The Orlando Magic dropped their fourth straight game Wednesday, 101-86, against the Indiana Pacers in the regular-season finales for both teams. Maurice Harkless led the host Magic with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, while the Pacers got game-high efforts from the little-used duo of Rasual Butler and Chris Copeland. Each scored 19 points.
Here's a look at the stories that developed Wednesday.
Key players see time reduced
Wednesday's game almost had a preseason feel to it, given the playing rotations Indiana's Frank Vogel and Orlando's Jacque Vaughn used. Orlando didn't have Nik Vučević or Jameer Nelson available due to injury, and only used Arron Afflalo for the opening 6:15 of the game. Tobias Harris, the team's leading scorer since the All-Star Break, played just 10 minutes, and top rookie Victor Oladipo played 17 in his 44th start.
"I think overall this year we haven't changed where... we were consistent in what we were doing as far as growing our guys," said Vaughn when asked directly about his rotations in the loss. "We've put them in different positions this year, whether they had to adjust to not playing minutes, they had to adjust to sometimes being in late-game situations, they had to adjust to sometimes not being in those situations. How do you handle that? I really believe, not only in the physical part of this game, but the mental part of it. Part of that growth is being able to really challenge our guys, and I think we were able to do that this year and find out a lot about them."
Harris said that it felt "a little strange" to only play 10 minutes, but credited the Magic's guys who played a more significant role for their performances. "I was just sitting there watching and trying to encourage my teammates and pick them up in any way possible," he said.
Harkless and Nicholson earned the Magic's Golden Hammer Awards on Wednesday for being available to play in each of the Magic's 82 games. Neither player made 82 appearances--Harkless made 80 and Nicholson had 76--but the Golden Hammer honors availability, not games played.
"It means a lot," said Harkless. "I'm trying to keep that going for as many seasons as I can, God willing."
A black plaque which features a Magic logo and a full-sized, gold-painted hammer constitutes the award. Harkless said he intends to keep his in his house.
Magic backup big man Jason Maxiell logged five minutes off the bench in the first half Wednesday, making just his third appearance since the end of January. He checked in even before Harris did, a small surprise in the season finale.
"I did play everybody tonight to let them hear the applause for what they've done for us this year," said Vaughn. He praised Maxiell, as well as Afflalo, Nelson, and Price, for being excellent "stewards in the locker room."
Maxiell, who started the first 10 games of Orlando's season, finished Wednesday's game with two points, one rebound, and one block on 0-of-2 shooting from the floor.