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Magic vs. Rockets notebook: Defense collapses in crunch time, but Tobias Harris shines

Houston hit 15 three-pointers in Friday's win over Orlando.

James Harden
James Harden

The Magic collapse down the stretch

The Orlando Magic and the Houston Rockets were tied at 98 in the fourth quarter with 6:18 left to play on Friday night.

But then Houston guard Patrick Beverley helped his team build on a run to shut down the Magic.

"I think you've got to give credit to Patrick Beverley," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said after Orlando's 118-110 loss. "I think he came into the game and finished the stretch run for them. He hit some key shots for them and at the same time he was able to apply a little defensive pressure. I give a lot of credit to him and the fact that they were able to turn up the defense a little bit on us."

Orlando struggles defensively

Vaughn already knew about the Rockets' blueprint - they're a high-volume shooting team that ranks second in scoring (behind the Oklahoma City Thunder) and second in transition points.

But the Magic couldn't close out the Rockets in the fourth quarter on Friday night.

"I think for the most part tonight the schemes that we put together tonight gave us a chance to win." Vaughn said. "For some people, the naked eye a little bit, you see layup and you say 'where the team defense?' In some possession that's what we wanted. This team is a high-volume shooting team. We wanted to take away the ability to shoot the trey. We couldn't give them everything so if you see a Jeremy Lin layup, or a Patrick Beverley floater, some of that was design. I felt overall our attention to detail was there tonight. This team is tough to guard. We keep Harden from the foul line. We give ourselves a chance to win. I did very much so like our effort tonight."

Maurice Harkless on gaining confidence from long distance

One man's loss is another man's gain. With Hedo Turkoglu suspended, Maurice Harkless has stepped up as the Magic's starting small forward. And on Friday, Harkless set a career-high by sinking three three-pointers.

"[I'm] very confident, like I said, confidence comes from putting work and I've definitely been putting in work," Harkless said. "The most important thing is growing right now and just trying to get better at the game."

"I just think he's getting more comfortable out there," Vaughn said "I think his teammates are continually gaining trust in him. He's gaining a lot of confidence in the ability to shoot the basketball, which he's able to attack the rim, and we've seen that; use his athleticism and length. Now he's not hesitating on shots and it's a good sign to see. He's put in the work and the only way to see if that work is efficient is to try and shoot in the game."

Tobias Harris continues to flash his efficiency

Arron Afflalo gave some credit to Tobias Harris. He thinks the sophomore has been vocal for the team.

"He's definitely doing the stat-stuffing type of things but he's a good communicator." Afflalo said. "He's been vocal since he's been here. I've been extremely happy for him in his first three or four games. Hopefully he'll continue to keep that up."

See also: Will Harris be able to sustain such high numbers?

Orlando's losses continue to pile up, but Harris has generated a buzz through his four games with the team, setting a career-high in scoring on Wednesday and then breaking that mark Friday, with a game-high 27 off the bench. He's definitely putting up some impressive numbers all around the board, and Orlando can use his efficient scoring.

"I think this is the right situation for me to come out and play my game and grow as a player," Harris said.

Even coach Vaughn was pleased with Harris' efforts. He believes Harris is meshing well with this team.

"I don't think he's forcing too many things," Vaughn said. "If he doesn't have a shot, he moves the basketball, he's able to get out in the lanes, he's a recipient of passes, and I think our smalls have done a great job of sharing the basketball. Again, 30 assists tonight, we gave ourselves a chance. He's been really good of just no pressing and just fitting in with the group."

Afflalo seeks collective improvement

Afflalo is a player who takes accountability for losses.

"I think individually we have to get better throughout the rest of this season and moving forward." Afflalo said. "I'm definitely speaking about myself; just have to become a better player so that you're better in situations."

Orlando Magic Youth Basketball plays at halftime

On Friday night, the Magic welcomed the Orlando Magic Youth Basketball presented by UnitedHealthcare for a halftime showcase.

The Magic as an organization has built their reputation in reaching out to the youth.

"One of our primary goals in offering these types of events is to make our programs accessible to all youth," Orlando Magic Camp Supervisor Antonio Perez said.

"In addition to improving their basketball skills in a fun environment, we want them to learn about sportsmanship, teamwork, and the importance of staying healthy," Perez said. "That is why we work to impact as many kids as possible.