 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 steals. The Magic survived coughing up 6 more turnovers than their opponent by out-rebounding Phoenix 44-29.
Magic are now 8-3 when they make at least five 3-pointers as they shot 5-of-15 Sunday. Orlando also received superb bench support from JJ Redick and E'Twaun Moore. Redick posted 20 points and 9 assists off the pine and Moore managed 10 points. Don't forget 15 points from Glen Davis, 14 from Arron Afflalo, and 12 & 9 out of Nik Vucevic. Goran Dragic was a late scratch due to illness, leaving Phoenix without their best scorer and dish dealer. 15.1 ppg and 6.4 apg to be specific. Sebastian Telfair was inserted at point guard as this was Telfair's first start of the season.
Orlando began the contest sluggishly once more. Phoenix were up 6-0, then 13-4 just past the 6-minute mark of the opening quarter. The blue and white did not take their hosts seriously by any means to start the contest. They saw Dragic not on the court, as well as the fact Phoenix has one of the worst defenses in the league, and thought Alvin Gentry's club would just roll over and die. A lot of Magic player confusion could be spotted as Phoenix broke down Orlando's defense for a large amount of easy buckets.
Despite appearing like he should have been taking a tap dance lesson wearing those black shoes in white attire, Marcin Gortat danced around the likes of Vucevic and Ayon on both ends of the paint and put on a clinic early and often. Coach Vaughn got desperate early, as ten Orlando players were already utilizes in the first 6:55 of the game. JJ Redick and E'Twaun Moore with a combined twelve points were crucial in slicing into Phoenix's lead and only trailing 20-23 after one quarter.
E'Twaun Moore had been struggling mightily away from Amway Center. In the last four games, Moore had posted 9 points total. He had 7 by halftime. Wesley Johnson fouled JJ Redick on a 3-pointer TWICE. Christmas isn't for a few more weeks. Props to Andrew Nicholson, who turned 23 years old Saturday, for getting the better of Luis Scola. The Argentinian was either injured, or unprepared to deal with the Canadian on both ends of the court as Andrew was an efficient 3-for-3 from the field going into the break. Phoenix is so inept without Dragic to lead them on offense that the Magic turned their deficit into a 43-36 advantage midway through the 2nd period. 'Redickulous' poured in 17 first half points. Orlando went into the locker room ahead 53-48 as they were in control after another rocky start.
After 2 backdoor lay-ups from Maurice Harkless to begin the 3rd quarter, an 11-0 Phoenix run made the score 59-57 in favor of the Suns as the Magic began yet another half terribly. The momentum shift would end as a 19-4 run before Orlando seemed to wake up from their coma and answered with an 8-0 run of their own to lead 69-67 in the final two minutes of the 3rd. A lot of praise and respect earned by Nicholson. Orlando had a 12-rebound advantage and a 71-70 lead going into the final period.
Nicholson and Big Baby were on the court together in crunch time. They, along with Redick, were the main factors as to why Orlando was able to build a cushion. The Magic would not look back. Be very proud of the St. Bonaventure alum who gave Markieff Morris and Scola constant fits. Orlando led 93-82 with 4:38 left in the contest before Phoenix came back with a 6-0 run before Andrew came up clutch to put Orlando up 95-88 with under 2 minutes in the contest.
No offence to 19-year-old Maurice Harkless and the long NBA career he'll have ahead of him, but he's been invisible the past few weeks at starting small forward. Harkless only managed 6 points...in the first 4 and a half games of this West journey before mustering up those quick 4 third period points. That's not something to be thrilled about. I'd cut the kid some slack if his defense was up to snuff, but it hasn't been. Not like it was when he was guarding Carmelo Anthony. His confidence is in the dumps when he's not active. Needless to say, I can't wait for Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington to see the court soon. Orlando gets to relax a few days back in the City Beautiful before the Magic host the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.