The Orlando Magic had taken the lead back in the fourth quarter. But their bad habits led to a late-game collapse to the Golden State Warriors.
The Orlando Magic had betrayed themselves throughout the course of their first trip to the Chase Center.
They built a 13-0 lead with great ball movement and fantastic energy, only to let it drop within three minutes. The Golden State Warriors, owners of a 10-game losing streak, were playing determined and never let their energy drop. They came back and the game quickly became a battle.
Orlando fell down by as much as 13 points. The Magic suddenly could not get a shot to fall or get into the paint. The pain of frustration that has been present so many times began to creep in. And the Magic were getting torn apart and outhustled. The Magic looked worn out and tired and, worst of all, lethargic.
Still, the Warriors are the worst team in the Western Conference. They would make mistakes. And if the team locked into focus, they could make their run.
It happened as the team turned it over to Markelle Fultz more and more. He weaved his way through the lane, picking out teammates and finding seams to get to the basket or set up his mid-range jumper.
He got two Warriors to dive with him down the lane when he whipped the ball back to Nikola Vucevic for a one-handed jam. The Magic were back in the lead. It looked like this was a team they could indeed sleepwalk through and win.
Not the case. There is no team like that for this Magic team. The Warriors finished the game on a 19-4 run, capping it off with a D’Angelo Russell pull-up 3-pointer over Evan Fournier for a 109-95 win Saturday at the Chase Center.
Orlando was left without much explanation for why their energy was not good. Nor any explanation why the trio of Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon combined to shoot 14 for 40 (35 percent). Or once again how the Magic struggled to get into the paint for free throws or get open 3-point shots.
Let alone why the Magic continually struggled to track 3-point shooters or stop dribble penetration. The team was simply not locked in. Against any team in the NBA playing with energy and attention, this was an effort that would get them beat.
And after a surprising split in Los Angeles, the team now has to scramble back East to salvage a .500 record on the road trip. And wonder what could have been with the opportunities they let slip.
NIKOLA VUCEVICC, Orlando Magic
For Vucevic especially, it was a frustrating night. While he did a decent job on the glass with 13 rebounds, his energy and precision was lacking throughout the evening. The Golden State Warriors went 5-out a lot and put Vucevic in bad positions for him on the perimeter. The Magic were scrambling defensively without their big to help them get set. Vucevic still has to get better settling in there.
Usually, Vucevic makes up for this with his offensive output. But even that was unreliable in this game. He struggled to get anything to go down. Vucevic made just one of his five 3-point attempts and 6 of 19 shots overall. Orlando again tried to force the ball to him in the low post and he did not deliver on his touch shots. The Warriors did a good job crowding and rushing him.
EVAN FOURNIERG/F, Orlando Magic
Fournier scored 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting. He had four assists and four turnovers to add to that. Fournier made four of his six 3-point attempts. So he at least provided some floor spacing. But Fournier was struggling to get himself going. He kept driving into traps and taking tough shots.
The Magic were not thrilled with their ball movement all game — 21 total assists on 39 field goals. A lot of the team’s issues offensively came from a failure to move the ball and driving too deep into the defense. Fournier was guilty of that as the secondary ball handler. And he could not deliver for the team late.
AARON GORDONF, Orlando Magic
Gordon finished with 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting. He had three assists and three turnovers. More distressingly, Gordon had just three rebounds. He was not active and seemed to be struggling to get back as much as anyone else. His energy was just not present for much of the game.
Without a guy he needed to lock down, Gordon should have had a bit more freedom and energy to attack offensively. But he still settled for his fadeaway jumpers and the ball just stuck. Nothing seemed to set him up.
MARKELLE FULTZPG, Orlando Magic
Fultz finished with 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting. He added four assists, six rebounds and a vicious jam to end the first half. Fultz is good at finding the edge and getting downhill toward the basket. But he is also adept at changing speeds and keeping defenses off balance.
The Magic went away from Fultz late in the game. And while Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier usually can be trusted to finish, this felt like Markelle Fultz’s game to finish. Just like the win over the Los Angeles Lakers game on Wednesday. Fultz is screaming for more consistent responsibility. So many good things happen when he is allowed to make his foray into the lane.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS10-34, 15th West
Golden State found its fire though and never let go after falling behind 13-0. The Warriors were on the front foot the rest of the way and continually put pressure on the Magic. They were pesky defensively and the Magic’s poor shooting did the rest to give the Warriors the space to take control.
D’Angelo Russell continued to give the Magic nightmares with 26 points and 12 assists. Jordan Poole came off the bench for 21 points including four 3-pointers. Russell put the finishing blows to the Magic, bringing out the clutch shooting that buried the Magic twice last year. They did what they had to do to win the game and they deserved to break their streak.
The Orlando Magic are 20-23 and seventh in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets for seventh. The Orlando Magic’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 36 Magic wins or 36 Detroit Pistons losses.
The Orlando Magic wrap up their road trip Monday in Charlotte against the Charlotte Hornets.