Orlando needed to get back to its roots a bit after a disappointing effort against Atlanta. The starters were not leaving a good foundation for the bench to come in, digging a hole that took all the energy the team needed to climb out of. Instead of focusing that energy on sustaining leads and withstanding runs, it was spent scrambling, often leading to more misakes and wasting potentially good efforts from the bench.
The Magic do not have to be perfect, or even on schedule. They just have to be good enough and active enough to give themselves a chance. The fight will not go away.
When Orlando finally got its solid first quarter from its starters -- a 19-14 first-quarter advantage, but still -- it was a clue to something brewing for this team against Golden State, nearing the end of a long East Coast road trip.
Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless helped spark things in the second quarter with some strong play around the rim. Both rookies had four blocks in the second quarter, becoming the first pair of Magic teammates to record four blocks in a game since Dwight Howard and Darko Milicic achieved that feat at New Jersey in a loss on Feb. 10, 2007.
And while Golden State was fighting for many of those offensive rebounds -- 16 in the game, but 10 in the first half and the team had only eight second chance points for the game -- it was a sign for that team to stay out of the paint. The Warriors largely did, hoisting jumpers and missing them badly on some occassions.
Orlando was able to run out for 15 fast break points and open up a comfortable double digit deficit, one that was below 10 points in the second half only once and then quickly answered with three 3-pointers and an 18-point lead. The Magic had put in a solid game's work of doing the simple things and rebounding from Wednesday's loss with a 99-85 victory at Amway Center on Friday.
"We came in with a good mindset and picked up the intensity," Andrew Nicholson said. "[The energy from the bench is] a good impact. You’ve got to come in and do the little things to pick the team up."
Nicholson did that in scoring 15 points, tying a career high with seven rebounds and blocking those four big shots. The bench again provided the spark but had the lead to build on. Nikola Vucevic grabbed nine of his career-high 17 rebounds in that opening quarterand had 12 points for his eighth double double of the year. J.J. Redick too came of fthe bench for a team-high 16 points, hitting a couple big 3-pointers in the third quarter as Orlando fought off and answered Golden State's run.
For the Magic in this game, things do not get much simpler than defending, rebounding, getting out on the break and making shots.
The Warriors shot just 37.0 percent from the floor and 7 for 20 from beyond the arc. The Magic did a good job keeping the Warriors' out of the paint for the most part giving up only 34 points in the paint. David Lee had 24 points and Stephen Curry had 25 points, but few other players could get themselves involved in this game.
Even with all the offensive rebounds.
Orlando gave up 14 offensive rebounds, but still held a 16-point lead, scrambling and preventing second-chance opportunities. Jacque Vaughn said after the game he spoke to his team about limiting Golden State's chances on the glass and tightening up in that area. He was happy the team was able to give the second effort and still prevent the second chance points, but he said he urged the team to fight for rebounds and 50/50 balls.
That message was received since Boston had only two more offensive rebounds the rest of the game. That effort could be seen in Vucevic's play throughout the night and the work he did fighting off David Lee for rebounding positioning.
"That’s something we have to do as a team," Nikola Vucevic said. "[The Warriors are] a team that puts up a lot of points. We were able to stop them and by rebounding we limit their offense. We give them second shots, that’s when they’re most dangerous because a lot of their guys can get open and hit the three and knock those down.
"Everybody – me, the other bigs and guards – were able to get those rebounds was really a point for us because then we can run afterwards and get some easy buckets.
Vucevic was right as Maurice Harkless had a career high with seven rebounds and Arron Afflalo put in a season-high with seven boards to go with his 14 points.
Things were flowing on the offensive end as the Magic shot 47.7 percent from the floor and 9 for 21 from beyond the arc. Orlando committed 15 turnovers, but five came in the fourth quarter with the game largely decided and caused the Magic only to sweat just a little bit when the Warriors brought the lead down to 10.
Every Warriors run was answered very promptly by a big shot or stop. Golden State got the lead down to nine in the third quarter, but Orlando quickly answered with an 11-0 run on three 3-pointers from E'Twaun Moore, Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick and then a pair of Andrew Nicholson free throws. With 2:15 left in the third quarter, it seemed as though the Warriors had maybe one more run to threaten the lead but the Magic were not going to give it to them.
As far as simplicity in victory, the Magic had all the basics covered.
"Give [the Magic] credit, they do a good job playing pick-and-roll basketball," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "They do a great job flying off screens, and they'r big guys both times have hurt us.
"We got some good looks, just missed some shots. But more importantly those guys made plays, they made shots. I thought we were once again a step slow."