Jacque Vaughn gathered his players together in their locker room before they tipped-off their regular season Friday night and he told them, "Thank you." He expressed his gratitude for how they performed throughout October.
Over the two-plus hours that followed,
They throttled the
"At the end of the day, we're taking baby steps," said Glen Davis, who scored a game-high 29 points. "And we're building, we're building, and this was a good day to build."
Davis and his teammates stifled the Nuggets’ offense by keeping the ball in front of them and sprinting back in transition. They fought for loose basketballs. And they received contributions from up and down their roster, including from backup point guard E’Twaun Moore and backup big man
“It was a good feeling just to win and play well together,” said
The night’s lone negative could be costly, though. Veteran small forward
The small-forward position already was undermanned.
The two rookies expected to back-up Turkoglu —
"It's exciting," Afflalo said. "There's been a lot of change around here. The expectations haven't been too high. So for us to get off to this type of start, it's a good feeling."
Early in the second quarter, Davis collected a defensive rebound and crashed onto the parquet floor. Seated on the court, he threw a bounce pass upcourt, and the ball eventually found its way to Redick, who sank a 3-pointer.
The basket gave the Magic a 36-22 lead.
The crowd roared, and they erupted again when Davis blocked a Wilson Chandler layup attempt and Moore followed by swishing a long jumper.
“They played hard,” Nuggets coach
But Denver (0-2) regained the momentum early in the third quarter.
Denver started the period on a 15-4 run. Orlando's energy waned, and speedy Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson drove to the hoop for a few scores.
Vaughn watched calmly from his seat on the Magic bench for almost the entire stretch, often with his hand positioned against his chin.
He finally called a timeout after a jumper by Chandler cut Orlando's lead to 62-52.
From the day he was hired in late July, Vaughn pledged he would be calm on the sideline. He did that on Friday, as his college coach, North Carolina's Roy Williams, watched from the opposite side of the court.
"You don't build a winning organization in one night, and you don't become a great coach in one game," Afflalo said. "He did a great job tonight. He always seems to have a calming effect. As the intensity of the game goes up and down and players become emotional, he's been a real stable force on the bench."
A pair of youngsters lifted Orlando (1-0) early in the fourth quarter.
Moore employed some crafty dribbling to gain some space and hit a runner in the lane to put the Magic ahead 80-68.
On Denver's ensuing possession, Nelson stole the ball from Andre Miller.
Moore then missed a 3-pointer, but rookie power forward
"One of the things that we've been stressing from Day One," Vaughn said, "is that on any given possession, you don't know who's going to have the ball, who's going to score it, who's going to shoot it, and that's OK with us.
"We shared the basketball tonight. We looked for each other, and it was fun to be a part of."
For the last several weeks, the Magic have inundated the airwaves with the marketing slogan "We Will," a promise that their new-look team at least would play hard.
On Friday night, even the most cynical fan had to utter the words "They Did."
Afflalo was asked afterward if the team had made a statement.
"I don't want to go too far," he answered. "It is just one game."
But it was a good game.