Markelle Fultz scored a career-high 25 points and went on a personal 7-0 run in the fourth quarter to lead the Orlando Magic past the Brooklyn Nets.
With the score tied at 78 in the fourth quarter, the Orlando Magic needed someone to look to as their second unit got them into a mess. A lead that was once at 16 had disappeared.
The Magic went nearly 10 minutes without a field goal as their 12-point lead slowly dwindled. The lead they had built with a dominant 32-point second quarter gave way to a game that had little energy and little flow.
Someone had to step up and change things.
That player was Markelle Fultz. He went on a personal 7-0 run attacking the basket at will and finishing it off with a corner 3-pointer to give the Magic the cushion they would need.
The Orlando Magic held on for a 101-89 win over the Brooklyn Nets from there, pulling even in the standings for seventh place in the Eastern Conference, ahead on percentage points.
The night did not start out perfectly for Markelle Fultz as his first shot was an airball. But he ignited the Magic offense with nine points in the first four minutes of the game as the Magic burst into an early lead.
For Magic star Nikola Vucevic, it was a bizarre night too. He did not score until midway through the third quarter but finished with an astonishing 24 rebounds. He was eventually able to get some offense together and finished with a double-double with 11 points. Nikola Vucevic tied Markelle Fultz with a team-high +18.
The Magic were mostly good defensively as they contested Nets’ shots and forced point guard Spencer Dinwiddie to 16 points, well below his season average of 22.9 points per game.
Joe Harris would find himself hitting open looks, making five of his six shots in the first half, but Wesley Iwundu led the Magic in plus-minus in the first half at +11, and finished the game with a season-high 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting.
But the Nets struggled to shoot overall. Brooklyn made only 33.3 percent of its shots and hit only 10 of its 47 3-pointers (21.3 percent). The poor shooting prevented Brooklyn from taking advantage of its offensive rebounds and Orlando’s turnovers (an uncharacteristic 20).
Orlando lost its spark in the third quarter and nearly gave up its lead. In fact, the Magic did give up their lead for a brief moment. Fultz reignited that spark and delivered Orlando a crucial win.
MARKELLE FULTZPG, Orlando Magic
He has the ball in his hands a lot and he penetrates incredibly well. He has a gift for finding cutters and tonight was one of the greatest games of his young career as he finished with a career-high 25 points with four assists and five rebounds. That includes several impressive passes to find players around the basket.
Fultz was strong defensively throughout the game too. He tallied two steals. And Fultz was again unafraid to shoot, making 11 of his 20 shots. The only complaint was his four turnovers. Those came from some aggressive passes through tight windows. A sign of the confidence he had. The Magic do not win without Fultz and he was the difference in the game.
NIKOLA VUCEVICC, Orlando Magic
On most nights, Vucevic is the pulse of the offense as he gets fed in the post, but he was getting pressured and was not able to get comfortable on the block. He shot just 3 for 12 from the field. He struggled to get much of anything going, sometimes forcing shots over contested defense. The frustration was written on his face.
That did not take away from his defensive game. Vucevic was active deflecting passes and challenging shots. From there, he rebounded, outmuscling bigger players for boards and simply reaching over smaller players. With everything else he contributed, he deserves this above-average grade.
WESLEY IWUNDUG/F, Orlando Magic
He got going early with a quick 3-pointer. He gets a minus because his man was the only Brooklyn Nets player that scored at a high clip during the first half. That changed in the second half. Wesley Iwundu was much more disciplined then and contested every shot from him to prevent any run. Iwundu was a big part of the magic’s solid perimeter defense.
When he was on the floor, the Magic played better. His season-high 12 points could be a sign of things to come as he could grow into a more volume scorer, but his ceiling is that of a nice role player that can contribute solid defense and good cuts to the basket. If he can be as good as he was tonight during Jonathan Isaac’s injury, the Magic cannot ask for much more.
D.J. AUGUSTINPG, Orlando Magic
A strange aspect of the game for D.J. Augustin was three missed free throws throughout the contest. He is a normally sure bet for makes on the charity stripe, so that is a minor black mark, but other than that, Augustin was a strong player for the Magic tonight.
He was struggling for much of the third quarter to keep the Magic in rhythm. The team struggled defensively with the second unit in the second half. Augustin’s missed free throws hurt most here as the Nets climbed back into the game. Orlando missed several makeable shots, including Augustin who seemed to be forcing things to get the team going.
BROOKLYN NETS16-19, 8th East
Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie were by far the two best players on the court for the Nets, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot also had a good performance for the team’s second unit during their run in the third quarter as he finished with nine points. Without Kyrie Irving, this team does not have a star, and they struggle to score when Dinwiddie gets focused.
Brooklyn let the ball get stagnant far too often. And the Nets fell into the Magic’s defensive traps consistently. Orlando had its way defensively so long as the team did not foul.
The Magic improve to 17-20 and come into a virtual tie for seventh in the Eastern Conference with the Nets. Orlando remains one game behind Brooklyn in the loss column.
The Orlando Magic will host the Washington Wizards on Wednesday hoping for another win against the team from the nation’s capital.