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Magic vs. Lakers notebook: James Borrego's debut and Tobias Harris' big night

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Orlando snapped its 10-game slide Friday in its first game of the post-Jacque Vaughn era.

James Borrego
James Borrego
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Borrego's coaching debut

After removing Jacque Vaughn from the head coaching position on Thursday, the Orlando Magic were forced to rally and get ready for a game against the Los Angeles Lakers with a new man, former top assistant James Borrego, at the helm. Borrego, a former assistant for the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Hornets, had never coached a full NBA game before--he finished one game for the Magic after Vaughn was ejected in 2013.

Going into the game, Borrego admitted he felt nervous, not knowing exactly what his emotions would be like, or exactly how to feel. Being thrust into the position without any practice didn't make the situation any easier for the first0time coach, but he made the most of it.

Knowing how important the night was, the team seemed to find an extra gear, pushing themselves to make Borrego's head coaching debut a memorable one. Following the game, players raved about Borrego, saying he's "a player's coach" and that he asked for their feedback in the huddles. Seeking that feedback helped to make a huge difference in the team's ability to make adjustments throughout the contest.

"We were fighting for each other out there. I’m just really proud of them. Those 15 guys bonded tonight. They fought together." James Borrego

Borrego himself admitted that the first half was an anxious one for everyone, but liked how the team settled into things in the second half. He felt as though the team's energy level translated well, especially in the second half, and it was the main reason they were able to get back into it and find a way to pull the win out late.

The first-time coach was asked what his emotions were like on the sideline Friday. "I was just fighting for these guys," said Borrego. "They were fighting for each other. We were fighting for each other out there. I’m just really proud of them. Those 15 guys bonded tonight. They fought together. I was proud of our bench both on the court and what they did off the court supporting us. It was an emotional game for all of us. We were fighting. These guys have been trying to get a win here recently. I’m just happy for them. They earned this victory tonight."

Was it a perfect night for the new coach? Of course not; rarely are there perfect nights in the NBA. However, being able to get off on the right foot and get a win is big, especially for a team which was clearly shaken by the firing of Vaughn. It might even prove to be the building block that the Magic need to begin to make that progress that they wanted to see all season.

And hey, getting the game ball for your first career win can't be too bad, can it?

Harris' big, emotional day

After hopping off of a plane at 4:40, cousins Tobias Harris and Channing Frye made their way to the Amway Center as though it were business as usual. Except it wasn't. The Magic teammates attended a funeral for their grandfather, Lt. John Mulzac.

Harris didn't let the events from earlier in the day phase him, however, putting up a career-high 34 points and seven rebounds, seemingly willing the Magic to a much-needed victory. It was as if nothing was going to stop Harris, as he got to his spots and scored gracefully, easily, and efficiently.

After the game, teammates mentioned how they knew it was a challenging and emotional time for the fourth-year forward, and that they were happy for him after such a big performance.

Harris said "it was definitely an emotional day" and being on the court with his teammates "was like therapy." The former Tennessee Volunteer also said that he thinks that this win could be the stepping stone for the team turning things around, especially if they continue to go out and play for each other like they did against the Lakers.

Bench brings energy

Normally this item would be about the bench playing extremely well. However, it was a different kind of energy that the Magic's bench was able to bring on Friday night.

For the first time all season, we saw the Magic bench get into the game, making it seem like a college atmosphere. Players were up cheering, clapping, and waving towels after almost everything that the team did positively.

Orlando rookies Aaron Gordon likened it to a college game with the players on the bench always up cheering, helping their teammates out. Gordon also said that it was something that the team had talked about wanting to do, and it proved to be important.

The bench's activity seemed to give the Magic an added boost of energy that they so desperately lacked, and to see them bond like that after the 48 hours they've been through is great. It's a testament to just how much of a bond all of those young guys have built, and could be something that continues to help the Magic for the remainder of the season, should it continue.

Odds and Ends

  • Victor Oladipo finished with double0digit rebounds for the fourth time in his career. It was the second time he did so against the Lakers, with the pervious being a 12-rebound performance in a loss last January.
  • After turning the ball over 13 times in the first half--including six in the first six minutes--the Magic coughed it up just six times in the second half, giving up just seven points off of turnovers. Taking care of the ball not only helped their offense--they shot 26-of-48 in the half--but also limited the Lakers' chances to get out in transition, holding them to just one fastbreak point in the second half.

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