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