Absence of Tobias Harris limits Magic in loss to Heat

BY foxsports • November 22, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Fifteen games into their season, the Orlando Magic continue to find it a challenge to get enough people healthy and contributing at the same time.

They began the season without Channing Frye and Victor Oladipo. They've been without Kyle O'Quinn for the past three weeks. They lost rookie Aaron Gordon for an indefinite length of time a week ago. They didn't have Evan Fournier on Wednesday night in a lopsided loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

And when the Miami Heat made the first of their two visits Saturday night, the Magic were forced to get by without their leader in scoring and minutes played, forward Tobias Harris.

Considering the Heat got four 3-pointers from center Chris Bosh and two from power forward Shawne Wiliams in their 99-92 victory, it would be hard to not imagine Harris and Gordon making a difference if they were available. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn called them "two of our most versatile guys" and admitted that for all of his team's contesting of shots, Bosh's hot hand was too much to overcome.

"I think we forget that Chris Bosh averaged nearly 30 (points) for a couple years there in Toronto," said Frye, who struggled to a 1-of-4 shooting night from 3-point range. "Even I said, 'Hey, it's been a while since you've been this aggressive.' "

Fournier, who started at Harris' usual spot, didn't make a 3 until there was 1:49 remaining. The Magic were down by 11 shortly before then, and while they cut the Heat's lead to 96-92 on a floating jump shot by Elfrid Payton, that was as close as they got down the stretch.

While he doesn't tend to hoist up as many long-range shots as Frye and Fournier, Harris is able to spread the floor. Of the four players Vaughn brought off his bench against the Heat, only Ben Gordon posed any sort of threat beyond the paint. And it might have been too much to expect Gordon to come up big a second night in a row after helping spark the Magic's comeback from a 23-point deficit at Charlotte.

Even with Nikola Vucevic having another monster performance at the Heat's expense, the Magic lacked the necessary firepower and couldn't get many stops in the fourth quarter.

"When Evan was out -- he's a big part of what we do," said Vucevic, who finished with 33 points and 17 rebounds. "And Tobias is one of our leading scorers and does a lot for us. So it's tough when you don't have those guys on the court. But that's part of the game. Every team has some injured players, unfortunately. We've just got to play through it."

Harris' injury probably isn't severe enough to keep him out of the Magic's next game Monday night at Cleveland. His return would be welcomed, although that might not offset the problems Oladipo continues to have through six games.

Oladipo came out aggressive but wasn't much of a factor after the first quarter. He also finished with more turnovers (3) than assists (2) in 34 minutes and was nowhere as much of a disruptive force on defense as Payton, who recorded five steals in a reserve role.

"He's still trying to gain a rhythm with no training camp, no preseason," Vaughn said. "Basically, this is his training camp and preseason. We will continue to have trust and faith in him."

Through three quarters, the Magic appeared headed to perhaps their lowest-scoring game of the season as they couldn't capitalize on their advantage in points in the paint.

"Missed shots are going to happen during the course of the year," Frye said. "I think we've been shooting pretty damn well up until now. So I'm not worried about the shots. Defensively, we've got to be a little more on the same page."

The Magic can cite the absence of Harris. Then again, the Heat were without Dwyane Wade and still managed to shoot 52 percent from the floor in pulling out a victory.

"They're a veteran team, a championship team," Frye said. "And they did a better job. But one out of two on a back-to-back -- there could be worse things."

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.