ORLANDO, Fla. — Clear looks at the basket from 3-point range are a subject on which Arron Afflalo can expound at length.
Clear path fouls are an entirely different matter to him.
The Orlando Magic’s leading scorer during the first half of their season had the same number of 3-pointers made Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies as he did clear path fouls committed. The timing and disputed nature of his fouling of onetime Magic guard Courtney Lee caused it to be a focal point of the 86-81 loss that snapped Orlando’s five-game home winning streak.
But Afflalo didn’t regard the call, which occurred with 35.7 seconds to go and the Magic trailing 80-79, as what prevented them from pulling out another victory.
"I know I’m not supposed to comment on it," he said. "It’s just part of the game. There were probably other things we needed to do throughout the game so that no one call can determine the outcome of the game."
NBA rules stipulate that "if a fast break starts in a team’s backcourt and a defender fouls any offensive player when the team is going to score an easy basket, a clear path foul has occurred. When the foul happens, no defender can be ahead of the ball where he could defend against the easy basket."
The call was one of three plays reviewed by officials Jason Phillips, David Guthrie and Eli Roe during a span of less than a minute in the game’s final 1:26. As if the Grizzlies hadn’t already been effective at slowing down the tempo of the game with their grind-it-out style, the frequent consultations at the replay monitor brought the proceedings to even more of a halt.
While rookie Victor Oladipo described the foul against Afflalo as "questionable," teammate Tobias Harris was more philosophical.
"That was a tough call," Harris said. "But sometimes that’s how it goes. We can’t really complain about that."
After Lee hit both free throws, the Grizzlies retained possession of the ball. Zach Randolph drove on the taller Nikola Vucevic and hit a shot that eliminated any chance that the Magic would follow their upsets of Oklahoma City and Indiana over the weekend with another victory over a quality opponent.
A putback by Afflalo in the closing seconds did more than make the final score more representative of how tight the game was throughout the fourth quarter. It also prevented him from being held to single digits in consecutive outings for the first time all season.
Afflalo, whose scoring average has dropped a full point to 19.4 since Jan. 26, finished with 10 points after going scoreless in the first half. He admitted he wasn’t feeling entirely well before the game but refused to use his health or anything the Grizzlies employed defensively as an excuse.
"Nothing, really. I just wasn’t aggressive in the first half," he said.
But coach Jacque Vaughn knows the matchup problems the Magic have had over the years with 6-foot-9 forward Tayshaun Prince, first as a member of the Detroit Pistons and now with the Grizzlies.
"Tayshaun Prince is a good defender," Vaughn said. "Early on, we tried to establish Arron against Courtney Lee. He had some good looks."
The Magic had fewer assists (7) than turnovers (8) while managing only 17 points in each of the first two quarters. They began the second half by knocking down seven of their first 10 shots, including Afflalo’s only successful 3-pointer of the game in three attempts.
He’ll get the chance to hoist up a whole lot more of them Saturday night in New Orleans when he’s part of an eight-man field that includes Stephen Curry, Kevin Love and defending champion Kyrie Irving.
"They’re all good shooters," Afflalo said. "We’ll see. It’s just who’s got the rhythm that day. I think every shooter has been through up and down spells where their 3-point ball is pretty good at the moment. And they’ve all had moments where they weren’t shooting the ball well."
While he has shot the ball better in previous weeks, he’s not going to quibble with a 3-3 start to February after the Magic stumbled their way to a 3-14 January.
"It’s been a good team week, so to speak," Afflalo said. "Individually, I’m going to just kind of assess my first half of the season — things that I did well, things that I didn’t do well."