While the sun may rise in the east, the Orlando Magic have risen to the occasion to begin their road-trip out west. Things were looking bleak for Orlando prior to traveling across the country. The Magic had lost 10 of 13, three straight and were just 5-10 on the season. But a 2-0 start to what will be a five-game-road-trip leaves much to be encouraged about.
The trip started on Sunday night with an emotional 113-103 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers and former Magic superstar Dwight Howard. When all is said and done for the 2012-13 season, this may be looked back on as one of the better wins all season.
The Magic trailed by four after three quarters, but outscored Los Angeles in the fourth quarter by a 40-26 margin. In what was a homecoming for Arron Afflalo, who was acquired in the Dwight Howard deal, the Magic guard finished with a season-high 30 points. Meanwhile, Orlando employed the “Hack-a-Howard” against their former center. Howard proceeded to shoot just 9-for-21 from the charity stripe.
While Howard was clanking free throws at one end, Howard’s replacement in Orlando, Nikola Vucevic, scored 11 points in the fourth quarter with three of his five baskets coming on emphatic dunks. Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson, not one of the many point guards listed by Howard last season as a guy who would be “fun to play with”, but the point guard that Howard did play with for essentially the entirety of his Orlando career, knocked down a pair of clutch three-pointers within a minute-span and consistently broke down the Lakers’ defense and found the open man. Nelson finished with 19 points, 8 coming in the fourth quarter, and a season-high 13 assists. Glen Davis also had a big game for Orlando finishing with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Sunday night was an emotional win for Orlando and seemed to be a tough act to follow as the Magic faced Golden State on the second night of a back-to-back on Monday.
The Warriors entered the contest 10-6 in a very tough Western Conference. The Magic and Warriors were tied after three quarters, but the fourth quarter once again belonged to Orlando. The Magic scored 33 points in the quarter with 10 coming from J.J. Redick, 9 from Afflalo and 8 from Davis.
The Magic led by as many as 12 in the quarter before collecting a 102-94 victory. Afflalo and Davis each finished with 24 points while Redick scored 22 off the Orlando bench. Redick finished 7-for-13 from the field and 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. Vucevic recorded his second double-double in as many nights finishing with 14 points and 15 rebounds, six of them offensive.
Orlando came limping to the west coast. With five games multiple time zones away against teams from the NBA’s premier conference, it appeared to be a trip that could have easily broken the spirit of the young Magic. Instead, the Magic were able to defeat a Lakers team that many still believe can compete for a title despite their porous start and a Golden State squad seemingly destined for a playoff spot and perhaps a Pacific Division title.
With eight of the 15 players on the roster 25 years old or younger, the Orlando Magic are off to a 2-0 start on their west coast trip. Rather than withering late in games, the Magic are excelling in crunch time. At 7-10, the Magic are still probably a long shot to contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It is uncertain how well the many young bodies of the Magic will hold up throughout the course of an 82-game season. But this start to Orlando’s west coast trip has been very encouraging and should inspire some confidence for weeks to come. Orlando’s trip will resume on Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz.
Outside the Redzone gives you Breaking Sports News, Opinion and Analysis with a Southeastern Feel and be sure to “Like” us on Facebook!