Friday, March 29, 2013

Tobias, Magic Wipe Away 8-Game Skid Against Wizards

Tobias Harris is an absolute beast of potential and I have no problem becoming a repetitive mess in announcing that for the basketball world. Harris tallied his fourth double-double in his young Magic stint with a career-high 30 points and 11 rebounds on an efficient 11-of-21 shooting with some clutch free throws sprinkled on top to cap off a 97-92 Orlando victory. The season series finishes split at 2-2. The Magic extinguish their 8-game slide with a 48-28 domination of points in the paint. Enjoy the locker room interviews after the 'W'.

Jacque Vaughn on Tobias' toughness: "I think his teammates are learning about him...extremely competitive as you can see, a team guy which we want here. He's been good for us."

You wouldn’t expect two lottery teams to have so much built-up spite in their styles of play for one another, but Kyle O’Quinn committing a flagrant one foul on John Wall made the situation evident. Jawing would occur throughout Friday evening, even with the injured Glen Davis on the bench in his street clothes. Having missed the past 2 contests, Andrew Nicholson’s left ankle looked fine as he immediately drilled a hook shot over a double team upon checking in late in the period. Nicholson’s progress with his one-on-one defense throughout the night is what truly impressed me. After one quarter, Orlando held a 24-23 lead thanks to 11 points from a ferocious Tobias Harris.

Beno Udrih on Tobias: "When I was in Milwaukee, I always knew he had the potential to be a great player. In Milwaukee I think they were holding him back, they didn't give him a real chance to show what he can do. Here he has a chance and he's definitely proving himself and taking advantage of the chance."

Jameer Nelson went back to the locker room early in the second quarter with a sprained right ankle and didn’t return. O’Quinn and Nicholson, not kidding, powered Orlando to a double digit lead as Washington was getting pounded down low. The Magic led 58-46 at halftime as Orlando’s youth carried the scoring load: 17points at the break for Harris, twelve for Harkless, and ten out of Nicholson. E’Twaun didn’t touch the floor in the first period, but his 7 points, 3 boards, and 3 assists in Jameer’s absence were a massive help.

Coach Vaughn on Tobias' defense: "We look at Tobias like he's an 8-year veteran. He's a young guy too and for him to take the opportunity to step up and be savvy enough to push his teammates and will his teammates, that's impressive."

So how about that 12-point cushion? It evaporated within three and a half minutes with Beno starting the half in place of Jameer as the Wizards were down just 60-59 at the 8:25 mark of the third period. Wizards were riding an 18-4 run and led by two points midway through a quarter prolonged by whistles and buffoonery. It also didn’t help that Paul Porter’s PA announcer stand-in couldn’t pronounce ‘Beno’ during that stretch. It was comically bad. Orlando’s defense kicked up a few notches with some impressive blocks as the Magic entered the final period with a 78-71 advantage.

Coach Vaughn on Tobias stepping up his play: "He and I, we talked, watched film, and so I was honest I try to be fair and told him I believed in him and I'm going to go back to him, and I did tonight and he responded."

Trevor Ariza capped off a 7-0 Wizards run to open the final period and it was 78-78 at the 8:56 mark. This is where the Magic would usually wilt under the strain. However, Orlando showed resiliency once more as they held a 91-84 lead with 2:52 remaining. Washington would make a final push, but Orlando protected the ball well enough to prevail. The Magic are in Atlanta Saturday to begin their final multi-game road trek of the season. It’ll be a grueling 5 games away from Amway Center.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Heat 3-Point Hailstorm Extends Miami Win Streak to 27

Yeah, yeah, I'm eating a lot of crow. Here is my Magic Basketball Online recap of tonight's 108-94 Miami victory as the Heat extend the second longest win streak in NBA history to 27 straight. Click here for postgame locker room interviews. Burn those idiotic 'El Magic' jerseys now please.

Heat Win Streak is Crap

I scoff at just about anyone that would replace winning a championship with winning 33 contests in a row in the regular season. Those '71-'72 Lakers are immortalized and celebrated for that feat because they actually won the championship. If Miami can do the same, then fine, worship them.  Don't get me wrong, not losing for weeks is a sign of you being a hell of a basketball team. Miami hasn't tasted defeat in 26 consecutive games as Eric Spoelstra's side seeks to make it twenty-seven straight at Amway Center this evening. Still, call me unimpressed by this unbeatable run. 

