The Orlando Magic routed the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, 109-92, ending their four-game losing streak and giving them their first road victory since March 4th; Orlando had dropped its last 17 road games. Jameer Nelson orchestrated a third-quarter rally with which Orlando took control of the game.
The list of Magic superlatives is long: Arron Afflalo led Orlando with 26 points, while Nik Vučević added 12 points, 15 rebounds, and three assists. In his fourth consecutive start, Victor Oladipo scored 18 points with just one turnover. Andrew Nicholson came off the bench to score 18 points in 25 minutes.
Jeff Teague and Al Horford led the Hawks with 15 points apiece. The Magic had not beaten the Hawks in a regular-season game at Philips Arena since November 26th, 2009.
Orlando yielded the first seven points of Tuesday's game, but worked their way back in the first period behind Vučević and Nicholson. The pair scored Orlando's last 10 points of the quarter to give the visitors a 26-25 edge, with Nicholson's work inside standing out as particularly strong. For his first basket of the night, he wrestled a rebound away from Cartier Martin and flipped it into the basket all in one motion, all the while drawing the foul. He converted the three-point play and followed it up with an in-rhythm jumper and a righty hook in Orlando's next two possessions. All told, Vučević and Nicholson scored seven apiece in the opening frame.
The game got away from Orlando in the second quarter as it opened the second period with missed long two-pointers or turnovers on four of its first five possessions. Meanwhile, Atlanta moved the ball exceptionally well on its end and created open looks all around the floor. That the Hawks got assists on all nine of their second-period baskets attests to the fluidity and unselfishness with which they played. Though they build their lead to eight points on two occasions, the Magic only trailed by four at halftime as they limited Atlanta to no field goals in the final two minutes, six seconds of the period.
Oladipo had a strong first half with six points, four assists, and no turnovers. What stood out most was his steadiness and control on offense; he made simple passes to open teammates and didn't drive into heavy traffic, two problems which had plagued him early in his young career. The downside is that he committed four fouls at the other end, forcing coach Jacque Vaughn to bench him for the start of the second half. E'Twaun Moore started in his stead.
And maybe Oladipo's foul trouble was for the best: playing with the first unit, Moore sparked the Magic in the opening minutes of the third quarter. He scored seven points in a 46-second span early in the period, cutting Atlanta's lead to three points. Orlando's transition offense, with Nelson pushing the pace, picked it up from there, with back-to-back layups by Afflalo bringing Orlando to within a point at the seven-minute mark.
Two minutes later, Nelson broke his 0-of-7 slump and a 67-all tie with a three-pointer from the top of the arc, and Orlando built its lead from there, pushing to 12 points on a pair of Oladipo foul shots with two seconds to play. All told, Nelson accounted, via his own score or an assist, for 24 of Orlando's 36 points in the quarter. Atlanta, meanwhile, shot just 40 percent and committed six turnovers, aiding Orlando's rally.
The Magic scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter, pushing their lead to 21 points as Atlanta went 0-of-7 with two turnovers on its first eight possessions. Given that both teams play again Wednesday, their respective coaches pulled their key players just moments later. For Orlando, that meant extended minutes for Maurice Harkless, who came off the bench Tuesday for the first time since January 27th, a span of 52 games. Harkless played only seven minutes in the first half. Over the Magic's previous three games, the second-year forward had averaged just five points and 3.3 rebounds on 31.6 percent shooting.