Behind the likes of Willie Green, Maurice Harkless, Channing Frye, Aaron Gordon and Fournier, the Magic once again made a big push in the fourth quarter in Saturday's 108-93 loss to the Dallas Mavericks'. It was like someone flipped a switch and they began to play like a team that could beat anyone. It's not the first time the Magic have made big runs this season either, but it's one of the main reasons why they are unable to find the win column on a consistent basis.
In games against the Charlotte Hornets in November and Brooklyn Nets earlier in January, the team staged furious comebacks in the final quarter to win against the division-rival Hornets and to make the game a nail-biter with the Nets. The team has been unable to put it together for 48 minutes, which forces them to play from behind and try to make it all up late, something they've struggled to do consistently. They've shown the energy in the fourth quarter, they just have to find ways to convert it to the first half.
Coach Jacque Vaughn felt as though his team just competed in the second half, and he thought as though they played harder. "I think we didn't start the way we wanted to and overall the guys came out and got some shots to go in and competed hard on the defensive end."
Frye, who knocked down a pair of big threes in the fourth, said that he thinks they're "just trying to figure it out." Frye went on to say that at times it isn't pretty and that he thinks guys are "trying to do the best that they can."
"I think we just allowed them to run their offense in the beginning and didn't really put pressure on them, so I think we just have to take this and build from it and understand that coach is still finding lineups that work in different times," Frye said. "I think we were just a little bit too passive in the first half. In the second half, we made some adjustments [and we were] a little bit more aggressive, started to really find a rhythm and we just did a lot better on defense."
The players, and coaches, continue to talk about the team's need to find that consistency, but when are they going to finally find it? They can't continue to come out and play for 12 minutes each night and think that they have a legitimate chance to make any noise in Eastern Conference, let alone the league.
It's a learning experience, and the fact that they continue to find things is great, but when will they put it all together? That could be what is the determining factor on a lot of the questions that currently surround this young Magic team.
Injured Achilles' sidelines Oladipo
Just an hour before tip, the news broke that the Orlando Magic would be without guard Victor Oladipo due to what the team called a sore right achillies. Prior to the game, Oladipo said that the injury occurred Thursday night when he was guarding O.J. Mayo and he turned his ankle. Oladipo added that it was sore Friday, so he did not go through practice, went out to shoot to see how it felt prior to the game, but felt as though it was best to take the night off.
In his absence, Coach Vaughn turned to Evan Fournier to fill his spot in the starting lineup. Fournier, who had been struggling of late, was one of the cogs that helped the Magic begin to cut into the Mavs' lead in the fourth quarter. Fournier finished the night with an efficient 15 points and three rebounds in nearly 37 minutes of action.
The injury doesn't seem to be one that's too serious for Oladipo, but it's one that he, and the team, won't rush to come back from. No timetable was officially placed on the second-year guard's return, but it's safe to say that he can be considered day-to-day as the team embarks on a two game road trip to Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
O'Quinn out too
For the first time since he missed 15 games earlier in the season with a sprained ankle, third-year big man Kyle O'Quinn didn't see the floor for the Magic. It came as a surprise as there was no injury previously reported for O'Quinn, and he was active for the game.
Following the game, Vaughn talked about why his big man was a DNP-coach's decision.
"Kyle missed shootaround with family reasons, so he didn't get a chance to go through shootaround physically on the floor," he said. "With a tough team like that without being physically able to go through shootaround, I thought [Dewayne] Dedmon would be better off tonight. But [it's] nothing that Kyle did or anything, just had a family reason he had to miss shootaround."
It's a somewhat curious decision that Vaughn would go without playing one of his better defensive big men, especially considering the team's struggles on that end. Dedmon played just over five minutes before picking up four personal fouls, enough for Vaughn to pull him. Nevertheless, there shouldn't be worry of another injury for O'Quinn, and he should be back in the lineup come Monday in Oklahoma City.