After a gut wrenching loss at the hands of the Golden State Warriors last week, the Orlando Magic showed some resolve, coming back and closing out two of their next three games late to take home victories against the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings. Against the Wizards on Wednesday, the Magic must have had a sense of deja vu: they had a late lead, holding a five-point edge with just over a minute and a half remaining, yet they were unable to seal the deal.
No matter how you put it, Wednesday's loss is one that's not going to sit well in the stomach every time it's brought up. But it's a learning experience. Orlando can take its they learned and maybe the next time it's in a close game late, close it out.
After the game, coach Jacque Vaughn was asked about how his team closed the game.
"You don't take any possession for granted," said Vaughn. "I think we were up three with 30-some odd seconds left to go in the game. We didn't take advantage of the possession, We will watch film and learn from those possessions and that is what I mean, there is plenty of other opportunities in the court of the game that could have put us up in a better position not to count on someone else to make a mistake."
In the locker room following the game, Victor Oladipo sat at his stall staring into what appeared to be a never-ending abyss. Others sat quietly, with stoic looks on their faces. It was clear that the loss wore heavily on every Orlando player. Oladipo said that it was "tough" not to be able to close out the game, but gave his teammates credit for playing well down the stretch.
This team is still a young one, and it's going to have games like this. While such games might sting for a day or two, it's a learning experience for everyone involved. All the Magic can do is hope that next time out, they are able to close their opponent out.
Dedmon's strong play continues
After catching on with the team following two 10-day contracts last season, Dewayne Dedmon has begun to carve out a role for the Magic. The seven-footer out of Southern California picked up basketball late, but continues to come and give the Magic good, high-energy minutes every time he's on the floor. While his six-point, seven-rebound, two-block performance Wednesday might not jump off the page, it's still solid for a guy who's still learning the game up.
In five December games, Dedmon has averaged six points, 6.3 rebounds, and a block in 18.3 minutes of action. Previously this season, Coach Vaughn has talked about Dedmon making it hard on him not to play him, and that's certainly been the case of late. Of course, this does come with the caveat that Nikola Vucevic has been out with a back sprain, but it still could be something to watch.
Prior to Wednesday night's game, Vaughn talked about how the former Trojan comes in every day and works hard, and it's showing in his play. He still lacks some touch around the basket and doesn't have a real back-to-the-basket game, but his athleticism and leaping ability help make up for that. He has a nose for the ball, and is able to go and get it in almost any situation, which we saw with his putback dunk off a missed layup by Elfrid Payton and a ridiculous throw down off a transition lob from Payton.
Once Vucevic is able to return from his back injury, it's very likely that Dedmon will see his minutes all but go away, no matter how well he's playing. One thing that could save some of his minutes, however, is the fact that Kyle O`Quinn is able to slide down to the power forward spot, opening up some minutes for Dedmon while Vucevic is getting a rest. Either way, it's good to see an underdog story start to pan out, and clearly that's the case with Dedmon.