Denton: Magic vs. Thunder Analysis (2/7/14)

   

Harkless, who has played his way back into the rotation by bringing consistent effort off the bench, had the gutsiest request of the night. He played all 12 minutes of the fourth period – 10 minutes against Durant.

``It shows that (Vaughn) trusts me,’’ Harkless said. ``I didn’t guard (Durant) the whole game until the fourth quarter. I told coach I wanted to guard (Durant) and he trusted me at the end of the game. It worked out.’’

The Magic will be back at the Amway Center on Sunday night for a rematch with the surging Indiana Pacers. Orlando was within 60-58 of the Pacers in the third quarter in Indianapolis on Monday only to lose 98-79 because of a poor fourth quarter.

Orlando played as well offensively as it has all season, getting to as high as 57 percent from the floor at one point in the third quarter. Things were going so well that during a break in the action even a fan won $10,000 when he drilled a layup, a free throw and a 3-pointer at the buzzer to excite the Amway Center crowd of 15,595.

Incredibly, neither team missed a free throw in the first three quarters of the game. Both teams made their first 15 free throw attempts. The first miss of the night from the line came with 9:41 to play when Harkless misfired on his first try, but nailed the second.

Orlando opened the fourth period with reserves Kyle O’Quinn, Harkless, E’Twaun Moore, Oladipo and Harris and ripped off an 8-0 run to tie the game at 88. Minutes later, the Magic had a 93-90 lead – their first advantage since the game was 2-0 in the opening seconds.

Orlando clawed to within 88-80 by the end of the third quarter with some incredible offensive execution. The Magic made eight of their first 11 shots of the third quarter to boost their shooting percentage to an eye-popping 56.9 percent and draw within six of the Thunder. Davis made seven of his first eight shots to help the Magic score 38 points in the paint in the first three quarters.

Oklahoma City started strong and didn’t dip below the 60 percent mark until the Durant missed a fall-away jumper at the buzzer at the end of the second quarter. The Thunder shot 70 percent in the first quarter and were 20 of 31 (64.5 percent) at one point in the second quarter. That allowed them to blow out to a 65-51 halftime lead.

Vaughn said he couldn’t be prouder of his team because of the way it dug out of the early 17-point deficit and kept fighting all the way down to the final tenth of a second when Harris won it with the breath-taking dunk.

``What makes it impressive is we going into halftime on not the greatest note and for the guys to not hang their heads, make some adjustments and trust each other, it’s impressive,’’ Vaughn said. ``For the guys to continue to fight and press forward, I’m happy for them.’’

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