Harris comes up clutch
Whenever you ask someone in the Orlando Magic locker room who they want to take a last second shot, they will almost always say Tobias Harris. Harris has had a flair for the dramatic over the past calendar year. You may remember his buzzer-beating dunk to down the Oklahoma City Thunder in February, or his game-winner against the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this season. When called upon, he's delivered, and Saturday night against the Hawks was no different.
Harris, who had split a pair of free throws mere seconds before, got the inbounds pass, dribbled to the elbow, and bang, knocked down the shot ever so perfectly over some near-perfect defense from DeMarre Carroll.
After the game, coach Jacque Vaughn said that the play was drawn up for Harris, and that he thought it was "great execution from our guys." He gave credit to Evan Fournier for his patience on the inbounds pass, the strong screen set by Nikola Vucevic, and the shot that Harris hit.
In the locker room, Harris said that he guaranteed that his team would get the win earlier in the day. Harris has always shown supreme confidence, no matter how much the team may be struggling, and his attitude was no different heading into Saturday's game. He simply wasn't going to let his team lose, and it didn't in the end.
Victor Oladipo was very complimentary of Harris, saying that he was "glad he's on his team" and that he hit an extremely difficult shot. Oladipo also said that no one in the locker room deserved the opportunity more than Harris, citing how hard he worked to improve over the summer, and all the work he continues to put in. "Big shot by Tobias. We just need to build off of this one," said the second-year guard.
Harris said that he thought the biggest thing about that final shot was the fact that his teammates all knew it was one he was capable of making. "Coach drew up the play and had great confidence in me, [and] the guys on the team, they trust me to take that shot and to make it," said Harris. "It's a great win for us tonight, the way we battled back, the way we just kept fighting and the the way we wanted to get this win. We willed ourselves to that win tonight."
It takes someone who has a certain amount of guts to continually take these shots, and clearly Harris has shown that he has those guts and the want to take the shot. Coach Vaughn said the the biggest component of making big shots like that is wanting to take the shots. Harris has what it takes and it's good that the Magic have found their go-to guy.
After missing six games with a sprained back, the Magic's man in the middle returned Saturday, and he made an immediate impact. Vucevic notched his 14th double-double of the season with his 18-point, 11-rebound performance. Not only did Vucevic make an impact in his usual ways, but he had a crucial block late on Jeff Teague, which gave the Magic their chance to hold on for the win.
Before the game, Coach Vaughn talked about monitoring Vucevic's minutes, mainly because he had not gotten a five-on-five practice in with the team during his rehabilitation. Vucevic said that all he had really been able to do was some running, so he wasn't too worried about his conditioning, and it proved to not be a real issue at any point. Vucevic's return also allowed Kyle O`Quinn to return to a more customary role off the bench.
Following the game, I asked Coach Vaughn how he thought Vucevic looked in his first game back.
"He's probably one of our premiere guys as far as conditioning, and a couple weeks off for him are still testing him," said Vaughn. "Our rotation was different to give him breaks during the night, but you saw how he was able to rebound the basketball and [the] big block on Jeff Teague late in the game, so you saw [his] significance to our team."
Oladipo chimed in and said that it was great to have the big guy back, even going as far as to call him the best big man in the league. Like Vaughn, Oladipo credited Vucevic for his huge block late on Teague, which ultimately helped the team win the game.
Vucevic isn't a guy who's going to go out there and put up 30 points and 15 rebounds on a night-to-night basis, but he's always going to bring his lunch pail and be ready to work. He brings so much to the team on the offensive end and with his rebounding, and it was clear that they missed that when he was out. For now, though, it's all about enjoying having Vucevic healthy again, and finding a way to keep their $54 million man healthy and on the court.