Vucevic, buoyed by All-Star honor, hopes to lift Magic
Orlando center Nikola Vucevic learned he was going to be a first-time All-Star on Thursday, then celebrated with his third straight double-double in a Magic victory.
His numbers were rather routine for him -- 17 points, 10 rebounds -- but the 107-100 home victory over the Indiana Pacers was something of a rarity for Orlando, which snapped a four-game losing streak.
Vucevic and the Magic (21-31) will wrap up a three-game homestand Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets.
Vucevic, 28, was selected as a reserve from the Eastern Conference for the All-Star Game. He is averaging 20.6 points and 12.0 rebounds this season, which are both career highs. He is the first All-Star from the Magic since Dwight Howard in 2012.
"A great night, one of the best nights, obviously, that I've had in my professional career," Vucevic said on NBA.com. "It's an amazing feeling being selected as an All-Star.
"Obviously, I made it, but my team helped me so much get to this level this season. My teammates believed in me all year long and the new coaching staff pushed me every day to play even better. Once I started the season well, they all got behind me and kept pushing me to play even better."
The Nets (28-25) also have an All-Star, as guard D'Angelo Russell was named as an injury replacement for Indiana's Victor Oladipo. Russell strengthened his cause with 25 points and nine assists in Brooklyn's 117-114 loss at San Antonio on Thursday.
"We gave ourselves a chance," Russell said.
"It's hard to win in this league, especially against teams that have a good veteran group, well-coached. They're not going to beat themselves. When you go to an away game, you've got to come with your hard hat on and be ready to take that away."
Brooklyn has scored at least 100 points in 11 consecutive games, even though they have been without guard Spencer Dinwiddie for the past four due to torn ligaments in his right thumb. The Nets are 2-2 without Dinwiddie, who is averaging 17.2 points per game.
The Nets, who went 11-4 in January, will likely need a good game from second-year center Jarrett Allen to counter the good work the Magic are doing in the paint.
Fueled by Vucevic, Orlando allowed a NBA-low 9.8 second-chance points in January and, through Thursday's games, the Magic were second in the league in that category for the season. The Magic ranked seventh in opponents' points in the paint.
Allen, selected for the Rising Stars game during All-Star Weekend, is averaging 11.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Ed Davis comes off the bench to average a team-high 8.8 rebounds
The 20-year-old Allen has made highlight blocks against stars such as LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Blake Griffin. Allen was 13th in the league in blocks (1.5 per game) and 10th in field-goal percentage (57.6) through Thursday.
"Definitely in the back of my head I wanted to make it," Allen said on NBA.com about the Rising Stars game. "I think I didn't get some of the credit I deserved last year for how well I improved and now it's just showing how much the hard work has paid off."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 1, 2019