Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 125, Washington Wizards 121

The Orlando Magic built up enough of a cushion to withstand the Washington Wizards’ last gasp and ride Markelle Fultz’s heroics to the finish.

Washington Wizards
121
Orlando Magic
125

The Orlando Magic knew they were not going to keep Bradley Beal down for long.

One of the league’s top scorers had sort of skated through the game to that point. He had his moments, but the Magic largely contested his shots and made it difficult for him to get going. The team held the Washington Wizards to one shot and kept a healthy distance throughout the second half.

Beal was always liable to catch fire. Then the shots started falling. The Magic could not just run out the clock. Beal was going to push the Wizards to make the game closer and closer.

A 3-pointer with about a minute to play capped off a 44-point fourth quarter and brought the Wizards back from 18 down to within one. The Magic would have to scratch and claw defensively.

The team had to run Beal off the 3-point line and got him to drive the lane. He tried kicking back out to Isaiah Thomas where Markelle Fultz was waiting.

Markelle Fultz tipped the ball out to midcourt and corralled it, driving to the rim and finishing with a two-handed jam and foul that got the NBA world buzzing. More importantly, it delivered a 125-121 Magic win at the Amway Center on Sunday, completing a 4-1 homestand.

The Magic got the big moments they needed late to hold off the Wizards. But even coach Steve Clifford did not seem too upset by the 44-point quarter his team had given up. After the game, he said he felt the team’s defense on Beal was fine during the quarter and he hit tough shots.

Orlando was able to answer and hold Washington at bay. The Magic themselves scored 37 points in the fourth quarter. The Wizards struggle defensively and it seemed throughout the game that as long as the Magic moved the ball and stayed patient to get the best shot, they would get a good shot.

That was certainly the case as the team hit on 49.4 percent of its shots, made 24 of 26 free throws and made 15 3-pointers (on 38 attempts). Orlando was always able to find an open shot and get the ball in the paint.

The Magic opened up as much as an 18-point lead in the second half as the starters just blitzed the team with patient ball movement. From there, the team just hung on and kept the Wizards at bay until they had to finish the job in the fourth.

Michael Carter-Williams left with a hip injury and D.J. Augustin dislocated his left pinky in the second quarter (he returned).

Fultz got his points the way the team wants him to. He was constantly on the attack and able to work his way toward the rim, where he is among the best guards finishing at the basket. Fultz shows a lot of great improvisation and creation off the dribble and has great creativity around the basket.

Fultz scored a career-high 19 points, making 8 of 10 shots, including two 3-pointers. He had a ton of confidence and a laser focus on the basket. The only bad thing anyone could say about this game was his four turnovers and his assist number was low. Just another hurdle for him to climb again.

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MARKELLE FULTZ

PG, Orlando Magic

A-

The NBA world was talking about Markelle Fultz after his steal and finish at the rim. It was the kind of highlight-reel closeout moment that everyone thought would be commonplace for him in his career. This was a hallmark night for Fultz. And he did so much right — especially considering Michael Carter-Williams left with a hip injury and D.J. Augustin dislocated his left pinky in the second quarter (he returned).

Fultz got his points the way the team wants him to. He was constantly on the attack and able to work his way toward the rim, where he is among the best guards finishing at the basket. Fultz shows a lot of great improvisation and creation off the dribble and has great creativity around the basket.

Fultz scored a career-high 19 points, making 8 of 10 shots, including two 3-pointers. He had a ton of confidence and a laser focus on the basket. The only bad thing anyone could say about this game was his four turnovers and his assist number was low. Just another hurdle for him to climb again.

Nikola Vucevic has been a rock in the paint for the Orlando Magic the last few games. Even the nights he does not shoot his best, he draws so much attention that he can create for others. As long as he stays in the paint or keeps pressure near the rim.

Nikola Vucevic took advantage of the Washington Wizards’ poor defense all night. Their strategy was to switch everything and so Vucevic dove to the rim on everything and looked to establish deep post position. The Magic were able to get him the ball on the move a lot and he was able to finish at the rim with ease.

Vucevic finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds, making 11 of 14 shots. He added six assists. The only times that Vucevic got in trouble was when the team tried to stop its offense to feed the ball directly to him. But he was active everywhere — including defensively where he did a great job again covering pick and rolls. This was his All-Star game.

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NIKOLA VUCEVIC

C, Orlando Magic

A

Nikola Vucevic has been a rock in the paint for the Orlando Magic the last few games. Even the nights he does not shoot his best, he draws so much attention that he can create for others. As long as he stays in the paint or keeps pressure near the rim.

Nikola Vucevic took advantage of the Washington Wizards’ poor defense all night. Their strategy was to switch everything and so Vucevic dove to the rim on everything and looked to establish deep post position. The Magic were able to get him the ball on the move a lot and he was able to finish at the rim with ease.

