The Orlando Magic earned the first win of their season Friday with a resounding 110-90 drubbing of the New Orleans Pelicans. Arron Afflalo scored a game-high 30 points--just two off his career-best mark--while Maurice Harkless added 20 in a game whose outcome was never in doubt. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn credited the victory to his players.
"Without a doubt, this is a great overall team effort," Vaughn said after the game. "Just really committed to the gameplan. Focused on responsibilities and really sharing the basketball and playing for and with each other."
Orlando lost a heartbreaker on Wednesday to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a game in which they rallied from a 17-point deficit to take a three-point lead in the final 12 seconds of regulation, only to watch as a defensive miscommunication allowed Kevin Love to hit a three-pointer to force overtime, in which frame Minny eventually prevailed. Friday's win, Vaughn said, was a "great response" after falling just short against the Timberwolves.
Home crowd lifts Magic
Friday marked Orlando's home opener for the team's 25th season. All home openers are pretty big deals, but this one seemed more special because of the occasion and because the team honored former Magic player Tracy McGrady between the first and second quarters. The team fed off the energy the announced sellout crowd of 18,846 fans generated.
"[We felt] a lot of energy," Magic big man Andrew Nicholson said. "I'm glad the fans came out and supported us for the home opener. If they continue to do that, we'll be in good shape."
Kyle O'Quinn agreed with his partner on the reserve front line.
"I think that was our fuel tonight," O'Quinn said. "The energy that was in the gym, all the 25th anniversary stuff, we just need that to carry on as the season goes on."
Nicholson said the Magic have emphasized protecting their home floor in the season ahead; Orlando went 12-29 at Amway Center in its first season under Vaughn, the worst home record in the league.
"If you defend the home court and steal some [games] on the road, you'll have a successful season," Nicholson said.
Vaughn has an idea of how Orlando managed to respond so strongly after Wednesday's tough defeat.
"That comes from just having great character in the locker room," the second-year head coach said. "We talk about lifting each other up and reinforcing and being positive with each other. That's what gets you through."
In addition, the grueling NBA schedule gives teams no choice but to simply move on after a dispiriting loss.
"The great thing about this game is that when you do take a night off, a lot of times you pay for it," Vaughn said. He was pleased with his team's focus and execution of the gameplan against the Pelicans.
A new dimension for Nicholson
Nicholson shot 1-of-4 from three-point distance on Friday, marking the third straight game that he's made at least one triple. As a rookie, Nicholson didn't shoot any threes at all, confining himself to pick-and-pop work or low-post touches. But he's extended his range to the NBA three-point line, to great effect.
"Late in the clock, [in] a pick-and-roll with Nik [Vučević], they're obviously gonna sag on him because he's a good finisher, so I space the floor to create better opportunities to score," Nicholson said, explaining why he decided to add the triple to his offensive arsenal.
Taking threes isn't necessarily new for Nicholson, who shot 43.4 percent from three-point range in his senior season at St. Bonaventure on 1.7 attempts per game. As such, there isn't really a major adjustment in his play style.
"I've done it all through college and I've done it all summer," Nicholson said, "It's just something I'm getting back used to."
The Magic did not shoot the three often or well in their first season under Vaughn. Having a power forward who can step out and shoot threes gives them an entirely new look in some offensive sets.