Whenever some fresh faces come into the fold of any team, it provides some type of energy. The new faces tend to freshen up the mundanity of the season. And another fresh face also provided some new energy.
That new face was not involved in any trade (at least recently). It was the return — or, better, debut — of Al Harrington. You could see how everyone on the team wanted him to do well as he made his season debut. It was Harrington doing what he always did from the bench while he was injured though that may have helped spur the Magic ownard and upward.
Al Harrington scored nine points in the fourth quarter, including five points to open the fourth quarter. With his second field goal — a 3-pointer on a nice pick and pop with Beno Udrih — he shouted encouragements loud enough for his teammates to hear and the energy was palpable, particularly for a team that has not had much reason to cheer of late.
The Magic finally had a reason to cheer on Tuesday night. A complete team effort, a strong defensive effort and the ability to close down and shut out Philadelphia on the road marked one of the best games of the season among Orlando's now 16 wins.
The Magic bench spurred them to the lead in the second quarter and built up a 17-point lead. They held off a run and closed the door repeatedly on the 76ers for a 98-84 win at Wells Fargo Arena on Tuesday.
The best part for the offense was how balanced it was and how everyone contributed.
Maurice Harkless scored 10 points, helping set the tone early. Tobias Harris came in the second quarter and helped Orlando push the pace by forcing turnovers and getting out in the open court. He had 16 points and seven rebounds. Arron Afflalo carried Orlando through the second quarter and early third quarter with 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
Orlando shot 53.9 percent from the floor and had 33 assists on 41 field goals. The ball was moving and the Magic were looking to attack the basket. E'Twaun Moore had a career-high 10 assists, recording his first double double with 12 points as well. And Beno Udrih had nine assists off the bench. It was a great offensive effort.
The Magic scored 40 points in the paint and had 11 fast break points. They got to the line for 16 free throw attempts (a good number for Orlando in this free throw-less year).
The difference for Orlando was on the defensive end. The Magic's energy bled over to the defensive end where the rotations were extremely crisp, particularly as Orlando built its lead. The Magic were digging down hard and creating turnovers and frustrating the 76ers. They kept the Sixers out on the perimeter and away from the basket, limiting a lot of dribble penetration by switching on screens. The Magic had their versatility on display so many guys able to play multiple positions now.
It helped the 76ers could not hit a shot. They made only 39.5 percent of their shots and 7 for 21 from beyond the arc. Philadelphia struggled to get out of its own way, making a ton of critical mistakes early in the third quarter and digging itself a hole too big to come out of.
Not with the Magic so fucsed and in sync.
It felt like this team was building to a performance like this. So much positivity without winning was becoming difficult to digest. The team had finally earned a win and a reason to feel really positive about its performance.
If the Magic play with the effort and energy they had tonight, the rest of the season could be very rewarding for this young squad. And it could include a whole lot more wins to reinforce those improvements.