At some point in the fourth quarter, the Magic players huddled up to regroup. They had already cut as much as a 13-point deficit down to five points on a bouncing Maurice Harkless 3-pointer near the final buzzer (one where every second was needed with Robbie Hummel draining his attempt just after the quarter horn).
Orlando had a lot of issues to that point — a lot of fouls and free throws given up, turnovers committed and interior shots given up. The Magic, despite shooting so well to that point had a lot they needed to improve on to try and get a win even against an undermanned Timberwolves squad.
What was said in that huddle ostensibly was to forget all the “my bads” and mistakes, Kyle O’Quinn said. It is winning time.
For those 12 minutes, the Magic definitely took that to heart and played like those words meant something. Orlando outscored Minnesota 28-15, holding a tired Minnesota team down in the final quarter to 33.3 percent shooting while continuing their hot shooting. Orlando, struggling with turnovers all night, had six in the final quarter but gave up only four points off those turnovers. The team made 61.1 percent of its shots and 3 of its 4 3-poitners. Victor Oladipo had 10 points.
And energy filled the Amway Center as the Magic raced ahead for a 100-92 win Saturday, the first game the Magic have scored 100 points in regulation since a 120-112 loss to the Nuggets on March 12. It all seemed to click together in one devastating rush for the Magic to put this one away.
“We just gathered everyone in and said to just chip away at this lead,” Tobias Harris said. “Just go out here and play as hard as you can. But most important, just have fun doing it. When we play together and we focus on the defensive end, good things happen for us. Every game that we’ve played in and that we’ve been close in or that we’ve won, that’s been our formula.”
There was certainly some fun going on as the Magic came from behind for the win. There was Victor Oladipo picking up steals and racing toward the other end of the quart. When he did not finish Kyle O’Quinn cleaned up with a massive two-handed jam. That set Oladipo off as the Wolves headed for a timeout.
There was O’Quinn blocking shots and challenging at the rim, forcing the Wolves into ill-advised passes in the final quarter. They matched the Magic with six turnovers in the final quarter too. That helped spring Tobias Harris for his own breakaway jam.
The Magic were flowing in and out of the paint and picking apart the Timberwolves, who were playing without Kevin Love, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic. The scoring load fell fully on Ricky Rubio and he did the best he could.
The Magic just would not stop hitting shots, making 54.4 percent from the floor and 9 for 17 from beyond the arc. They just needed the defense and the turnovers to come around in their favor to put this one away. The Magic won it just about everywhere else.
And the late game closing, something Orlando has struggled with throughout the game, was a big key to that. Any feeling of dread that Orlando might blow the lead quickly fell away.
“We’ve been doing better late in games recently, closing them out and actually getting wins,” Arron Afflalo said. “I think we’re starting to build a habit of getting the stops when we need and guys getting more confident making shots with less than a minute or two in the game.”
Orlando controlled the pace throughout the fourth quarter and never gave Minnesota the chance to steal this one away.
Afflalo made Orlando’s lone shot in the final two minutes, but the team forced Minnesota to only 1 of 5 shooting in the final two minutes. That was game, set and match as the Magic held the lead and kept the Wolves at arm’s length.
It was a very solid and satisfying win even against a team that was a bit undermanned, as mentioned before.
Afflalo bounced back from his struggles of late to score 18 points on 8-for-15 shooting. Shots, he said, that he has been taking and missing finally fell for him. But he was aggressive and involved particularly early on to get the win.
Maurice Harkless helped keep the Magic in the game scoring 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Tobias Harris added 17 points and six rebounds and Victor Oladipo had 16 points and six assists. Kyle O’Quinn provided a double double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Jameer Nelson added 12 assists.
The problem for Orlando for most of the game was turnovers — 23 of them for 30 Minnesota points — and free throws — 23 fouls that turned into 28 free throw attempts. These were the main engines that fed the Timberwolves’ offense throughout the game. And they were clearly mistakes the Magic could correct.
When Orlando was not making these miscues, the team was able to keep pace and pull in closer or take the lead. When the team was making the mistakes, Minnesota took advantage. In the fourth quarter, the Magic gave up only three free throw attempts and committed only five fouls. That was the breathing room the Magic needed to get over the hump.
And for so long now, Orlando has struggled to get over that hump. The team has allowed one bad stretch to bury it in an insurmountable deficit. Saturday, the Magic made mistakes but never let the Timberwolves get too far away. Once those mistakes were corrected, it became smoother sailing.
Orlando had put together a full-game effort.
“I think that’s really on the guys that are on the floor at the time and the guys supporting them on the bench,” Jacque Vaughn said. “Those runs, you have a chance as a group to stifle those runs. I think that comes with being in the situation, not panicking. I think, unfortunately, we have been in those situations and I think we’re growing from it.”
The Magic certainly seemed to show some growth and some desire to win. They wanted this one and went out and earned it. Slowly, together, they are chipping away at this NBA thing.