All day Friday, starting at his team's shootaround, Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford and his assistant coaches told their players how critical it would be to keep Orlando Magic center Nik Vucevic off the glass and to counter physicality with physicality. Vucevic still outworked the Bobcats. Those efforts, as well as a key game-tying 3-pointer by Arron Afflalo late in regulation, propelled the Magic to an emotional 110-105 overtime win over the Charlotte Bobcats — a win Magic players took as a sign that they're improving. "These guys are going to be in the heat of the playoffs in a couple of weeks, and we were going toe-to-toe with those guys," power forward Kyle O'Quinn said. "We want to be like them. By beating them, it shows that we can beat the teams that are now in the playoffs and we can make our way in the East somewhere." Vucevic scored 24 points and collected a season-high 23 rebounds against a player who caused him problems in the past, Bobcats center Al Jefferson. The Magic trailed the Bobcats by 16 points late in the first quarter and by nine points early in the fourth quarter. But Orlando held Charlotte to 11-of-33 shooting in the fourth quarter and the overtime. "We kept it together," Vucevic said. "We kept fighting. Then once we got back into the game, I think we started playing very aggressively on both ends on the floor. We definitely controlled the rebounds." The Bobcats took a 97-94 lead with 14.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter, giving the Magic one last chance to force overtime. Coach Jacque Vaughn elected to put the ball in Afflalo's hands, and Afflalo used a screen by Vucevic — and Gerald Henderson's puzzling decision to go under Vucevic's screen — to launch a 3-pointer from 27 feet. Afflalo sank the shot, tying the game with 7.4 seconds to go. "It always feels good to have good moments," Afflalo said. "Stuff like that in the NBA never gets old. But in terms of my happiness, I'm more of a big-picture guy. You can have great nights and stuff like that, but there are still some realities to our situation. But it's fine." The "situation," of course, is that the Magic will be home for the playoffs, hoping that they have some luck in May's NBA Draft Lottery. Still, Orlando improved its record to 21-52, eclipsing last year's win total by one game with nine games to go. Jameer Nelson, playing for the first time since March 18, scored five of his 11 points in overtime. "First of all," Clifford said, "they outworked us on the glass. That was the difference in the game. It was all we talked about all morning. It was our biggest emphasis coming in: to keep Vucevic off the glass, to be physical. We weren't willing to do that to start the game." The Bobcats dominated throughout the first quarter and led by as many as 16 points. They sank eight of their first nine shot attempts — including going 4-for-4 from 3-point range. As Charlotte clicked on offense, Orlando looked discombobulated. The Magic committed eight turnovers in the quarter, leading to nine Bobcats points. Former Magic power forward Josh McRoberts contributed to Charlotte's fast start, sinking his first four 3-point attempts and finishing with a career-high 24 points.
Magic beat Charlotte Bobcats 110-105 in overtime
Orlando Sentinel | Mar 29