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.