The Orlando Magic fell to 8-20 on Monday against the New York Knicks, 103-98, for their fifth consecutive home loss. The Knicks built a 24-point lead in the first half, but Orlando trimmed it to one point at several junctures in the fourth quarter. However, the host Magic couldn't get the big basket they needed to earn the big comeback victory.
"They did a good job of, once we cut it to one or two, not allowing us to get over the hump," Magic swingman Arron Afflalo said. Afflalo scored a game-high 26 points on the night.
Here's a look at the stories that developed Monday.
Knicks' pressure stymies Magic
New York's stiff defense in the first half played a big factor in Orlando's miserable opening 24 minutes. Pressure from the Knicks delayed Orlando from getting into its offense. The Knicks set the tone on the first play of the game, Jacque Vaughn said.
"I think the first play of the game, our draw-up, Tyson Chandler has us pushed out to the half-court line where we can't even execute the first play of the game," he said.
It took the Magic 24 minutes, but according to Vaughn, his team finally realized "it's okay to hit first." Orlando took that approach into the second half.
"I think that we were the aggressors in the second half," Vaughn said. "We pushed the pace, we had kick-aheads where guys were attacking in transition, and I think we tried to dictate what was going on." That aggressive and opportunistic mentality helped the Magic outscore the Knicks by 19 in the final two quarter, but that margin wasn't enough.
Afflalo didn't see anything special from New York's defense in the first half. "I didn't think they had a great scheme or anything," he said. Instead, he attributed Orlando's poor showing offensively to too much "freelancing."
"They switch a lot out there," Tobias Harris said, "and I think that riled us a little bit. [In the] second half, we got into our stuff [and] we moved the ball pretty well."
Glen Davis praised the Knicks' "defensive intensity," saying "they did a great job of getting us out of our sets and making us uncomfortable down there."
Extra workload for starters
Jason Maxiell was the only reserve to take the floor for Orlando in the second half, with the team's perimeter trio of Jameer Nelson, Afflalo, and Harris playing all 24 minutes after intermission. Vaughn said he liked the way that group played together to get back into the game in the third quarter, prompting his decision to use it extensively the rest of the way.
"What flashed in my mind was we do have three days until our next game," Vaughn said, "so while I was going in the huddle [in the] under-three timeout in the third, I made a conscious decision that I was going to ride with that group that finished the third quarter [and] got us within 10."
Vaughn said that strategy was "atypical," and he could tell that his players were tired, but he saw a chance for his team to pick up a key win. "I wanted to try to seize the opportunity for us to get a lead and push forward," he said. The coach used several timeouts, as well as the break between the third and fourth quarters, to rest his players.
Harris, who played a game-high 44 minutes, didn't let the extra workload phase him.
"My team, the unit that was out there, were making a run," Harris said. "At that time, you're not worried about anything. You're just helping your team win the game [....] At that point, you're just going off of emotion out there on the floor, and just energy."
Davis, who scored 20 points in his 39 minutes, said that fatigue did not factor into his performance: "I just wanted to do whatever to win the game. That's all that mattered."
Whenever a team makes a big second-half run, particularly at home, it's often reasonable to assume that a player or a coach made an incendiary speech in the locker room to stir the team into a stronger performance. That wasn't the case Monday, the Magic said.
"I think any fan could have gave us a speech at halftime," Afflalo said. "It's just, 'Do you wanna show up and play or not?' There's not too much ra-raing you can do when you're down 24. You know what needs to be done."
Davis agreed with his teammate's assessment of the situation.
"Nothing [was said]," Davis said. "We just took it upon ourselves as individuals. We gotta play for something. We did. We played for pride, a little bit of everything."
Special New Year offer
The Magic announced Monday a special ticket offer for their New Year's Eve matchup against the Golden State Warriors. From December 26th-29th, fans can purchase tickets for that game located in the Promenade III level of Amway Center for just $20.14.
This offer is only available by visiting this link and using offer code "2014" at checkout.
Tipoff between Orlando and Golden State is set for 5 PM on December 31st.
Holiday hoop camps
The Magic will offer six different holiday basketball camps between December 26th and January 2nd, the team said. The two-day camps are open to children aged 7-16 and include a t-shirt and a complimentary ticket to a forthcoming Magic game.
For more details on the Magic's holiday camps, including locations and registration information, please visit www.OrlandoMagicCamps.com or call 216-378-0932.
Magic big man Solomon Jones is scheduled to make a guest appearance at the Holy Family Catholic School camp, but that appearance is subject to change.
Odds and ends
- One reason for Orlando's second-half surge: a simplified offense that played to its strengths. Vaughn estimated that the Magic only used "two or three" different plays in the final 24 minutes.
"I think middle pick-and-roll was good for us," Vaughn said of Orlando's bread-and-butter play after halftime. "I think that got us back into the game and we just kinda played off that."
- Vaughn praised Maxiell for his contributions Monday, his first appearance in 12 days
"Tonight, Jason was a prime example of being ready," Vaughn said. "We needed him in the fourth quarter and he came in and gave us great minutes."
In his minutes, Maxiell scored two points and grabbed three rebounds. He also drew a loose-ball foul.