The Charlotte Bobcats raced out to a 20-point halftime lead against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday and held on for a 105-92 win. The Magic, who trailed by as many as 22 points, came to within two with four minutes to play, but Charlotte limited the Magic to just four points the rest of the way to earn the double-digit win.
Halftime adjustments boost Magic
Orlando limited the Bobcats to 42 points on 32.4 percent shooting after halftime as it made its comeback. Given those jarring figures, it was only natural that someone would ask Magic coach Jacque Vaughn what his message to his team was at halftime, and if he was fired up at all.
Vaughn said he wasn't fiery. "I think they talked amongst themselves a little bit, which is always great," he said.
Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson, two veteran leaders, addressed the team's poor defense and challenged their teammates to give a better effort at that end.
"We had some inspiring words by Arron," said Magic forward Andrew Nicholson. "He basically got our hopes us and told us we had to communicate better to get stops and be basically one unit on the floor."
Afflalo explained his address to the team.
"We made a commitment to be more vocal on defense, to help each other out, and we cut the lead to two," the UCLA product said. "In my eyes, we grew tonight."
Vaughn sets goals for the second half
Tuesday's game was Orlando's first since the All-Star Break. Before the game, Vaughn listed several areas in which he'd like to see his team improve as the schedule winds down.
"How about rebounding?" Vaughn said. "How about turnovers? How about pick-and-roll defense? There are a lot of areas we can improve on."
Asked to clarify whether he meant forcing more turnovers or committing fewer turnovers, Vaughn elaborated.
"We're pretty, I guess, standard-wise, subpar as far as forcing turnovers," Vaughn said. "I don't see that changing a lot. But as far as us taking care of the basketball I think that's something we can be better at. And which we have."
Afflalo has his own goal for himself: to drive the ball more aggressively. He earned eight free-throw attempts in Tuesday's loss, which is no mean feat for a team that struggles to draw fouls.
"That's gonna be a concentrated effort of mine to get to the foul line in the second half of the season," Afflalo said. "I did get fouled on a three tonight, and actually there was a lot more opportunities in which I could have drove the ball and been more aggressive to get fouled that I didn't [take], but I'll learn."
Afflalo hit a trio of free throws after drawing a foul on a triple-try, and those makes trimmed Charlotte's fourth-quarter lead to two points, the closest Orlando would come in the second half.
DeQuan digs the dunks
Magic swingman DeQuan Jones is a powerful and creative in-game dunker, in addition to being a dunk-contest participant during his days as a Miami Hurricane. What'd he make of the Sprite Slam Dunk at All-Star Weekend?
"It was very entertaining," Jones said. "It kept me and my family on the edge of our seats as far as what was coming next."
Jones said two dunks in particular stood out to him: the 360-degree slam that Toronto Raptors swingman Terrence Ross, the eventual champion, threw down after catching a pass off the side of the backboard was his favorite. "I don't recall or remember anyone in the past doing it," Jones said.
The other slam that stood out to Jones came from Indiana Pacers swingman Gerald Green, who cut down the net in order to dunk the ball twice in one leap. Green never officially completed the dunk, converting it only after his time was up.
The numerous misses in the Sprite Slam Dunk--Deadspin counted 36 of them--at All-Star Weekend once again have some basketball fans wondering if the league should abolish it or change the format. Jones doesn't like any of those ideas.
"I don't really think, personally, if I were a judge, I don't think the [missed] attempts take away from the originality or the execution of it," Jones said. "I think it's pretty cool the way it is."
And yes, in case you're wondering, Jones would have competed in Saturday's event if the league had invited him to.
Former coach impressed with Harkless
Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap coached Magic forward Maurice Harkless in Harkless' one season at St. John's. He offered this assessment of the rookie forward's game:
Three things that I've seen is that he's kept his focus. He's played, then he didn't play, and now he's back in. So his confidence level is up, and that's the second thing. Third is that he's more relaxed.
The repetition and being this time of the year maybe sometimes the fatigue helps the player who has high anxiety or is young. Those are the three things. He's a very good slasher, as you know, and his better days are ahead of him.
Harkless finished Tuesday's loss with 15 points, six rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a blocked shot.
A big weekend for Nicholson
Andrew Nicholson joined Nikola Vucevic as Orlando's representatives at All-Star Weekend. The two Magic big men competed against one another in the Rising Stars Challenge, with Vucevic's Team Chuck blowing out Nicholson's Team Shaq.
"It was a good experience," Nicholson said of playing in Friday's exhibition, "It was a good opportunity to be a part of that and it's something I'll always remember."
But he didn't stay in Houston for long; the rookie power forward flew home on Saturday, and as a result missed the All-Star Saturday events, including the Slam Dunk competition.
Vucevic's final basket of the night was a lob dunk over Nicholson off a pass from Alexey Shved. Nicholson said that Vucevic hadn't teased him about the play. The St. Bonaventure product defended himself by saying, "I saw it coming, but I just let him have it. It's an All-Star Game."