Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic each double up to help Magic snap skid
Mar 25, 2014 at 11:18p ET
Both players looked remarkably energetic considering the Magic didn't get home from their loss Sunday night in Los Angeles until 5:30 a.m. Monday. Vucevic had 10 points in the first quarter, and while Harris didn't contribute in such an immediate fashion after coming off the bench, he was the best player on the floor for either the Magic or the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half.
The two of them combined for 47 points and 21 rebounds as the Magic, who had dropped their last nine games, outworked and outhustled the Blazers in posting a 95-85 victory.
"Anytime we lose, I'm pretty down, especially when we lose and we know that we could play better," said Harris, who had 25 points and 11 rebounds in his best performance since being taken out of the starting lineup three weeks ago. "So going into this game, everybody's focus was to do what you can do on the floor individually to help us win that game. Everybody did that tonight, and we're going to need that every night. It's a collective effort to win games, any type of games -- home games, away games."
Harris was able to push whatever fatigue he had against a team which clearly needed LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed his seventh game in a row with a low back contusion. With Kyle O'Quinn struggling in his matchup against Dorell Wright, who opened in Aldridge's spot, coach Jacque Vaughn didn't waste much time before calling on Harris.
In 33 minutes, Harris wound up going 10 of 15 from the floor. Six of his rebounds came on the offensive end as the Magic battled the Blazers to a draw in that category.
"Tobias was really effective on offensive rebounding and also just making the right play during the course of the night," Vaughn said. "When that happens, a lot of times good things happen for you."
"They miss LaMarcus," Harris said of Aldridge, who poured in 36 points when the Blazers defeated the Magic in Portland on Jan. 8. "He's a great player for them. And we just wanted to take advantage of that."
Vucevic showed no adverse effects from the three-hour time change. He had 14 points and six rebounds by halftime as the Magic overcame some early defensive lapses to take a 50-42 lead. And his two baskets within a minute early in the third quarter helped the Magic regain their footing after a sluggish start which caused Vaughn to quickly burn a timeout.
"I felt pretty good, got going early in the game," he said. "It was a boost to my confidence. So I just wanted to keep being aggressive. Robin Lopez (the Blazers center) was helping a lot on the guards that were driving, which gave me a lot of easy points."
"He caught the ball in great space and had great spacing around him so he could react with the basketball," Vaughn said. "He had a few jumpers tonight, but overall he had great looks at the rim."
With Jameer Nelson still sidelined because of a sore left knee, Victor Oladipo and Arron Afflalo were relied upon more for their play-making rather than their shooting. Oladipo went only 5 of 16, although Blazers star Damian Lillard didn't shoot any better than him. But he assisted on each of Vucevic's first three baskets, a sign of how the two of them are developing chemistry with each other.
"Earlier in the year, we couldn't get it together as far as the pick-and-roll and stuff like that," Vucevic said. "Which is normal -- it's our first year of playing together. I was thrown in here last year, and I had the same issue with Jameer and J.J. (Redick). It took some time to learn."
When the Magic went ahead 86-67 on a 3-pointer by Doron Lamb, it represented their largest lead since they were up 20 on the Detroit Pistons in early February. They coasted the rest of the way after Harris, Vucevic and everyone else left their frustrations over what happened on the West Coast behind.
"Wins and losses, points, rebounds and all that matters," Vaughn said. "But being able to grow that way is just as important."