Jacque Vaughn challenged his team at halftime, asking who was going to be the aggressor in Monday's game against the Timberwolves. Were the Magic going to step up to the plate and meet the physicality their opponents brought to them in the first half or would they allow Minnesota to dictate the pace, the score and the physicality of the game.
Orlando has not had to face many opponents who will be able to control the glass and bully the teamaround quite like Minnesota can wtih Kevin Love and Nikola
Vucevic Pekovic providing brute force in the paint. It seemed like the Timberwolves had worn down the Magic's patience and desire soem at the end of the second quarter. Glen Davis took a technical foul and the Magic gave up an 11-2 run in the final two minutes of the half to trail by 12 entering the locker room.
Something changed though. Vaughn's challenge to his team was answered.
Orlando became the aggressors, battling Pekovic and Love out of the paint and doing a better job on the glass. The Magic were the ones initiating fast breaks and dictating the tempo. Orlando was the team that ultimately took control and won the game.
And when Glen Davis, who leaked out more than once for breakaway layups and, yes, dunks, stood at the end of a 102-93 victory over Minnesota at the Amway Center on Monday after a 28-point performance on 13-for-17 shooting, he let out a primal scream, an emotion that continued to run high even after the game ended.
This was a good win for Orlando.
"It boiled down to who was going to be the aggressor," Jacque Vaughn said. "That was my message at halftime: 'Who was going to be the aggressor?' Real simple, that team was going to win. It was great to see our bigs take that challenge on and play with extreme physicality."
Orlando used a dominant second half where the team was the more physical and aggressive team.
The Magic held the Timberwolves to 32 second half points and allowing 31.9 percent shooting. Minnesota scored 32 points in the second quarter alone. In the second half, the Magic outscored the Wolves 36-18 in the paint and limited the Wolves to six second chance points on eight offensive rebounds. In the first half, Minnesota outscored Orlando 32-16 in the paint and scored 16 second chance points on seven offensive rebounds.
In addition to Davis' 28, Nikola Vucevic had his third straight double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. J.J. Redick scored 18 points and dished out seven assists. Jameer Nelson had six points to go with his 12 assists. And Gustavo Ayon added nine off the bench.
Orlando certainly turned the tide then on those hustle stats as the team tightened up defensively and kept Minnesota from the pick and roll play that helped Minnesota shoot at an impressive 49.0 percent clip. If the Timberwolves were able to get anything they wanted in the paint in the first half, they could not do anything in the second half. Not against this more determined and more in sync Magic team defending them.
"You could see from the tone of the basketball game and how it started that Pekovic and Kevin were demanding and dictating what would happen on the block – getting offensive rebounds, making shots," Glen Davis said. "Their bigs got them going in the first half. Coach came out here and said, ‘Hey look, we need to fight back.’ And that’s what we did."
Davis echoing exactly what Vaughn said at halftime certainly seems to suggest the message was received. And the Magic were the more aggressive team in the second half. It all started with defense, as Vaughn noted in his postgame press conference. The Magic needed to get stops to set up their offense and catch a very good defensive team in the Wolves in transition before the defense could get set.
Orlando shot 60.0 percent in the second half and had 31 assists on 44 field goals for the game. The Magic had the ball moving and did the necessary things to lock down on defense and turn it into offense.
"It started with stops," Vaughn said. "The fact that we were able to get stops in the second half allowed us to get out in transition a little bit. We got some transition buckets, kick-ahead, early threes, guys rim-running, and it’s a little easier when you don’t have to play against a set defense, and that’s a very top-five defense in the league right now, Minnesota."
David provided a lot of that energy in the third quarter to charge that comeback. He hit all six of his shots for 12 points as Orlando stormed back into the game. This was certainly not the first time this season -- or even this week -- that the Magic faced a double digit deficit. It was also definitely not the first time this week the Magic faced a tough finish where they had to execute. And the Magic passed, shooting 12 for 19 from the floor in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
"It’s a long game. We understand that," Arron Afflalo said of having to fight to come back and win. "We’ve been in this position before. What you do is you continue to play until the buzzer goes off."
Orlando was able to do all that, keeping up the aggression and putting Minnesota on its heels throughout the second half. Instead of the Magic folding, like it seemed like they might, it was the Wolves succumbing to the energy and intensity and physicality the Magic brought to the game.