The truth is, anyone can go on a win streak when officials have your side. God forbid the Heat commit more personal fouls than their opponents. FIVE times in the past 26 games has Miami committed more fouls than their opponent. Not even one-fourth. The favoritism for LeBron and Wade is ridiculous and can make a non-brainwashed individual gag. Give Miami their props for coming back from 20+ deficits in Boston and in Cleveland, but folks are conveniently forgetting the wins that they really shouldn't have accumulated. You know where I'm leaning towards...

Anyone with eyes knows this Heat streak should have ended at 15 on March 6th. That was with Jameer and Afflalo being mostly invisible with their scoring. How do you allow the top 3 performers of a club (Harkless, Harris, Vucevic) to suspiciously foul out during crunch time? All on questionable calls. I'll even let the Battier charge on Tobias slide because it's questionable. Even the DeQuan rejection at the rim.  Harkless got hosed on multiple occasions that he was flawlessly defending LeBron. That weak loose ball foul on Vucevic when battling Bosh for the board was as ticky-tack as you can get. Nik's killing one of the best teams in basketball on the glass and in the paint yet he still can't get calls in his favor? There's something wrong with that. 

With Arron Afflalo done for the season, Al Harrington shutdown, and Nik Vucevic still dealing with the illnesses that follow a concussion, Jacque Vaughn has only 10 guys he can throw at LeBron and company. That includes Doron Lamb who hasn't exactly been inspirational. However, a 13-point Vegas spread is still flat out disrespectful for a group of guys who in the 2 meetings this season have taken Miami to their limits. It doesn't necessarily mean everything that the loss of Vucevic signifies the loss of their 20-20 monster threat. Vaughn and his coaching staff clearly know how to exploit gaps in Miami's defense and can still be effective with Kyle O'Quinn and Andrew Nicholson at the center spot. It's all about learning from past mistakes from the previous matchups and not being fearful of growing and succeeding. 

It will be nice to see an even more amazing crowd mix of Magic diehards and Heat 'fans' than what we saw on New Year's Eve. Orlando wins that night in regulation if Hedo doesn't play. To Miami, the Magic are just a number of an over-glorified supposed ride to greatness. To Orlando, the Heat are the defending champs. This is the Magic's first and only nationally televised game of this '12-'13 season. This is a chance for a group of men to shock the basketball world and lead-off SportsCenter for something that doesn't include Dwight. Hell, even Hedo's PED scandal wasn't a first story. Will the third time be the charm for the Magic men? Beat the Heat. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Thunder Dampen Harkless’ Breakout Performance

Here is my Magic Basketball Online game recap of Orlando's 97-89 loss to Oklahoma City as Maurice Harkless had a grown man game. The 19-year-old, Jameer Nelson, and Beno Udrih picked up the scoring slack that Arron Afflalo left behind as he went out early due to a pulled right hamstring. Enjoy postgame locker room interviews.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hack-A-Howard Backfires in Orlando

No chants, just a lot of booing and a sprinkling of Lakers cheer for Dwight Howard’s return to Amway Center. Too bad the boos couldn’t cause Dwight to miss more free throws. After starting Tuesday 2-for-9 from the charity stripe, Howard would go on to drill 23 of his next 30 on his way to a career-high twenty-five free throw makes and a season-high 39 points as the Lakers were too much to handle and prevailed 106-97 at a soldout Amway Center. The thirty-nine points came in large part from a career-tying as well as NBA record matching 39 attempts. For now the media circus is over with, and all that remains is an 18-47 Magic squad. Enjoy postgame player interviews.

Coach Vaughn on Hack-A-Howard: "I think early on it was a strategy that worked for us...I played a few guys a lot of minutes and to see if he could make them and used the percentages and he stepped up and made them."

Tobias Harris doesn’t care much about being a successor to Dwight, but that didn’t stop ‘T12’ from having an outstanding opening period. Harris played all twelve minutes and posted an impressive 8 points and 7 rebounds despite Howard blocking one of his shots and dunking past Tobias. An eruption of applause concluded the first quarter as Orlando held a 23-22 lead despite the Magic shooting 7-of-24 as a team.

