Arron Afflalo looked on his way to another struggle of a game in his second appearance in a Magic uniform. Afflalo shot 2 for 9 in the game against the Nuggets and after a strong first quarter Sunday, cooled off to shoot 4 for 10 and score nine points through one half.
The settling for jumpers the sometimes stagnant ball movement and the missed shots helped Phoenix take control of the game and use its size to take up to an 11-point lead and seeming control of the game with Orlando shooting 36.0 percent from the floor.
The fire was burning though inside Afflalo, Glen Davis and the Magic. They just needed the energy to unleash it.
Davis proved to be the catalyst and Afflalo the accelerant as Orlando came back to win the game 115-94 behind a monster third quarter.
Afflalo, perhaps, defined the win when he scored eight straight points in the middle of a 25-7 run that turned a 14-point deficit with 8:18 to play in the third quarter to a 79-75 lead with 2:33 to play.
Afflalo got out on the break on several occassions and stared down a one-on-three situation. But Afflalo elected to attack, driving through the defenders and drawing the foul. This happened as the snowball was picking up momentum and led to an absolute deluge.
"We missed some jump shots. I think that was the start of it," coach Jacque Vaughn said of the team's transformation into the second half. "[The Suns] were able to get out and get rebounds and get into a good rhythm themselves. Then we started to be the aggressor. We got into attack mode, which was good to see. That’s how you have to play in this league. You have to be the aggressor. That gives yourself a chance every night."
No doubt, Afflalo and Orlando became the aggressors and took it to the Suns. In that third quarter, Orlando scored 40 points, shot 16 for 24 from the field grabbed four offensive rebounds, scored seven fast break points and eight second chance points and scored 18 points in the paint. Phoenix was the one backpedaling as the lead was gone and the shots — the team was 8 for 21 in the third quarter — dried up.
In all, the Magic went on a 32-8 run to end the third quarter and a 43-12 run into the fourth quarter to take a 17-point lead. The Suns were shell-shocked and the Magic might have been in euphoria seeing a team play so hard and fight so much.
"I just want to win, Arron Afflalo said. "You can kind of feel it in the atmosphere when the gym is kind of dead because you don’t have the proper energy level. I thought the third quarter — it wasn’t just me, it was the entire team — even if I kick-started it, the entire team did a great job upping their level of intensity toward the paint to allow us to play better."
Afflalo finished with 22 points on 8-for-16 shooting. Glen Davis had 14 of his 22 points in the third quarter. But the biggest transformation from the first half to the second half took place in Nikola Vucevic, who turned in an impressive 18-point, 13-rebound performance for the Magic.
In that somewhat lackluster first half where Orlando struggled on offense and gave up 20 points in the paint in the first quarter, Vucevic and Davis were often victimized by Luis Scola's post mastery. Scola scored 16 of his 24 points in the first half before Vucevic got the job of defending him full time and did a better job using his size to push and crowd Scola out of his comfort zone.
"I just saw a change in that third quarter in the energy level," said J.J. Redick, who scored 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting and dished out six assists. "The two guys for me that really set the tone for that was Arron and Glen. Their energy in the third quarter, particularly at the beginning … was key and that kind of got us back in the game. That gave us the spark we needed."
From there, the Magic forced long jumpers (some of them admittedly open after scrambling defenses fought back from rotating to cut off and squeeze the paint) and got some fortunate misses or late contests that sparked the fast break. They forced turnovers (16 in all) and scored 20 points off those turnovers.
Orlando found the energy and focus in the locker room and drove it to victory.
The defensive adjustments worked and so did the increases in energy and focus to deliver this win.
"This is our team. Each guy comes to practice every single day. They know the plays, they get reps, they work hard," Vaughn said. "Tonight was a character test for us. I think we showed a lot of character in the second half. That game could have easily turned from 10 to 14 to a 20-point game. But the men in that locker room showed a lot to me tonight. And I told them I was extremely proud."