02-11-2014, 09:47 PM
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Swimming in cash
Young guys getting it done against league's best
After beating the best team in each conference in consecutive games, the Orlando Magic have tied a season-high with three straight wins.
The Magic will look to complete a perfect four-game homestand on Wednesday night as they host the Memphis Grizzlies in the final game before the All-Star break. Orlando opened the four-game stint by pounding the Detroit Pistons before notching nail-biting one-point victories over the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder and the East's best team, the Indiana Pacers.
Over the three victories, rookie Victor Oladipo has really come to life. After scoring a team-high 20 points in last Wednesday's 112-98 win over Detroit, Oladipo finished with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting against Oklahoma City on Friday night.
With the Magic trailing 102-101 with just seconds to play, Oladipo was able to wrestle away the game's final rebound and start the fastbreak, which eventually led to forward Tobias Harris' two-hand slam at the buzzer to give Orlando the victory.
In Sunday's 93-92 win over Indiana, Oladipo once again paced the Magic. This time, Oladipo finished with a team-high 23 points and four assists, but did the majority of his damage in the final quarter. In the fourth quarter, Oladipo scored 13 points and dished out a pair of assists as the Magic rallied from 10 points down to begin the period.
Forward Tobias Harris has not put up the numbers that Oladipo has during the winning streak, but he has played a major role getting the Magic into transition. Harris has averaged just better than 13 points per game during the winning streak but like Oladipo, he has played his best basketball in the fourth quarter.
Harris scored five of his 13 points against Indiana in the fourth quarter on Sunday, just two nights after throwing down the game-winning dunk to beat Oklahoma City. In the win over the Thunder, Harris led the Magic with 18 points, but six came in the final period, including the game-winner as Orlando erased a 17-point first half deficit.
Center Nikola Vucevic has averaged just shy of a double-double during Orlando's three-game spurt, going for more than 14 points and just under 10 rebounds per game. Against one of the NBA's most physical frontcourts in Indiana on Sunday night, Vucevic finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds and secured the game's final rebound to ice the 93-92 victory.
Second-year forward Maurice Harkless has been more involved as well. Harkless opened the homestand with a 15-point, 9-rebound performance against Detroit. Harkless didn't play as well in the victories over Oklahoma City and Indiana, but had the game-winning assist against the Thunder and had a big three-pointer and a critical driving layup in the final quarter of Sunday's win over the Pacers.
While the Magic have had another season to forget, this homestand has been a bright spot in an otherwise dark season. The victories have been spurred by the younger players and for that, head coach Jacque Vaughn deserves some credit.
One reason that the younger players have been able to ignite the Magic is that they're getting more minutes. Neither veteran guard Jameer Nelson nor forward Glen Davis have played poorly, but neither has seen the floor for as many as 30 minutes during Orlando's recent winning streak.
With a younger, more athletic lineup on the floor, the Magic have also been more inclined to get out in transition. Throughout the three-game winning streak, Orlando has been outstanding on the run. The Magic outran Detroit on Wednesday all night long and did likewise to the Pacers in the final quarter on Sunday night. Friday's game against the Thunder was won on a fast-break dunk.
Though the Orlando Magic are destined to finish as one of the league's worst teams for a second year in a row, this mini winning streak has come with no shortage of excitement. A team in rebuilding, the Magic's recent run of success has been fueled by the play of the youth and an uptempo brand of basketball that doesn't fit the style of many of Orlando's veterans.
After back-to-back wins over two of the NBA's best, optimism for the future of Magic basketball is becoming even more justified.