Vucevic finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds, making 11 of 14 shots. He added six assists. The only times that Vucevic got in trouble was when the team tried to stop its offense to feed the ball directly to him. But he was active everywhere — including defensively where he did a great job again covering pick and rolls. This was his All-Star game.

Evan Fournier has been on a tear offensively for a while now. He has been the Orlando Magic’s best offensive player all year with maybe one really bad game on his ledger. For the most part, the Magic have come to rely on him for consistent shooting and attacking. Increasingly that has also meant better passing.

Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic worked their two-man game perfectly throughout the game. But Fournier’s attack was more than that favored pick-and-roll combination. Fournier helped push the ball and did a good job keeping the ball moving. He did not fall into his shooting trap. Fournier finished with 25 points and nine assists, making 7 of 13 shots and 6 of 8 from the foul line.

Evan Fournier was busy defensively chasing Bradley Beal for the night too. He did his best keeping up with him and kept him relatively in check for three quarters. Beal got loose a few times defensively in the fourth. But Fournier was largely sticking with him. That may not have been enough to slow him down once Beal got in the zone.

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EVAN FOURNIER

G/F, Orlando Magic

B+

Evan Fournier has been on a tear offensively for a while now. He has been the Orlando Magic’s best offensive player all year with maybe one really bad game on his ledger. For the most part, the Magic have come to rely on him for consistent shooting and attacking. Increasingly that has also meant better passing.

Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic worked their two-man game perfectly throughout the game. But Fournier’s attack was more than that favored pick-and-roll combination. Fournier helped push the ball and did a good job keeping the ball moving. He did not fall into his shooting trap. Fournier finished with 25 points and nine assists, making 7 of 13 shots and 6 of 8 from the foul line.

Evan Fournier was busy defensively chasing Bradley Beal for the night too. He did his best keeping up with him and kept him relatively in check for three quarters. Beal got loose a few times defensively in the fourth. But Fournier was largely sticking with him. That may not have been enough to slow him down once Beal got in the zone.

D.J. Augustin suddenly stopped playing. He drove to the lane and dropped the ball starting to writhe in pain, holding his hand. Augustin had dislocated his pinky finger on his left hand and the Orlando Magic were suddenly down to one point guard. The play actually had a big effect, coach Steve Clifford said, the team had to burn an extra timeout and did not have one to call to stop the Washington Wizards’ fourth-quarter run.

Except Augustin came out of the tunnel to start the second half. He toughest it out and went back out on the floor and finished the game for his team. With the Magic still being careful with Markelle Fultz’s minutes, that was certainly needed.

And Augustin still produced. He had 13 points and three assists on 5-for-9 shooting. Augustin is still good at getting into the lane and hitting open threes. He can manipulate the defense. But he is still struggling to keep the ball moving with that second unit. The Magic’s worst play still comes with the groups that he is playing with. Still, no one will question Augustin’s toughness or grit.

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D.J. AUGUSTIN

PG, Orlando Magic

B

Midway through the second quarter, D.J. Augustin suddenly stopped playing. He drove to the lane and dropped the ball starting to writhe in pain, holding his hand. Augustin had dislocated his pinky finger on his left hand and the Orlando Magic were suddenly down to one point guard. The play actually had a big effect, coach Steve Clifford said, the team had to burn an extra timeout and did not have one to call to stop the Washington Wizards’ fourth-quarter run.

Except Augustin came out of the tunnel to start the second half. He toughest it out and went back out on the floor and finished the game for his team. With the Magic still being careful with Markelle Fultz’s minutes, that was certainly needed.

And Augustin still produced. He had 13 points and three assists on 5-for-9 shooting. Augustin is still good at getting into the lane and hitting open threes. He can manipulate the defense. But he is still struggling to keep the ball moving with that second unit. The Magic’s worst play still comes with the groups that he is playing with. Still, no one will question Augustin’s toughness or grit.

C.J. Miles (21 points, 6-for-7 3-point shooting) got going. The Magic were still largely able to answer the Wizards’ push to take the lead. Washington is going to have to find some semblance of defense to have a chance for consistency.

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WASHINGTON WIZARDS

3-8, 14th East

C+

The Washington Wizards are a team that relies wholly on their offense. They will try to put pressure on teams with a constant 3-point barrage and enough attacks to keep pace. They like to trap and switch defensively to try to force turnovers and get out on the break. Controlling the pace and staying patient offensively were keys for the Orlando Magic.

And Orlando did that for the most part. The Wizards got eaten up defensively with the Magic’s ball movement. It really felt like it was Orlando determining whether it was going to let Washington hang around with its ball movement. The Wizards just needed a few misses to get themselves going.

The Wizards really could not break the Magic’s half-court defense until Bradley Beal (34 points, 12-for-26 shooting) and C.J. Miles (21 points, 6-for-7 3-point shooting) got going. The Magic were still largely able to answer the Wizards’ push to take the lead. Washington is going to have to find some semblance of defense to have a chance for consistency.

The Orlando Magic begin a four-game road trip on Wednesday when they return to Toronto to take on the Toronto Raptors.