Afflalo Hurts Foot in Loss to Kings

Arron Afflalo

By John Denton
Jan. 10, 2014

SACRAMENTO – When the ball movement and player movement that have been hallmarks of the Orlando Magic’s improved offensive play of late inexplicably left them on Friday night, the results were rather predictable.

The Magic’s top offensive threats couldn’t shoot straight and the rest of the team was unable to generate much offense despite facing a Sacramento Kings team that has been defensively inept most of the season. And to make matters worse for an already short-handed Magic team, it MIGHT have lost standout guard Arron Afflalo ``for a couple of days’’ to a right foot strain.

When Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, Jameer Nelson and Afflalo all struggled on the same night, the results weren’t pretty for a Magic squad that hit droughts in the second and third quarters and lost 103-83 to the Kings.

``We’re getting much better defensively and we’re much-improved as a team defensively, but we’ve got to get back to a higher level offensively and get our (shooting) percentages back up,’’ said Afflalo, who had an X-ray on his foot after the game that proved negative. ``We have to limit our turnovers. A lot of that responsibility offensively falls on myself and I have to be better.’’

Afflalo came up limping with 4:43 in the third quarter after rolling his right foot on a layup attempt. The standout guard, Orlando’s steadiest player this season and a candidate to play in the NBA All-Star game, tried to play through the injury, but he was severely limited.

``It was just basketball stuff and it happens. I thought I just had a normal twisted ankle, but my foot started bothering me,’’ Afflalo said. ``The X-rays showed nothing crazy. Nothing was broken, but were some little strains in there that will take a couple of days to heal.

``It doesn’t worry me, but I definitely want to be healthy because I need to get back to playing at a high level to help this team win some games,’’ Afflalo added. ``I always tell guys if you can play get out there and play. But if you are going to half-effort it, sit down. I’ll be honest with myself. I don’t want to be a tough man if I’m really hurt.’’

The Magic (10-26) made just 33.3 percent of their shots and only eight of 27 3-point shots against a Sacramento team that ranks among the worst teams in the NBA in most defensive categories. Orlando had just 15 assists and turned the ball over 13 times – numbers not nearly good enough to beat a high-scoring Kings team from the rugged Western Conference.

The loss was Orlando’s sixth in a row. It also hasn’t beaten a Western Conference team since early November.

``This is very tough, especially for a guy like myself who focuses before every game to go out there and win,’’ Magic forward Tobias Harris said. ``It’s frustrating that we can’t close out these games. But at the same time we have to stay positive and we have another game tomorrow. We have to have short-term memories and get ready for tomorrow.’’

Maybe it was the effects of a long roadtrip or simply the product of a short-handed team missing a key post player, but the Magic didn’t have nearly as much crispness offensively as it did in a well-played game two nights earlier in Portland.

Afflalo, Nelson and Davis were pulled from the game with 5:09 to play and Orlando trailing 93-75. Afflalo made just three of 12 shots, but did manage 15 points by making all eight of his free throws. Davis (12 points and 12 rebounds) missed his first six shots and even threw his palms into the air when he hit his first field goal in the second quarter. And Nelson didn’t have nearly as much effectiveness as his 17-point, 10-assist effort on Wednesday by missing nine of 11 shots on Friday.

In all, Orlando’s starting five of Victor Oladipo (13 points), Harris (16 points), Nelson, Afflalo and Davis combined to make just 19 of 59 shots (32.2 percent).

``I thought overall we got some good looks, but the ball just didn’t go in,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``They score 103 and basically we kept them at 100, which has been a decent mark for us, but the ball just didn’t go in. We had a little juice at the end of the third, but you just have to fight that mental battle when you don’t see the ball go in.’’

At one point of the second quarter, Harris was Orlando’s leading scorer with 10 points yet the team had been outscored by 11 points while he was one the floor. Oladipo tried leading the Magic back in the fourth quarter, getting them within 85-75 on a dazzling spinning layup.

But whatever hope the Magic had dissolved from there as the Kings (12-22) pulled away for the easy victory.

``We definitely had to expend a lot of energy to get back into the game,’’ Vaughn said. ``That unit that was out there and got us within striking distance, it was good to see them compete and do some good things on both ends of the floor.’’

The Magic are still getting used to being without starting center Nikola Vucevic, who missed his second straight game with a concussion when he fell to the floor head first on Monday in Los Angeles. Vucevic now falls under the guidelines of the NBA’s concussion protocol, meaning he must become symptom-free and pass a battery of tests before he’s even allowed to return to practice. The Magic entered Friday 0-7 this season when they are without Vucevic because of injuries.

The Magic will be back in action Saturday night when they face the Nuggets in Denver. The team isn’t expected to arrive at its team hotel until 3 a.m. local time, making it an extraordinarily difficult challenge. In fact over the past six seasons, only three road times have played on the West Coast one night and won in Denver the next. One of those teams was the 2008-09 Magic, which beat the Lakers and Nuggets in consecutive games.

Said Vaughn: ``I don’t think they are going to cancel that game (on Saturday), so we better get ready. This is what you do. If I’m a doctor and I have a surgery scheduled for tomorrow I can’t just stop. I have to play and be ready. I have to be mindful of things my professionalism is about. We have to stay ready. This is what you were born and raised to do – take on the next challenge and be ready.’’

Orlando will be off on Sunday before closing its five-game, 10-day roadtrip in Dallas on Monday.

The Kings entered Friday’s game ranked 29th out of 30 NBA teams in points allowed and field goal percentage allowed, yet they gave Orlando fits for three quarters. The Magic needed 30 minutes to break 50 points and their shooting percentage hovered in the low 30s percentage-wise much of the night.

Down six at the half, Orlando couldn’t get much offense going and fell behind by as much as 17 points in the third quarter. The Magic did finish the quarter with a flurry and was within 76-64 by the start of the fourth quarter.

Orlando started the game exceptionally well, but the second quarter proved to be a problem once again. A Magic team that led 24-18 after one period hit just four of 17 tries in the second quarter and trailed 46-40 at intermission.

``Obviously we relaxed a little bit and they went on a big run,’’ Harris said. ``The big thing for us is we have to respond to teams’ runs, not be discouraged and not put our heads down.’’

Davis missed his first six shots and when he finally found the range on a free throw line jumper in the second quarter he threw his palms up in the air. It also didn’t help matters for the Magic that Nelson (one of six) and Afflalo (three of eight) also struggled to generate much offense in the first half.

Orlando got nice lifts off the bench early on from Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless.

Nicholson, who was down briefly after getting poked in the eye, buried a corner 3-pointer and grabbed six rebounds in the first half. Harkless, who is trying to build off two other solid performances this week, had a steal for a dunk and a put-back layup early on to keep the Magic within striking distance.

``Shots just weren’t falling and offense is sometimes fickle with shots falling and not falling,’’ said Nicholson, whose eye was bright pink from the poke. ``We just have to get back and play D when the offense struggles.’