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.