SACRAMENTO, Calif. — J.J. Redick felt compelled to say something after the Orlando Magic lost the other night to the Utah Jazz.
With sweat still dripping from players' brows and fans filing out of the arena, Redick told his teammates in their postgame locker room that he should've played better in the fourth quarter. He faulted himself for his 1-for-3 shooting and his three turnovers. By extension, he partly blamed himself for the loss.
It's not uncommon for players to say something after a game's final buzzer, but in Redick's case, it reflected the important role he's taken on this season. Now, more than at any time in his seven-year NBA career, the Magic are depending on him to spark the offense, especially down the stretches of games.
Asked about his reaction to the loss, Redick responded, "I expect a lot of myself and I expect a lot of our team. Losing stinks."
Redick has emerged as one of the NBA's most valuable sixth men and one of the Magic's most valuable players. He entered Friday night's game against the Sacramento Kings averaging a career-high 13.9 points per game, the seventh-highest scoring average among reserves.
Jacque Vaughn appears to have settled on his lineup for clutch late-game situations: Jameer Nelson at point guard, Arron Afflalo and Redick on the wings, Glen Davis at power forward and Nik Vucevic at center, with Nelson and Redick as the key play-makers.
Redick's role this season has shifted somewhat. Not only is he expected to make long-range shots and hit key free throws, he also serves as a de facto point guard on the floor. This season, he's averaging a career-best 5.1 assists per game, 1.9 of them in the fourth quarter.
"He's constantly moving," Afflalo said.
"He's another guy that, not just in his NBA career but his college career and high school, he was counted on to make plays in the fourth quarter. So he has a certain characteristic or confidence about himself that, in the fourth quarter, he can make plays and make shots. That's always a luxury to have guys who want the ball late in the game."
Redick and Vaughn spoke informally Thursday about the loss to the Jazz, and they arrived at a similar conclusion.
"Two weeks ago, we probably would've gotten blown out in that game," Redick said.
"That's a game where the lead got to 11 [actually 13], and we might have folded. But we kept fighting. We got the lead. We had the ball. It was a game we were pretty much in a position to win. So to lose a game like that, it hurt."
In the fourth quarter of the Magic's win Sunday over the Los Angeles Lakers, Redick distributed five assists without a turnover and drained a 3-pointer. In the fourth quarter of Monday's win over the Golden State Warriors, he dished out three assists without a turnover and scored 10 points.
No wonder his finish in Utah upset him.
"That's what makes him good," Vaughn said. "He's critical of himself, and a lot of times, that's the hardest thing for a player to be. And that's why he's become the player that he is. He'll self-examine, and I'll put the ball in his hands again in the fourth quarter, for sure."
Perhaps as early as Friday night against the Kings.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun