Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 108, Minnesota Timberwolves 102

The Orlando Magic surprised everyone with a spirited effort and some surprise performances to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves, ending a seven-game slide.

D.J. Augustin was dribbling and probing the defense, trying hurriedly to find an outlet. The Minnesota Timberwolves were closing in around them. They were the ones desperate to come back as the Orlando Magic tried to hold onto their new lead.

D.J. Augustin somehow squirted out the other side, drawing defenders to him. He dumped it off to Khem Birch who dunked it with two hands just before the shot clock expired.

Augustin’s pass gave the Magic a four-point lead. A lead that was hard fought, finally going the Magic’s way on a flying two-handed jam from Mario Hezonja.

The ball moved again and again and found the open man. Even when it was Bismack Biyombo. And he, or whoever the Magic needed, delivered in a 108-102 win over the streaking Timberwolves at Amway Center.

The Magic had one of their best games of the season. After losing 16 of their last 18 games, 27 of their last 31 and riding a seven-game losing streak, Orlando had a huge game against one of the hottest teams in the league.

The game was fairly neck and neck for the early part of the game until midway through the second quarter when Arron Afflalo and Nemanja Bjelica got into a skirmish and were ejected from the game. That play seemed to spark the Magic. Despite Minnesota holding control over the game, Orlando never went away.

The Magic got 15 third-quarter points from Evan Fournier on his way to a career-high 32 points to help pace the team through the third quarter until they could finally take over. The Magic seemed to find energy from everywhere — whether it was Bismack Biyombo early, Khem Birch in the middle or Evan Fournier and D.J. Augustin to finish.

This created a spark that has been much needed in this Orlando Magic team for a while and pushed the team to play with a drive tonight leading to some career performances by a number of Magic players.

Frank Vogel said the team was exploiting a weakness in Minnesota’s vaunted defense. The Magic kept going to the hot hand.

On top of being able to hit the three all night, it was Fournier’s ability to drive into the paint and finish some tough shots around the rim that lead to Fournier’s scoring outburst. It was much-needed for Fournier. He has struggled to recover since returning from a sprained ankle. But this was Fournier at his best.

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EVAN FOURNIER

G/F, Orlando Magic

A

Evan Fournier has not been playing particularly well as of late. But on Tuesday night against Minnesota, he changed that perception.

Fournier had a career-high 32 points shooting 12 for 22 from the field and 6 for 12 from behind the 3-point line. Fournier worked well moving off screens and came out firing. That was exactly what the Magic wanted to see. Coach Frank Vogel said the team was exploiting a weakness in Minnesota’s vaunted defense. The Magic kept going to the hot hand.

On top of being able to hit the three all night, it was Fournier’s ability to drive into the paint and finish some tough shots around the rim that lead to Fournier’s scoring outburst. It was much-needed for Fournier. He has struggled to recover since returning from a sprained ankle. But this was Fournier at his best.

Karl-Anthony Towns. Biyombo also impressively shot 4 for 5 from the free-throw line, a tremendous improvement in his free throw percentage.

In addition to the surprise scoring from Biyombo, he brought it on the defensive end in a big way with the five blocks getting them early to set the tone of the game and a few key blocks down the stretch. Couple that with the 16 rebounds and Biyombo made his presence felt in the win.

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BISMACK BIYOMBO

C, Orlando Magic

A+

Bismack Biyombo finished with 10 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks, helping set a tone for the Orlando Magic from the very beginning. He grabbed 10 rebounds in the first quarter alone, blocking three shots in that time. It created a physical dominant tone in the paint. One that carried throughout the game.

Many of his points came on good shots around the basket even including a turnaround jump shot over Karl-Anthony Towns. Biyombo also impressively shot 4 for 5 from the free-throw line, a tremendous improvement in his free throw percentage.

In addition to the surprise scoring from Biyombo, he brought it on the defensive end in a big way with the five blocks getting them early to set the tone of the game and a few key blocks down the stretch. Couple that with the 16 rebounds and Biyombo made his presence felt in the win.

Marreese Speights out tonight for personal reasons. And Birch showed up in a HUGE way.

Right from his entrance into the game, he made an immediate impact on the defensive end blocking and altering shots just like Bismack Biyombo and played great defense on Karl-Anthony Towns and Taj Gibson. His ability to help at the rim from the weak side was fantastic and something the Magic have needed all season.

He also contributed on offense too getting a number of putbacks and tip-ins. He crashed the offensive glass and had a number of nice cuts, especially one in the fourth quarter that led to a pass from D.J. Augustin and a monster dunk.

Birch finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, his first double-double of his early NBA career. Birch’s play did not go unnoticed as Frank Vogel said in his postgame press conference that Birch “is an NBA player from the moment he stepped into training camp”.

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KHEM BIRCH

C, Orlando Magic

A+

The biggest surprise and most exciting aspect of the game the whole night was the play of Khem Birch. Birch played significant minutes with Marreese Speights out tonight for personal reasons. And Birch showed up in a HUGE way.

Right from his entrance into the game, he made an immediate impact on the defensive end blocking and altering shots just like Bismack Biyombo and played great defense on Karl-Anthony Towns and Taj Gibson. His ability to help at the rim from the weak side was fantastic and something the Magic have needed all season.

He also contributed on offense too getting a number of putbacks and tip-ins. He crashed the offensive glass and had a number of nice cuts, especially one in the fourth quarter that led to a pass from D.J. Augustin and a monster dunk.

Birch finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, his first double-double of his early NBA career. Birch’s play did not go unnoticed as Frank Vogel said in his postgame press conference that Birch “is an NBA player from the moment he stepped into training camp”.

Jimmy Butler did everything in his power it seemed to keep the Timberwolves in the game finishing with 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He played within himself for most of the game but tried to put the Timberwolves on his back at the end of the four quarter to win the game. The Magic were able to thwart this effort and keep Butler from taking the game over.

 

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MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

29-17, 4th West

C+

The Minnesota Timberwolves entered the game on a five-game win streak and riding high as one of the best teams in the entire league over the last month. The Orlando Magic were one of the worst teams in that stretch. This seemed like a complete mismatch. The Timberwolves seemingly had to show up and they would win. The Magic let them know from the start this was not going to be a cakewalk.

Orlando kept the game close throughout the game, finding ways to stop the Minnesota offense. The Timberwolves had a solid clamp defensively, but the Magic never went away. They attacked the offensive glass for 15 offensive rebounds and 18 second-chance points. It was a difficult game for Minnesota to find its rhythm.

Jimmy Butler did everything in his power it seemed to keep the Timberwolves in the game finishing with 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He played within himself for most of the game but tried to put the Timberwolves on his back at the end of the four quarter to win the game. The Magic were able to thwart this effort and keep Butler from taking the game over.