Afflalo leads young Magic past Pelicans

Tim Povtak, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ORLANDO, Fla. -- In a season that will revolve around developing young talent and preparing for future draft choices, the Orlando Magic turned to one of the few able veterans to get their first victory.
Aaron Afflalo, now in his seventh season, answered the call.
He made 10 of 14 shots from the field and scored 30 points, leading the rebuilding Magic to a 110-90 victory in their home opener over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.
"I worked extra hard this summer to make sure I came back a better player," Afflalo said. "I didn't read all the reports about what people thought we are going to do this year. I just know this is a better team."
The Magic (1-2) led almost from start to finish. The Pelicans, who had beaten the Magic twice during the exhibition schedule, offered little resistance once Afflalo took charge in the second half.
Afflalo had 28 points in an overtime loss against Minnesota on Wednesday, but a late defensive breakdown and his missed shot at the end of regulation cost the Magic a chance to win. He made sure there was no close ending against the Pelicans. He hit four of his five 3-point shots.
"You move on, but you don't forget things like that (loss)," he said. "I was determined to come back and make sure we got this one."
The Magic led by as many as 30 points early in the fourth quarter. Second-year forward Maurice Harkless, who had just two points on Wednesday night, had 20 against New Orleans, including 16 in the first half before Afflalo really asserted himself.
The Pelicans (0-2) shot just 34.8 percent from the field. They were slowed by the Magic's aggressive perimeter defense that kept them from any rhythm offensively.
Anthony Davis, the No. 1 pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, led the Pelicans with 26 points and 17 rebounds, but he didn't find enough help. Guard Jrue Holiday, acquired this summer from Philadelphia to be the starting point guard, had 17 points and five assists.
"When we are able to dictate what opportunities they get, we're in good shape. To keep them under 40 percent shooting, I'll take that every night," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "It gives us a chance to win."
The Magic led by two points after the first quarter, by 18 after the second and by 25 after the third. They led by 30 early in the fourth quarter when they still were shooting better than 60 percent for the game.
Afflalo had 15 points in the third quarter when they buried the Pelicans.
The Magic made 21 of 27 free throws, a big improvement over last season when they shot the fewest free throws in the NBA (16.5 per game).
After a woeful aim in the first half, the Pelicans hit their first six shots from the field in the third quarter, but they fell asleep defensively and never cut into the Magic's early lead.
"They outworked us and they were knocking down shots," said Pelicans guard Eric Gordon, who had 12 points. "For us, it was a combination of things. We just didn't mesh tonight. There was no rhythm."
The Magic led 53-35 at intermission after closing the second quarter with a 10-2 run. Harkless had 16 points and hit all six of his free throws free throws in the first half.
Point guard Jameer Nelson sparked the Magic early with two 3-pointers in the first three minutes. The Pelicans just didn't respond.
"I thought we just came out hoping that things would go our way, and they didn't," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "We have to play with a sense of urgency that we didn't have. We allowed our (poor) offense early to dictate the rest of our game."
Harkless had 12 points in the second quarter when the Magic outscored the Pelicans 31-15.
NOTES: The Magic were without veteran C-F Solomon Jones, who sustained a torn meniscus in his left knee on Wednesday night in an overtime loss to Minnesota. He is expected to be out for four to five weeks. Jones was a surprise addition to the roster this season, but he played 37 minutes combined in the first two games. Although he finished the overtime against Minnesota, he believes the injury occurred in the second quarter. ... The Pelicans were without F Ryan Anderson, who sustained a fracture in his right second toe on Monday. He missed the opener on Wednesday and is expected to be out for another three weeks. ... The Pelicans started the season with a roster that had the fewest average games of NBA experience per player (3.6). "We're just like the Magic, a young team trying to get better," Williams said. "But I'm excited about the potential." ... To kick off their 25th season in the NBA, the Magic honored former star Tracy McGrady with a presentation in the second quarter. The Magic plan to honor their former stars throughout this anniversary season. McGrady, who grew up in central Florida, played four seasons with the Magic and averaged a franchise-high 28.1 points. He also holds the franchise scoring record for a game with 62 points against Washington.

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