It was too early in the season to say that Nik Vucevic needed a bounce-back game when the Orlando Magic faced the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
But Vucevic bounced back anyway.
One night after he struggled against the Indiana Pacers, the Magic's 23-year-old center responded with a 22-point, 16-rebound, three-assist, three-block performance against the Timberwolves.
And he did it on a night when he often was matched up against one of the most physical centers in the league, his countryman and friend Nikola Pekovic.
"I just wanted to play my game and help the team win," Vucevic said.
The coach's message
Jacque Vaughn had a postgame message for his team after they suffered their heartbreaking 120-115 overtime loss to the Timberwolves.
"I'm going to keep believing in them," Vaughn told reporters. "That's what I told our guys at the end tonight: Keep believing how good we are. We're a good team."
Solomon Jones was the last man to make the Magic's regular-season roster, but it appears that he won't be a forgotten man on the end of the bench.
Jones, a power forward and center who grew up in Mount Dora, was on the floor for key stretches of the game against Minnesota. He threw down a dunk to give Orlando a 99-98 lead with 3:08 left in the fourth quarter.
He also was on the court when Kevin Love hit the game-tying 3-pointer with 10.1 seconds left in regulation.
On that play, Jones was on the unfortunate end of a moving screen by Pekovic in which Pekovic resembled an NFL offensive tackle in pass protection trying to prevent a defensive end from getting around the outside edge to get to a quarterback. Referees didn't call a foul on Pekovic.
Jones played 22 minutes against the Wolves, and he finished with four points, eight rebounds and one blocked shot.
"He's a guy that was in China last year, and I know he appreciates the opportunity," Vaughn said. "He did some really good things for us."
Rookie Victor Oladipo responded well in a pressure situation late in this second regular-season NBA game.
With the Magic clinging to a 101-100 lead, he collected a defensive rebound with 14.9 seconds in regulation. After he was fouled a few seconds later, he sank both free throws.
"Those are experiences that we can't draw up," Vaughn said. "For him to have the ball in his hands, to get a rebound, get fouled and make two free throws — that's how you gain the respect of your peers."
The home opener
Vaughn will be eager to see how his team responds when it hosts the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night at Amway Center.
It will be Orlando's third game in four nights.
"I can't simulate that in practice," Vaughn said. "We'll get some rest underneath us."
email@example.com. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins. Joshua Vinson contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun