Hard work, short memory helps Kyle O’Quinn prove dependability to Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. — Add a short-term memory to the list of things Kyle O’Quinn has been able to develop between his rookie year with the Orlando Magic and this season.
The Magic’s leading shot-blocker and arguably their hardest worker had a performance he would like to forget Friday night at Charlotte. O’Quinn took an uncharacteristic 20 field-goal attempts and made only five for a team which managed only 80 points in a loss to the playoff-bound Bobcats.
So his 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots Saturday night in the Magic’s 100-92 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves were good for his peace of mind, among other things.
"You’ve got to have a short memory," O’Quinn said after being the leading rebounder in a game when the Magic had to again go without center Nikola Vucevic. "That’s easier said than done. I really just wanted to win tonight. Things were coming my way, and we were all just playing together. And we got the result we wanted."
For the better part of three quarters, that result seemed as if it might not come. Even with Kevin Love being a late scratch and with Chase Budinger turning an ankle in the opening minute, the Timberwolves led by as many as 13 points and forced the Magic into a rash of turnovers.
But the Magic began to take control in the fourth quarter and opened up some breathing room on a three-point play by O’Quinn with 2:44 remaining.
"I just wanted to bounce back," he said. "And I’m glad coach stood by my side."
Jacque Vaughn couldn’t have been happier to see how O’Quinn responded to perhaps the second-year forward’s worst game since being inserted into the starting lineup a month ago.
"I had no extra speech for him or anything, no pregame meal with him," Vaughn said. "Everything was business as usual. So I was looking forward to see how he could get himself prepared. And that’s where you want to see growth in this league. You want to have your guys, your teammates depend on you. Tonight his teammates were able to depend on his effort and his ability to be in the right place for them."
O’Quinn has often been on the floor to begin the fourth quarter when the Magic have turned games in their favor. This time, however, Vaughn went with Victor Oladipo, E’Twaun Moore, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Doron Lamb. By the time O’Quinn replaced Nicholson with 7:11 to go, the score was tied.
"They really got us back into the game defensively," Vaughn said. "I think they raised the bar a little bit."
"We were looking for some kind of spark," O’Quinn said. "(Harris) came off the bench, and he always gives us energy. He had the nice dunk and came to the bench pumped up. That might have been the turning point for us."
While Harris’ dunk gave the Magic an 80-79 lead, it wasn’t until Oladipo nailed a 3-pointer with 4:03 remaining that they went ahead to stay. Both Harris and Oladipo played the entire fourth quarter, when the Magic held the Timberwolves to 15 points and forced them into six turnovers.
"When we play together and we focus on the defensive end, good things happen for us," Harris said.
"We had to play solid defense because we didn’t want it to be a free-throw competition," O’Quinn said. "The calls were going their way a little bit."
Neither team got to the line often down the stretch. The Magic took only nine attempts for the game, one shy of their season low.
But that didn’t matter in the long run as the growth of O’Quinn from a seldom-used backup to someone the Magic can count on for 30 minutes a night took another step forward.
"You prepare yourself," he said. "You’re not just sitting there hoping that your name is called and you try to stay involved. When you know you’re about to play, you gear up from shootaround throughout the day. It’s a different feeling.
"This league is about being ready. But it’s also about being ready at the times you know you’re supposed to be ready."