Magic Protect the Ball to Beat Portland
Trade Gustavo Ayon while you can, Rob Hennigan. There was a Goose on the loose in O-Town this evening. Ayon set a new career-best 6 assists along with tying his career-high in points of sixteen. Goose was one of the stars of a 110-104 Magic victory, snapping a 12-game losing streak. It took a long while, but the now 15-36 Magic squad has posted seven victories this season when trailing by 10+ points. 34 assists and coughing up only 10 turnovers is a superb blueprint for success. 15 of those assists belonged to Jameer Nelson, a new career-high for the man who just turned 31 years old on Saturday. Impressive displays of ball movement and aggression from every big man, guard, and wing player wearing pinstripes. Orlando won the battle on the boards 50-38 and pounded Portland in the paint 60-44.
Coach Vaughn on Ayon: “He does some special things. His ability to pass the ball and be in the right places, give guys outlets, the competitive fire that he has in him, we saw it tonight and it was good to see.”
Whatever the result, I’m sure the Amway Center crowd was just eager to see as exciting of a ballgame as the January 7th overtime matchup had been. Witnessing 3 Magic players tallying double-doubles puts you on the correct path. Nikola Vucevic’s 29th double-double of the season was a beauty, 17 points and 19 rebounds. I’m not about to ignore Andrew Nicholson’s efficient 14 points either. After missing 3 games with a bruised right shoulder, Magic fans got to erupt in applause for J.J. Redick who responded with 22 points off the bench.
Coach Vaughn on the win: “You always want to see the fruits of your labor and in this business it’s wins and losses and it’s just good for the guys’ psyche overall, but we’ve stayed firm in our approach and guys have been unbelievable throughout this process.”
Other than Wes Matthews’ 11 points, the Magic did a fairly respectable job defending Portland’s starters in the first period. J.J. Redick returned off the bench after missing 3 games with a bruised right shoulder. J.J. played some point guard and took heavy contact on an And 1 to disprove any worriers. Orlando trailed 22-26 after one period. Portland’s bench production was nonexistent as Orlando’s pine patrol chipped swiftly at Portland’s double digit lead.
Coach Vaughn on Redick battling injury: “It’s will. It’s a mental fortitude to push through…It’s such a mind game and you don’t use it enough. It can control the body and it can control your approach and he does a great job of willing himself throughout the course of the game.”
Gustavo Ayon is alive, folks, and he had quite the first half being able to provide potency on both ends alongside Vucevic and Nicholson. There was some astounding passing and finishing between the bigs. Their efforts were needed as Nelson and Afflalo couldn’t score in the initial 24 minutes. After Batum went on an 11-point burst, Orlando answered with a 9-0 run and the Magic led 55-49 at halftime. Ayon had a rare 10 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds at the break. Redick had fifteen.
Damian Lillard posted an appalling 1-for-16 shooting outing and showed that he may be currently *smashing* into a rookie wall.
It was nice of Jameer and Arron to finally contribute in the 3rd period, combining for 14 points. Twelve points in the period from LaMarcus Aldridge kept the Blazers in the contest entering the last dozen minutes of regulation. Orlando held a 79-72 cushion as the 4th quarter began and wouldn’t look back.
Orlando earns some needed rest and don’t host the Charlotte Bobcats until Wednesday, the Magic’s last game heading into the All-Star hiatus.
Adam Papageorgiou runs Orlando Magic Greek and is a proud MBO contributor.