Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 119, Los Angeles Lakers 118

Markelle Fultz recorded his second career triple-double as the Orlando Magic defeated the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Markelle Fultz recorded his second career triple-double as the Orlando Magic defeated the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic were without several players and undermanned. But Markelle Fultz and Aaron Gordon led an energetic win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

119. 38. 118. 20. Final

It did not matter that before tip-off, the Orlando Magic announced that D.J. Augustin, Michael Carter-Williams and Evan Fournier would all miss the team’s game against the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers. The Magic entered the game knowing they would be without two of their three point guards and undermanned everywhere else.

None of that mattered. Orlando put itself in a position to win. Late in the game, the Lakers stormed back into the game after trailing by 21 points in the third quarter. They held the lead and it looked like they would collapse against the weight from LeBron James dealing 19 assists.

Then things changed quickly. Orlando suddenly found some rhythm after struggling to shoot. Nikola Vucevic hit several clutch shots after missing shots throughout the night.

Aaron Gordon skied through the lane for a one-handed jam over JaVale McGee drawing the foul. He would do it again, circling under the rim and finishing over another defender as the Staples Center crowd started to buzz.

But they still had James and his host of shooters to guide them to the end. Orlando had seen stars make their play and push the team off wins.

The Magic had a guy making plays on his own this time to carry them to the end. It was not just Aaron Gordon thundering toward the rim and finishing above it. It was Markelle Fultz finishing under and around it.

Markelle Fultz took it right at James on several occasions throughout the game. But with 38.6 seconds left and a two-point lead, Fultz attacked the paint and hit a spinning shot over McGee to give the Magic a four-point lead. James hit a three to close the gap.

Markelle Fultz finished the game, driving right at LeBron James and finishing over him, completing a masterful triple-double performance — he got the final assist on a needed 3-pointer from Nikola Vucevic late.

Fultz collapsed at midcourt cramping from playing a season-high 33 minutes. But he did the work.

B.J. Johnson switched onto LeBron James on the Lakers’ final possession. He stuck with James through two fakes and challenged his 3-pointer as it fell off no good. The Magic nearly gave the game away, but they withstood all the injuries and absences to defeat the Western Conference-leading Lakers 119-118 at Staples Center on Wednesday.

Orlando got contributions from everyone on the roster — including two-way player B.J. Johnson and fresh signee Gary Clark. The team relied on a 2-3 zone for long stretches just to get a breather and put a different look on Los Angeles.

Orlando built a 21-point lead on transition and defense. The team hit a rut in the third quarter and gave up the lead. And then the Magic leaned on their young players to guide them to the finish.

And they took down the current kings of the West.

A+. What is there to say about Markelle Fultz at this point? When the Orlando Magic show him confidence and let him take over games, he runs through the lane and gets where he wants, whipping passes through tiny windows and on target to teammates. He plays at the pace the Magic want to play at, looking to get up the floor but staying under control.<p>Fultz has shown plenty of flashes of his first overall pick potential. But nothing quite like this. Nothing where he controlled the full tempo fo the game, making an impact at every stage of the game and every phase of the game. He got to the basket and finished. He attacked the glass to get rebounds and he found teammates when the defense collapsed around him.</p><p>Fultz recorded his second career triple-double with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He was everywhere on the floor and confidently shooting. Late in the game, it was Fultz’s show. The team put the ball in his hands to make the plays and the decisions and he finished. Finished tough shots too. It was an astounding performance from Fultz. One that already feels like is more than repeatable for him.</p>. PG. Orlando Magic. MARKELLE FULTZ

AARON GORDON. A. Everyone has waited for Aaron Gordon to take his next step and look like an All-Star. That moniker is not merely about statistics but a responsibility. They have to be the best player on offense and defense. They have to step up their game and find a way to push their team forward. For the first time this year, Gordon took that mantle and that responsibility and delivered.<p>Aaron Gordon’s first responsibility was to match LeBron James’ minutes and try to defend one of the best players in the league. That is always relative — James had 19 points, 19 assists and five turnovers on 7-for-19 shooting. He still had big moments and made big plays. But Gordon was extremely disciplined too. He stayed down on every fake and only had two reach-in fouls. Gordon made every James shot difficult. He only found creases because the Magic were sending some late doubles to slow him down.</p><p>That kind of defensive effort would be great. But Gordon also had one of his best offensive games of the year too. He finished with 21 points and six rebounds on 7-for-12 shooting. He had the two big dunks in the fourth quarter to help close the game. He rarely was falling into his dribbling trap, making quick moves and getting into his shot effectively. The ball moved a lot better and it found him as it usually does when the offense works.</p>. F. Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC. C. The only player who seemed to struggle most clearly in this game was Nikola Vucevic. That is odd because Vucevic is usually the most consistent and reliable player for the Orlando Magic. Orlando runs a lot of its offense for Vucevic. Losing him and losing his production had the potential — especially with the absences — had the potential for derailing the whole team.<p>It nearly did. The Orlando Magic had a 21-point lead in the third quarter when the Los Angeles Lakers started to lock down defensively and inch back into the game. Orlando turned to its reliable center to try to carry them to the finish. Vucevic got all the shots he wanted — post-ups on the block, pops for three, kick-outs to mid-range jumpers. He missed them all. And this is a production business.</p><p>Vucevic finished with 19 points on 7-for-18 shooting. He had only four rebounds. He simply missed shots. Shots he has to make. Fortunately, Orlando got what the team needed from Vucevic in the end. He has a shot goaltended late to give the Magic a lead. And then he answered a 3-pointer to give Orlando a four-point lead again. He at least stepped up when the team needed it.</p>. C

Orlando Magic. WESLEY IWUNDU. A. With <a href=. G/F

33-8. 1st West. LOS ANGELES LAKERS. C+. The Los Angeles Lakers should know they have to play better. They are a dangerous team — even without <a rel=

The Orlando Magic have reached the midpoint of the season at 20-21. They are seventh in the Eastern Conference, 1.5 games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets. Their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 35 Orlando Magic wins or 35 Detroit Pistons or Chicago Bulls losses.

Next. Orlando Magic must face their truths at trade deadline. dark

The Orlando Magic return to action Thursday against the LA Clippers at the Staples Center.