The Orlando Magic knocked off the Detroit Pistons, 112-98, Wednesday night at Amway Center to tie a season-high home winning streak at three games. Great efforts abounded from several Orlando players: between Victor Oladipo's team-high 20 off the bench; Jameer Nelson's season-high 11 assists; Kyle O'Quinn's six-block effort; and Maurice Harkless' 15-point, nine-board eruption it's difficult to single out any one player for his work in the victory.
Here's a look at the stories that developed Wednesday.
Bench provides another spark
Oladipo, Harkless, and O'Quinn all came off the bench Wednesday, and they all provided a big lift to a Magic team that fell to Detroit by 16 points just a week earlier. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn had five reserves on the floor to begin the fourth quarter despite the fact that Mo Cheeks had called on his starting five, but Orlando's second unit held the lead.
Detroit made a run at the start of the quarter to cut Orlando's 20-point lead to 10. Vaughn stuck with the reserves, a choice that paid off.
"It was great to continue with that group that was out there, to weather that storm a little bit," Vaughn said, "to be able to figure it out and find a way, and they did."
The team followed O'Quinn's lead: with the Magic up 12, he blocked two straight shots by Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings. Orlando controlled the rebound and, after O'Quinn hustled the length of the floor for a layup, boosted its lead to 14 points.
"We knew that somebody had to do something to get the ball rollin' on our side again," O'Quinn said. "We knew something had to happen, and we left it up to any of us to just do something to change the momentum."
O'Quinn earned praise from Harkless for his work on that play and throughout the night. "That was a great little sequence from Kyle," Harkless said. "He's being able to consistently do that. It's great to watch. It gets everybody excited, him blocking shots like that."
O'Quinn finished with eight points, five rebounds, an assist, two steals, and six blocks in 20 productive minutes. He's clearly earned the trust of his teammates and coaches, who now count on him as a leader of the second unit.
"The one thing that a player wants is for the coach to trust him, and that works both ways," Vaughn said. "I need to trust him. So he's gaining the trust of the coaching staff, whether that's watching film, doing extra work afterwards, and most importantly he's consistently putting games together where he's doing the right thing over and over again."
Orlando controls the boards
In the Magic's loss to the Pistons on January 28th, they didn't have starting center and leading rebounder Nik Vučević available, and the result reflected his absence: Detroit won the rebounding battle, 56-40, and had a 20-7 edge in second-chance points.
Fast-forward to Wednesday and it was Orlando cleaning up on the glass: the hosts owned a 44-36 advantage on the glass and kept the second-chance points battle competitive, yielding 18 while scoring 12 of their own. Vučević's presence certainly worked in the Magic's favor, as he grabbed six caroms in 28 minutes, but Orlando won the rebounding battle Wednesday behind a collective effort: eight of the 10 pinstripe-clad players hauled in at least four rebounds, with Harkless' nine leading the way.
O'Quinn said what stood out in film study of the earlier loss to Detroit was Orlando's tendency to not box out the Pistons' bigs. "When a shot goes up, you wanna get body-on-body, and any possession that didn't, they would exploit you," he said. "We just wanted to get body-on-body every shot."
Celebrating Black History Month
Wednesday marked Orlando's first home game of February, during which this country celebrates Black History Month. To mark the occasion, the Magic hosted performances from The Nap Ford Ubuntu Drummers and The Distinguished Men of Brass, the latter group best known for its appearance on the seventh season of America's Got Talent. The Distinguished Men of Brass played renditions of the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started," Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," and Kool & the Gang's "Celebration."
The Magic also ran a Jameer Nelson-narrated video tribute to the New York Rens, an all-Black basketball team which began play in 1923. During a third-quarter timeout, E'Twaun Moore narrated a similar video about Cumberland Posey Jr.