The Orlando Magic (8-13) hoped to channel their momentum against the Atlanta Hawks (13-6) after returning home from a successful Western Conference road trip that resulted in the magic not only winning three out of five games, but also a victory over Dwight Howard and the Lakers.
The Magic looked like they were settling in for a long, painful night when the Hawks opened up the game with a 16-2 run that drained the energy out of the Amway Center like a canon ball hole in a bath tub.
“We can’t afford to sleepwalk into the games. The guys that start the game have to change the way they play which includes myself, I’m not alienating anybody, that’s all five of us.” Aaron Afflalo said after the game.
Afflalo put up a team high 16 points on 16 shots. JJ Redick scored 13 points, liberating himself from Afflalo’s criticism by scoring his points off the bench. Redick and Afflalo were hands down the most aggressive players for the Magic tonight, Jameer Nelson also had a respectable effort with his 12 points, but the three veterans needs to find a way to transfer their intensity to the rest of the team.
“We showed some spurts of energy tonight, we just have to sustain it for longer periods of time than the teams we’re facing.” Nelson said, “We’re starting out games way too slow. I’m not sure what the thing is, it’s not my job to figure it out, but I’m in that group so we have to figure it out together.”
With the Magic basically just going through the motions, letting the Hawks take what they wanted, rookie Andrew Nicholson cut to the lane and threw down a nasty dunk that did more than just cut the deficit to nine. It gave life back to the Magic, and the Amway, especially when it was backed up by a steal and lay-up from Redick. A three from Nelson, assisted by Redick, brought the game to a manageable score of 19-15 after the nine point run.
After the opening barrage by the Hawks, the Magic were lucky to find themselves down only five points, 20-15, at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Magic took their only lead of the night on a Glen Davis steal that led to a fast break, foot-on-the-arc, two pointer from Redick. The Magic’s 27-26 lead lasted only seconds before the Hawks retook control of the game and brought the half to a close with a score of 46-34.
If the second half score was the only one that counted, the Magic would of had a much better night. They out scored the Hawks in the second half 46-40, but their first half deficit was too large to overcome. The Magic were forced to play catch up all night, while the Hawks were afforded the luxury of playing conservative, high percentage basketball to simply maintain their lead for the duration of the game.
“I think it got to 16-2 at one point and you have to expend a lot of energy to put yourself back in the game. We will keep looking at it as a coaching staff and will see what is the best moving forward,” was Coach Jacque Vaughn’s cliché response to another sluggish start for the Magic.
At the end of the day though, regardless of another loss in the record books, the Magic did stick around and at least compete. With the expectations set for the team this season, after liquidating Howard for picks, the Magic are not as bad as they should be, and that’s something, right?