FOX Sports Florida checks in with color analyst Jeff Turner to get the latest on the Magic. You can follow Turner on Twitter at @JTurnerMagic.
FOX SPORTS FLORIDA: What does it say about the Magic that they were able to defeat two teams with something to play for this late in the season in Portland and Charlotte?
JEFF TURNER: It’s got to be rewarding for the players because they’ve beaten two teams that are in the playoff hunt. They’re in a battle. So they’re not teams coming in with nothing to play for. They (the Magic) should take a lot of pride in that.
FSF: After the Magic beat Oklahoma City and Indiana before the All-Star break, you spoke of being able to steal victories against unsuspecting and superior opponents. Is this also a prime time of year for stealing victories against either playoff-bound teams or ones with nothing to play for?
JT: I think you can look at it a couple of ways. If you’re a playoff team, it could be a trap game. For instance, Portland played in Miami the night before and then they’re coming to Orlando, a game they’re expected to win. But I would argue the other side of that is if you’re in the playoff hunt, and with as close as some of these races are, you should expect that the opposing team is a little bit more focused. So it’s tougher to get a victory. I would argue that way. I think it makes us look better. (Laughs)
FSF: With all the attention given to the Magic’s 25th anniversary this season, does this team remind you at all of the team you were on the second year that played better than .500 ball after January and finished with 31 wins, including a few over some pretty solid teams?
JT: You could probably draw some of those conclusions — the difference being that team was a little bit older, a lot of guys who had been in the league a little bit, fighting to extend their careers and fighting for the opportunity to stay with the Magic. This group is such a young group. There are a couple of veterans, but for the most part, the guys who are getting extended minutes are so young.
FSF: Two of those young guys, Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo, have at least 36 starts but are now being used off the bench. How well do you think they’ve adjusted?
JT: I think it says a lot about both of them. There’s a competitiveness that you see in Tobias and Victor that is evident when you watch them play. Every player wants to start. You’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t think there’s something about being on the floor when the game starts. You can understand your role and you can accept it and go with that, but every player wants to start. So I think there’s a motivating factor for both of them, that they’re trying to prove they deserve to be in the lineup. That could be part of it. But even coming off the bench, they’re getting large minutes because of the way they’re playing.
FSF: What impressed you most about Nikola Vucevic’s game against Charlotte where he had 24 points and 23 rebounds? What was he doing to be so effective?
JT: The good thing about Nik is he’s going to give you 10 to 15 rebounds every night. A coach told me a long time ago that if you go to the glass every time, particularly on the offensive end, you’re going to get at least two fall in your hands. And that’s typically what happens to Nik, for whatever reason. I saw some quotes where he even said, ‘Look, the ball was falling, and it was in a good spot for me.’ He goes to the glass. He’s got great hands. And he can control the basketball – he keeps his hands high. We’ve seen it six times where he’s had a 20-plus rebounding night. And a lot of it is due to him.
FSF: Although he only shot two free throws in that game, how encouraging is it to see the Magic go to the line 35 times to only 14 for the Bobcats?
JT: Against a Charlotte team that gets to the line 24, 25 times a game (on average), that was really good. The game plan was good. Nik was in there fronting (Al) Jefferson and not really letting him catch the ball. And Nik talked about staying down on his pump fake, not letting him get you in the air.
FSF: Do you think there was a conscious effort by the Magic to get to the rim more and get to the line more?
JT: I’m not in the coaches’ meeting. But I would guess there’s always a conscious effort to attack. Jameer (Nelson) probably does the best job of getting into the paint and drawing extra defenders and creating opportunities for guys with little drop-offs and 3-point opportunities. In this league, if you get penetration with somebody like Jameer or Victor, you’re going to get 3-point opportunities on kick-outs or you’re going to get to the free-throw line.