Vucevic scores 28 to lead Magic over Pelicans, 104-89
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) The Orlando Magic have suddenly become the efficient offensive team coach Scott Skiles has been talking about since the season started.
Nik Vucevic scored 28 points, Evan Fournier added 20 and the Magic controlled the tempo of the entire game Monday night in cruising to a 104-89 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Tobias Harris scored 14 and Andrew Nicholson had 13 points for Orlando, which shot 54.9 percent - the fourth straight game the Magic have hit 50 percent or better. Orlando is shooting 53.2 percent during that stretch and has won three of the four games.
''We got a 9-0 lead at the start of the game, strictly by moving the ball and seeing people,'' Skiles said. ''At one point, we were 14 for 19 from the field when we had three or more passes on a possession. It's easy to see how good we can be when we're playing that way.''
The Magic are 12-5 since Nov. 25, the best record in the East during that span.
Vucevic, who hit 14 of 21 shots, tied his career high with seven assists and pulled down eight rebounds. Most of those assists came on pick-and-roll plays with Fournier, who hit seven of 12 shots and also had four assists. The Magic had 28 assists as a team.
''We're a tough matchup when we play the two-man game,'' Vucevic said. ''He can shoot, I can shoot, he can take it to the rim and I can drive, too, so it's tough for a defense. They don't really know what to expect a lot of times.''
New Orleans was just the opposite. The Pelicans got 20 points from Anthony Davis, 17 from Norris Cole and 16 from Tyreke Evans, but most of the action at the offensive end was 1-on-1 stuff.
Pelicans guard Eric Gordon, who had 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting two nights earlier in Houston, managed only six shots against Orlando and finished with three points.
''We have games where we're really locked down, very unselfish and everyone scores, but we're just not consistent with that,'' Gordon said. ''We don't do it day in and day out each game and when things don't go right, it takes a toll on our whole team.''
New Orleans was down just 50-46 at halftime, but allowed Orlando a 15-6 run to start the second half and a 12-4 spurt to begin the fourth quarter that gave the Magic an 87-69 cushion.
''They were physical with us and we didn't handle it,'' Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said of the Magic's second-half surge. ''That's our reputation and until we do something about it, that is what teams are going to do, they're going to get into us.''
New Orleans trailed 75-60 when Davis went down after a midair collision with Magic guard Victor Oladipo. Davis was defending the rim when Oladipo blew past his defender at the 3-point line and soared unimpeded at Davis, sending the Pelicans' power forward crumbling to the ground.
Davis left the court and went into the locker room before returning with just under 8 minutes left in the game. He didn't score again and the Pelicans had nowhere else to turn for someone to start a rally.
Pelicans: New Orleans is 0-15 when scoring fewer than 100 points. ... Davis leads the Pelicans in 10 of 15 single-game statistical highs this season, including points (43), rebounds (19), blocked shots (nine), minutes (50) and field goals made (14). ... New Orleans was 1 for 6 from the free throw line in the first half.
Magic: Opponents have shot 50 percent against Orlando over the last four games. ... Each of the five reserves who played in the first half had a minus rating, while all five starters had a plus rating. ... Opponents have shot more free throws than Orlando in 22 of 31 games this season.
NOT PLAYING HARD ENOUGH
Davis, who grabbed eight rebounds, was one of several players and coaches in the Pelicans locker room questioning the team's desire.
''We just don't play hard all the time,'' he said. ''It starts with our first unit. We have to set the tone for the rest of the team. Everybody has to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you play hard. There has been no time that we said our season is going to turn right now.''
TRENDING, BUT WHICH WAY?
The Magic's struggling offense has improved over the past week, at exactly the same time their defense took a downward trend. Orlando improved from 20th to 16th in points per possession, but plummeted from fourth in field goal percentage and sixth in points allowed per possession to 11th and 12th, respectively. ''We're not exactly sure what is happening,'' Skiles said. ''The fact we've had an uptick in shot-making and scoring shouldn't be a reason to quit on the defensive end and have all kinds of breakdowns. We're trying to teach these guys that it's important to play well at both ends.''
Pelicans: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.
Magic: Host the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.