The Orlando Magic’s decision to buy out Glen Davis’ contract clears the way for the team to allocate more minutes to forwards Tobias Harris, Kyle O’Quinn and Andrew Nicholson. It even helps Maurice Harkless and Victor Oladipo because Harris can shift more often from small forward to power forward.
On Friday night, in their first game with Davis off their roster, the Magic and their youngsters accomplished something the franchise hadn’t done since Jan. 16, 2012.
They defeated the New York Knicks.
The Magic recovered from a 14-point deficit midway through the third quarter and beat the Knicks 129-121 in double-overtime at Amway Center.
“A lot of people stepped up tonight,” Oladipo said.
True, but no one did more than Oladipo. The Magic’s prized rookie played the entire fourth quarter and both overtimes as Jameer Nelson sat on the bench, and Oladipo finished with 30 points, nine rebounds, a career-high 14 assists and just three turnovers.
“He was special,” said Magic coach Jacque Vaughn. “It was fun to be a part of. I told those guys that.”
The Magic withstood Carmelo Anthony’s 44-point performance and snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Knicks.
And the Magic closed the game out without four regular starters on the court. Davis was gone, and Nelson was out of the game because Oladipo was more effective. Swingman Arron Afflalo injured his right ankle with 2:23 remaining in the second overtime and didn’t return. Center Nik Vucevic fouled out with 2:08 to go.
Afflalo helped give the Magic the boost they needed.
On the play where Afflalo turned his ankle, he fed the ball to Oladipo, who converted a layup to put
Orland ahead 117-113.
After the Knicks cut the lead to 117-115, Oladipo scored on a drive into the paint as Tim Hardaway Jr. fouled him. Oladipo hit the free throw to put the Magic ahead 120-115 with 1:28 to go in the second overtime.
O’Quinn swished a key jumper with just under a minute left to extend the Magic’s lead to 122-118, but Anthony responded with a 3-pointer.
The Magic were clinging to that 122-121 lead when Oladipo received a pass from E’Twaun Moore. Oladipo drove along the baseline and dunked as he was fouled by J.R. Smith, sending many fans within the announced crowd of 16,498 to their feet. Oladipo made the free throw, extending the Magic’s lead to 125-121 with 30.7 seconds left.
“It feels good just to get a win,” said Harkless, who replaced Afflalo after Afflalo’s injury. “We didn’t give up. We just kept fighting.”
Afflalo scored a team-high 32 points, while Harris added 22 points.
The Magic had a chance to win the game at the end of the first overtime. But Vucevic missed a short layup attempt off a feed from Oladipo just before time expired.
In the end, it didn’t matter.
The youngsters clinched the victory.
“I thought everyone who finished off the game did a great job,” Afflalo said after doctors examined him and X-rays revealed no fractures.
“Moe and Tobias did the best they could with Melo, and Victor stepped up and made some big plays offensively. Everyone did a good job. It was a collective effort.”
The Magic will travel to Toronto on Saturday to begin a road trip on Sunday, and they might go north without Afflalo, who said he’ll be reevaluated Saturday by the team’s medical staff.
If Afflalo doesn’t make the trip, the Magic (17-40) will need more contributions from Oladipo and their second-year players and third-year players.
But now that Davis is gone, the youngsters will receive more playing time and more responsibility no matter what.
“I said in the shootaround there’s going to be guys having an opportunity to play, because we’re obviously down Glen,” Nelson said. “Then you never know what’s going to happen in the game.”
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.