The Orlando Magic played one of their best 12-minute stretches of the entire season Wednesday night. From the final minute or so of the third quarter until the final minute or so of the fourth, a group primarily made up of youngsters Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, Doron Lamb, Victor Oladipo and Kyle O'Quinn dominated the Atlanta Hawks.
Orlando's problems occurred in the first 35 minutes and in the final minute.
The Magic allowed a 3-point lead with 40 seconds left to play to slip away and lost 112-109 at Amway Center.
"It's tough," Oladipo said. "We had it won, really."
Ahead 109-106 with 38.8 seconds remaining, Orlando's Glen Davis fouled Atlanta's Jeff Teague, and Teague made both free throws. Atlanta's Pero Antic absorbed a foul by Jameer Nelson with 22.8 seconds left and made his foul shots to put the Hawks ahead for good. Antic then made two more free throws with 11.1 seconds to go.
The Magic had a chance to send the game into overtime, but the Hawks tipped a handoff from Harris to Nelson following the inbounds pass. Although Nelson recovered the ball, the tip upset the timing of the play — which was designed for either Arron Afflalo or Oladipo — and Nelson had to settle for a desperation 3 as time expired.
Nelson's shot missed.
"Hopefully," coach Jacque Vaughn said, "we were looking to get a little bit more than the shot that we got at the end."
Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Magic (11-32) played much of the night as if they were half-asleep, especially on the defensive end of the court. The Hawks (22-19), on the other hand, looked wide-awake.
Atlanta controlled the third quarter and built an 86-71 lead.
But Lamb, Oladipo and Harkless closed the quarter out with 3-pointers and regained the game's momentum with Harris and O'Quinn.
Oladipo scored 15 points in the second half, while Harris added 11 and Lamb contributed 10.
"They're young and they had a lot of energy," Afflalo said. "They kind of have a nothing-to-lose mentality. They were out there playing together, playing hard, and they made a pretty inspiring run. So I've got to commend them for that."
Oladipo finished with a team-high 24 points and also seven rebounds and seven assists. Harris added 19 points and 12 rebounds.
"They made a heck of a comeback," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "Some of the shots they made were very difficult."
One night earlier, the Magic lost to the Brooklyn Nets 101-90, and the team's chartered jet didn't land at Orlando International Airport until 3 Wednesday morning.
The fatigue showed on the defensive end throughout the first half and on both ends of the court in the third.
But the youngsters changed the dynamic.
"They played hard," Teague said. "Their second unit came in and gave a lot of effort. Doron Lamb is like my little brother's best friend, so I was happy to see him get out on the floor but not to play the way he was playing."
Lamb and his fellow Magic youngsters almost delivered a knockout punch.
Lamb had appeared in just 20 of Orlando's first 42 games, and when he played, he played sparingly.
On Wednesday, he scored a season-high 13 points.
But the entire group who bridged the third and fourth quarters played well.
"We just enjoy playing with each other," Harkless said. "We play for each other, and we're out there sharing the ball and covering for each other on defense and just playing hard. That's pretty much what sparked our energy."
That energy, however, was largely confined to that 12-minute stretch from late in the third quarter to late in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks took advantage the rest of the game.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.