Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 103, Golden State Warriors 96

Aaron Gordon returns for the Orlando Magic after spraining his ankle two weeks ago. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Aaron Gordon returns for the Orlando Magic after spraining his ankle two weeks ago. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic were left for dead after another frustrating third quarter. Then they fought back and scored the biggest upset of their season.

103. 38. Final. 96. 41

The third quarter Golden State Warriors had arrived to steamroll the Orlando Magic. Their defense was devastating and choked off the Magic’s ability to create good shots and drive into the paint. They could not set anything up or get the free-flowing offense that staked them an eight-point lead.

DeMarcus Cousins turned a turnover into a coast-to-coast fast break as he awoke to bully Nikola Vucevic on the block. Then it was Stephen Curry‘s turn, picking up from his first quarter barrage to twist the Magic defense again.

Golden State turned a 13-point deficit into a 13-point lead when it was all said and done. The Warriors sharpening their focus seemed like it was enough to bury the Magic. It was as everyone expected. Orlando was outscored 30-11 in the third quarter and it seemed like the final 12 minutes would be a formality.

Somehow the tinder got sparked. A game after the team seemed like it was reeling with every mistake, suddenly they started gaining confidence.

Terrence Ross hit a few 3-pointers. Isaiah Briscoe and Khem Birch anchored the defense. The Warriors started missing shots. And Nikola Vucevic, who had played perhaps a bit too loose with his pick and roll coverage, started setting a harder line.

Steve Clifford said what might have been obvious after the game. The Magic simply started hitting shots in the fourth quarter compared to the third. But those shots were clearly very big.

Terrence Ross tied the game after the Magic trailed by 13 in the fourth quarter. His finding Aaron Gordon on a pick and roll for an open three as the defense tried to crowd Terrence Ross before he could shoot again. That gave the Magic a one-point lead.

Then it was D.J. Augustin catching Stephen Curry looking the other way as he brought the ball down the floor. He zoomed past him to the basket for a lay-up and a five-point lead.

After Golden State answered, Aaron Gordon delivered the final blow. Vucevic missed a hook shot over Cousins, but Gordon willed himself to the basket for the putback tip in.

It was a representation of all the good this team can do and be.

The Magic were down and out for a moment against the defending champions (without Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala). But they found a way back in and they found a way to win 103-96 at Amway Center on Thursday.

Orlando was masterful defensively except for the third quarter and forced Golden State’s powerful offense to search for answers throughout the game, shooting just 40.2 percent from the floor and 9 for 40 from beyond the arc. The Magic had moments of weakness but they pushed through them.

And, most importantly, they found a way. After a few days of trying to answer questions about themselves, they answered them affirmatively again. And got a win they can truly hang their hat on.

B+. Aaron Gordon can make a living getting out in transition and crashing the glass for rebounds. That is a big part of his role and what he has to do. When teams do put a mismatch on him, he has to be able to attack it and take advantage. A team like the Golden State Warriors loves to switch and so that can put Gordon in those favorable matchups.<p>Gordon continually found a way to attack them and get to the basket throughout the game. Whether it was the thunderous jams he put on in the early parts of the game or the smooth jumper he displayed later on. Gordon found his rhythm in scoring a team-high 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting. Adding in 15 rebounds was a big bonus with Nikola Vucevic preoccupied with DeMarcus Cousins.</p><p>Gordon still probably overdribbles and struggled some when he was put in isolation. The Magic had some issues identifying mismatches. Gordon especially would often times dribble right back to get a screen and negate the mismatch he just created. Gordon still has to get smarter with his attack. But he was very good more than bad and his offense and energy were key to pacing the Magic.</p>. F. Orlando Magic. AARON GORDON

A-. <a href=. PG. Orlando Magic. D.J. AUGUSTIN

B-. Nikola Vucevic has always had trouble with DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is a beast on the block and his physicality has always given Vucevic trouble. Point guards like Stephen Curry also give Nikola Vucevic a lot of problems. He tends to sit back defensive on pick and rolls. He is better at setting his line and directing guards where he wants them, but getting out to the 3-point line is a bit tough.<p>Both took advantage of him throughout the game. Cousins finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds and was able to get a lot around the basket. Curry in the third quarter especially took advantage of the space Vucevic gave him and rained in threes.</p><p>But both those issues fixed themselves in the fourth quarter. He was able to hold his ground against Cousins and push him off the block defensively. He started setting his line better with Curry to contest 3-pointers. He never got himself going, scoring 12 points and grabbing 13 rebounds on 4-for-15 shooting. It was one of his worst games of the season. But his six assists and strong play in the fourth quarter had him there when the Magic needed him.</p>. C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC

Orlando Magic. ISAIAH BRISCOE. A. The Orlando Magic were certainly happy to see <a href=. PG

C-. The Golden State Warriors decided to sit Kevin Durant to give him some rest. They made that decision. They had plenty of other weapons they could go to. And in various moments, they stepped up to the plate. The Orlando Magic saw the Golden State Warriors at their most destructive in the third quarter.<p>Yet, it was not enough. Not close. Golden State struggled to get good shots consistently. Orlando’s reputation as a good defensive team is starting to grow and not just be some statistical anomaly. Their strategy and coverages were solid and tight. But the Warriors should have beaten them. They got their open looks throughout the game.</p><p>Golden State should be most disappointed with its own defense. Orlando had a lot of free run in the paint for all but the third quarter. The Magic were able to run their offense freely for most of the game. That cannot happen. Golden State is built on defense and passing. For most of the game, the Warriors did neither of those things. And they lost because of it.</p>. 43-19. 2nd West. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

The Orlando Magic begin a three-game road trip Saturday in Indianapolis against the Indiana Pacers.

They are now tied for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and the Southeast Division lead with the Charlotte Hornets. They trail the Detroit Pistons by 1.5 games for the seventh seed.

Next. Orlando Magic Third Quarter MVP: Nikola Vucevic. dark

With seven Orlando Magic wins or seven Cleveland Cavaliers losses, the Magic will be eliminated from receiving the top Lottery odds.