Coach Vaughn on difficulty scoring: "Good looks though. I'll take those looks again, I think from guys who are very capable shooters...They just didn't go in for us tonight."

The situation took a sharp turn towards bleak as the Lakers began the second quarter on a 13-4 run that included Nik Vucevic rolling his right ankle and scaring the living daylights out of me. Nik would get that ankle re-taped and did return before halftime. ‘Vucci Mane’ is the only Orlando man to have played in every game so far this season. Speaking of centers, Dwight fought off Jacque’s super early Hack-A-Howard strategy to mount a 19-point and 10-rebound stat line entering the locker room. Orlando was behind double digits, but give credit to O’Quinn (seriously) and Jameer knocking some crucial shots. Lakers were ahead 50-46 at the break as the Magic survived despite their 37.0 FG%.

Maurice Harkless picked up his 5th personal foul at the 8:26 mark of the third period with Orlando only down 3. No need to fret because Afflalo picked up the scoring slack. The Magic re-took the lead 57-56 thanks to a Tobias block on Dwight and Arron finish on the other end. A deflating 17-4 Lakers run quickly ensued and Orlando appeared stunned, entering the final period trailing 76-68.

Back-to-back lay-ups by Antawn Jamison early in the fourth found Orlando down 16 points and hope completely evaporating. Orlando was overall satisfied with its shot selection, but couldn’t bury their looks. The Magic now venture out on a 4-game road trip that will include a visit to Milwaukee Sunday afternoon. The trek begins Friday at Oklahoma City. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pacers Prance Past Magic on ‘Noche Latina’

Bottom line, Indiana destroyed the ‘El Magic’ hombres in black pinstripes tonight by a score of115-86. Coach Frank Vogel’s team drilled eleven 3-pointers and dominated in points in the paint 50-26. Orlando has now lost eight games by 24+ points this season, seven of those beatdowns being received at home. Click here for postgame locker room interviews. Tobias replaced Nicholson in the starting lineup. Harris had started 23 times in Milwaukee, but it was his first of hopefully many starts in a Magic jersey on Friday night.  After starting 14 consecutive games, Andrew was buried on Coach Vaughn’s bench behind Harrington and even O’Quinn.

Coach Vaughn on Indiana's post play: "They tried to establish getting the ball inside and collapsing our defense and see how we responded."

Tobias got off on the right foot by drilling his first shot, a 3-pointer. Foul trouble and missed lay-ups would prevent Tobias’ stat line from exploding, but he did pave the way for solid defending of David West. A minor scuffle between Arron Afflalo and Paul George, resulting in double technical fouls, would set the tone for a physical matchup. Orlando shot 30 FG% in the initial twelve minutes, and the Pacers led 22-15 as a result.

Coach Vaughn on a possible emotional letdown: "I'm not sure. I just think that's why it's so important that you treat each game individually and you have the right mind frame going into the game."

I despise DJ Augustin’ peskiness with a passion as the little man posted an 11-point second period. Tyler Hansbrough tallied 10 points in that quarter as well, and we all know how easy it is to loathe ‘Psycho T’. Afflalo was clearly getting angry with Indy’s players constantly shoving and nudging him around. The entire O-Town squad appeared aggravated as the Pacers led 53-38 at the break. The main difference being that Indy shot 52.3 FG% while Orlando just 33.3 FG%.

Coach Vaughn on starting Harris over Nicholson: "I just think I've started 'Drew probably 25 games this year and I want to get a sense of Tobias. It's different playing against first unit guys and second unit guys."

Indiana’s 6-0 run to open the second half basically sucked any potential energy out of any comeback attempts. Paul George poured in eighteen points in the third. Orlando doesn’t play well at home, as the 9-24 home record indicates. As a reminder, the ’03-’04 21-win Magic only had eleven victories at home. Visually, Orlando competes much better on the road. Orlando was behind 88-63 entering the final period as Magic fans could have turned the television off at this instant. The Pacers converted 26 points off of Orlando’s eighteen turnovers. The Magic host the Sixers on Sunday. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dwight Howard - Mr. Bad Judgement

I knew I should have never trusted a man with a purse. For 8 years we Magic fans have looked past your continuously bad track record of decision making, Dwight. Why? Because most of us fans don’t throw our players under the bus for simple human stupidity. From wanting to change the Jerry West NBA logo into a logo with a cross. Knocking up a former Magic cheerleader and allegedly continuously going down the path of Shawn Kemp, who allegedly has around the same number of children as I have years having lived on this Earth. 

