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Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson sit out for the Magic against the 76ers

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In a decision that's certain to raise accusations that the Orlando Magic are trying to tank to improve their chances for the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery, the team sat veteran guards Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo for the team's game Sunday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Magic withstood their absences and won 92-81.

Magic officials said Nelson was suffering from a sore calf.

Afflalo now has missed five consecutive games. He sprained his right ankle on Feb. 21, and then an illness prevented him from making the trip to South Florida prior to Saturday's loss to the Miami Heat.

Before Sunday's game, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said he wanted Afflalo to practice before he plays in a game again. The Magic won't play again until they host the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

"I like to see guys practice, and the day we were supposed to practice [on Friday], he got sick," Vaughn said. "So what it does is it gives us two days in-between games. So we'll take advantage of that and make sure he's comfortable and feeling back to 100 percent when he gets back on the floor for us."

In the Magic's locker room before Sunday's game, Afflalo said his right ankle has healed but added he wasn't 100 percent recovered from his illness.

"I feel better, though," Afflalo said.

"The team's been on the road this whole time, and I've been here. So I haven't had the opportunity to do any full-court work with the team. Pretty much they just want me to get a day or two of practice in with the team instead of having my first day back with basketball activity be an actual game."

Since the beginning of the 2012-13 season, Magic officials have been ultra-cautious in bringing veteran players back from injuries.

Nelson, for example, missed 26 games last season and now has missed six of the team's 62 games this season.

Afflalo missed 18 games last season and has missed nine games this season.

Last season the Magic finished with the NBA's worst record, 20-62.

The Magic entered Sunday's game with the league's third-worst record, 18-43. The Milwaukee Bucks have the worst record while the Sixers have the second-worst record.

Veteran Ronnie Price started in Nelson's place.

Price hadn't played in a game since Jan. 31 and hadn't started a game since Feb. 14, 2012, when he started for the Phoenix Suns against the Denver Nuggets.

The Magic employed their 16th different starting lineup of the season. Along with Price, the Magic started Victor Oladipo, Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris and Nik Vucevic.

More assertive
Harkless has been more assertive recently.

Harkless scored 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting against Philly and has attempted 11.8 shots per game in Orlando's last four games.

Before tipoff, Vaughn was asked why Harkless' aggressiveness waxes and wanes.

"I think a lot of times that comes with youth," Vaughn said, "and that's a part of being able to process the moment and not let exterior things bother you on the floor, whether it's being on the road, whether it's 'My minutes are going up and down.' Those things sometimes can affect young players, but there's a toughness that can be gained if you can fight your way through that and be able to be professional and be ready to play."

jbrobbins@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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