Side note: That headband Dwight's wearing reminds me of Wilt off the court, not on it. 

To simple things like being a God awful free throw shooter and never fully living up to the responsibilities of being our superstar co-captain, even though you demand special treatment and the spotlight. You know why Shaq hates Dwight? Because Shaq was always jealous of the unconditional love and adoration Magic fans had for Howard. O'Neal never thought, and maybe rightfully so now, that Dwight deserved such high praise. 

Just because Adidas and your other sponsors make you feel like a king doesn’t mean you’re above teammates. It takes a special person to wait until the Lakers achieve .500 before bagging former Magic teammates. Let's also mention cashing in on plagiarized music CDs and having cameos in God awful films. We accepted your planking and constant impressions of others without flinching at how lame it all was when the gags had run their course. We’re not your paid off posse. Magic fans have been there for all of it. All we wanted in return was commitment and effort in the hopes of a championship. I spent one-third of my life watching you develop from a skinny kid, more awkward with his body than most girls hitting puberty and who didn’t have an ounce of spite in his soul, to a top 5 NBA player that could have won a title in Orlando if you didn’t let the idiots around you give you such atrocious advice. How's that advice working out so far, Dwight? After all, you questioned it last May.

No more, Dwight. No more. This Orlando community is still dizzy and recovering from being treated as an enormous yo-yo. But there's a bright light at the end of the losing tunnel. GM Rob Hennigan has the blueprint in place to where the Magic can return to glory beginning in 2014. Myself and the rest of this fan base are thrilled to not be required to make excuses for these baby back bitch antics of Dwight's that the world has witnessed over the past few years. Man the hell up and be accountable for what is happening around you. We fired the greatest Magic Head Coach in franchise history for you, D12. Otis fell on his sword because he didn’t want to see SVG as the scapegoat. The billion dollar ownership continued to back you as our best shot at hoisting the gold trophy. Rich DeVos literally entrusted his fading life to you, Dwight.

You can't make it to a youth basketball camp, but you can go to an LA Dodgers baseball game? Don't let children be the victims of your dislike for a franchise. No one should doubt the legitimacy of Howard's injury during the Lockout season. But Dwight's unnecessary quotes and finger pointing were not the best way of retaliating. It even has gotten to a point in Los Angeles where Kobe, Steve Nash, and even his own Head Coach Mike D'Antoni have called out Howard's lack of grit and toughness. 

Dwight's Lakers tenure has been less than stellar, but that doesn't stop the former #12 from throwing jabs at his old home. The ‘blackmail’ accusations are laughable. You don’t seem to know what ‘blackmail’ means almost as badly as you not comprehending ‘loyalty’. The denial of having used the exact term 'blackmail' is beside the point. Your actions and inactions imply pointing the finger at someone other than yourself...again. It's like bickering about Magic fans not sitting down at Amway Center for tip-off, when you yourself have taken plays and games off the past few seasons. 

The ‘Dwightmare’ saga made the LeBron in Cleveland, Carmelo in Denver, and Deron in Utah situations look like Saturday morning specials that can be fixed in a commercial-filled half hour. Lakers fans seem to be divided rather evenly on their opinions of Dwight. It'll be intriguing come free agency to see if Howard bolts for a place like Atlanta or Dallas. Then again a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn is always on the table with Brook Lopez playing decently. .

The only thing remaining to absolutely end Dwight's credibility as a 'star' is a drug scandal. Rashard Lewis in 2009, Hedo Turkoglu just a few weeks ago, and now potentially Jameer Nelson have all been tagged in some various ways to performance enhancing drugs. If Howard's name were to be linked, that spells absolute disaster for the 2009 NBA Finals trip and 2010 Eastern Conference Finals visit. It would be a black mark and tarnished period for a still young franchise. Dwight would go from a guaranteed maximum money player this season, despite injury and disinterest, to possibly being black-listed out of the league as a worst case scenario. 

As long as Dwight doesn't pull a Shaq or T-MAC vanishing act, he will make his less than triumphant return back to the Magic Kingdom on March 12th. Jameer Nelson is literally the only active O-Town man active from last year's roster, but I'd imagine 'Mighty Mite' will get the new and young guys riled up to try and defeat the Lakers again just as they did in Staples Center on December 2nd. Vucevic out-played Dwight that night and he'll have to do it again for Orlando to stand a chance. Howard was 9-of-21 from the free throw line as all of Central Florida savored Jacque's Hack-A-Howard strategy.

There will be a plethora of Lakers fans in the Amway Center stands come next Tuesday, but my message to the Magic fans that will be in attendance is not boo or yell out empty chants to Dwight. Silence and indifference may be the better tactic, even through the Laker cheers. Save your screams and energy for the home side. They'll need it. How amazing would it be if the Lakers missed the playoffs because they lost twice to the Magic? 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Magic Swing 17-Point Deficit to Sting Hornets

The Magic trailed 61-44 at the 8:02 mark of the third quarter in New Orleans. Little did we know that Orlando would be on their way to victory. An Afflalo jumper with 38.2 seconds remaining in the contest handed Orlando a 101-100 advantage. Some key free throws from Arron followed by Tobias’ immense out-muscling of Anthony Davis for an offensive rebound helped secure the victory as Grevis Vasquez missed a 3-point heave at the buzzer that could have sent the game to overtime. Coach Vaughn’s crew won 105-102 as it’s the 8th time this season the Magic have won despite falling behind by 10+ points. Eleven of Afflalo’s game-high 26 points came in the fourth as he flat out abused Eric Gordon when it mattered most.

Vaughn closed the game with an outstanding Nelson-Afflalo-Harkless-Harris-Harrington lineup. A woeful first half by the Magic was followed up by 34-point and 35-point periods from Orlando. After being out for 6 games because of a bad left knee, Jameer returned to the starting lineup. The captain’s second half contributions were welcomed with open arms as Nelson finished with 15 points and 7 assists in his return. Harris came off the pine with 15 points of production. Orlando was able to survive despite attempting 10 fewer free throws than the Hornets.

The Magic shot 34.8 FG% in the opening period. However, the away side only trailed 20-23 after one quarter. A 9-0 run created by Harris and Afflalo catapulted Orlando to a 36-31 lead midway through the second. That would be immediately answered by a NOLA 15-0 run as each squad witnessed moments of offensive ugliness and frustration.

Orlando’s woes were more noticeable to say the least as the Magic didn’t score a single point in the final 6:26 of the second period. Tobias’ 12 points in the half were wasted and I don’t understand why Jacque kept him on the bench the remaining 7+ minutes of the half when Harris was excellent at driving to the rim. Magic shot 35.7 FG% and were behind 36-46 at the break.

Two more buckets extended NOLA’s ridiculous streak to 19-0 early in the second half before Nicholson’s jumper ended the madness. The situation looked bleak with Orlando down seventeen. Then Tobias checked in at the 8:01 mark and miraculously Orlando found some scoring pop again. Orlando’s deficit went from 17 to nil with Tobias on the court as Orlando climbed the mountain to even it all up at 66-66. The crazy contest of roller coast runs continued as NOLA held a 70-76 advantage entering the final period. An 11-point third period burst from Jameer didn’t hurt.

Orlando would actually take a brief lead early in the last session before the Hornets continued getting to the free throw line and knocking down timely 3-pointers in the period. Orlando wouldn’t give in, as a Harrington steal and Harkless putback dunk had the Magic within two points with exactly 2 minutes remaining. How about a Harrington corner 3 to give Orlando a 99-98 lead with a minute and a half remaining to cap off an 11-1 run? Kapaya!

The tall Greivis Vasquez regained the lead for NOLA on a driving lay-up in the last minute of regulation that set the stage for the conclusion. It was nice to see Afflalo ‘hero ball’ actually work for a change. The 17-44 Magic now fly to Miami to try and snap the Heat’s phenomenal 15-game win streak.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Rockets Rain Triples in O-Town; Harris a Revelation

Here is my Magic Basketball Online game recap of Orlando's 118-100 defeat to the Rockets. Houston put up a 15-of-32 3-point barrage while former Milwaukee Buck Tobias Harris continues to play like a beast. 27 points and 10 rebounds for the 20-year-old. Enjoy postgame locker room interviews from Tobias, Afflalo, and Harkless.