Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 130, Washington Wizards 120

Markelle Fultz caught the spark in the fourth quarter, leading the Orlando Magic to a big win. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Markelle Fultz caught the spark in the fourth quarter, leading the Orlando Magic to a big win. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic outlasted the Washington Wizards thanks to some timely baskets and leadership from Markelle Fultz to put the team over the top.

120. 142. Final. 130. 38

The Orlando Magic were not at their best in Saturday’s second game against the Washington Wizards.

The team was struggling to corral Bradley Beal or get to the 3-point line. The offense was humming but never enough to pull away from the hard-charging Wizards. There was always a turnover or a rushed shot. It was easy to fall into the trap of the Wizards’ break-neck style.

The game needed just one push. Just like the game Wednesday needed the Evan Fournier 3-pointer to break the team out of its funk, it just needed one play to change the momentum.

Let Markelle Fultz oblige it. And then again. And again.

In a tie game, the Magic sparked a 7-0 run on three consecutive possessions with that kind of momentum play. Markelle Fultz ran a pick and roll to a streaking Aaron Gordon who finished a one-handed jam. A second straight game with a momentum-changing basket.

On the next possession, Fultz got a steal and got set up by Gordon for a lay-in with a foul.

The Magic were off to the races. Using that push to build a lead and Markelle Fultz adding some last moments of flair — setting up Nikola Vucevic on several occasions — to give the team a final push over the finish line in a 130-120 win at Capital One Arena and the team’s first 2-0 start since 2012.

Orlando certainly has some reason to be flying high.

For a second straight game, the Magic found themselves in a battle where their flaws and their lack of preparation time got tested. The team is still clearly getting used to a new offensive style and even some new defensive schemes. Both struggles were on display like they were in Wednesday’s opener.

The Wizards had pockets where they struggled to score and the Magic’s defense took charge. But those moments were far too inconsistent for a team that is trying to build itself on its defense.

Washington shot 48.4-percent from the floor including 13 for 37 from beyond the arc. The Magic had a tough time tracking the Wizards’ shooters. Not to mention the Wizards soon found a parade down the lane on pick and rolls. The Magic never got their defense fully right for long periods of time.

Orlando committed 13 turnovers and has its offense running well for most of the game. Albeit the pace was likely faster than even the team wanted. But the Magic largely controlled the tempo of the game, even with the game still so close.

Yet, the Magic were able to keep grinding. The Wizards took a small lead early in the fourth quarter, but they never were able to create any distance or have control over the game. The Magic kept bouncing back and kept fighting back.

Then they made their killing blow in the fourth quarter. On a night where the Magic showed off all their flaws, they still made the winning plays to close things out.

A-. . PG. Orlando Magic. MARKELLE FULTZ

Markelle Fultz was the hero of the game for the Orlando Magic. In a tight game, the Magic put the ball in his hands and let him run the team. He was empowered to push the tempo and make plays, keeping the Washington Wizards’ defense off balance at every turn — sometimes even tripping himself up.

Fultz just seemed to have a fire in his eyes late in the game. He was going to go where he wanted and do what he wanted. The Magic just rode him to the finish.

Fultz scored 21 points and dished out seven assists. He scored six points and dished out three assists in the fourth quarter. But each one seemed to have a ton of weight behind it. Fultz did not exactly coast through the first three quarters, but he definitely seemed to have a spark when it was winning time.

G/F. Orlando Magic. TERRENCE ROSS. A.

The Orlando Magic’s bench scored 50 points. That is an incredible amount. And as expected, a good chunk of that came from Terrence Ross. He accounted for half of those 50 points, scoring 25 and hitting on three of his six 3-pointers.

For good chunks of the second quarter as the Magic’s second unit struggled to score, Terrence Ross was again the reliable outlet who just shot and kept shooting.

And shooting well. Ross’ shots this year have been less of him firing indiscriminately and more of finding holes in the defense and shooting wherever he can find those gaps. Ross is shooting a lot more off the dribble, doing one- or two-dribble pull ups or cutting his runs shallow and firing from the mid-range where he finds more space. Ross has had a strong evolution to his game this season.

NIKOLA VUCEVIC. B. . C. Orlando Magic

By the end of the game, it was hard to be too upset with Nikola Vucevic for his offensive struggles throughout the game. He hit several big shots on setups from Markelle Fultz and closed the game strong to help the Orlando Magic secure the win. But to that point, Vucevic really struggled on both ends of the floor.

Vucevic finished the night with a solid stat line — 22 points, 8-for-20 shooting and 17 rebounds. He scored 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the fourth quarter. Vucevic stepped up and made the plays when things mattered at the end.

Getting there was a struggle. The Magic are blitzing more on pick and rolls and Vucevic is doing his best there. But he is recovering slow back to the paint which has left the team a bit exposed. It has also hurt their rebounding, although he and the Magic rebounded better in the second half. His shooting around the rim was also inconsistent through three quarters and Vucevic is settling for quick 3-pointers now that he has the freedom to hang around out there.

Orlando Magic. KHEM BIRCH. B+. . C

Nobody expects Khem Birch to do much of anything offensively. At this point, defenses are happy to let Khem Birch handle the ball even around the basket. So if Birch can prove he can do some basic offensive moves with the space teams are giving him, that could end up being a huge plus for the team in the long run.

Saturday was one of the first times the team has seen Birch expand his offensive game in a significant way. The eight points that Birch scored helped keep the team afloat through the second quarter and just went to how poor the Washington Wizards’ defense was throughout the game.

Birch was giving the team some extra offense for sure. And his screens help spring Terrence Ross as much as anyone. But the team still needs him to be a more effective rebounder and even defender. Birch grabbed five rebounds in 16:55 of play. That is solid. But he often gets caught out of position on the glass. Rebounding is going to be his key to stay on the floor.

B. . 0-2. 11th East. WASHINGTON WIZARDS

The Washington Wizards have their style. No one will argue that. They take a lot of threes and put a lot of pressure on teams with their ability to get out in transition and just create shots. Even a decent defensive team like the Orlando Magic has to concede some shot-making from them and just survive.

This style is still questionable for ultimate success in the league. And it is going to be tough to make it work while the team is still integrating such a huge piece in Russell Westbrook. The Magic had a really good gameplan against him to wall him up and he struggled to score — 15 points, 15 rebounds, 12 assists triple-double.

That shows how he could get out. So too could Bradley Beal, who scored 39 points and carried the Wizards through the game. But their inability to get stops against the Magic cost them the game. Orlando strung just enough stops together to eke out the win. Washington is still figuring out how it can sustainably outscore teams.

Next. Orlando Magic rookies will get their chance. dark

The Magic are now 2-0 and will get a rematch with the Wizards on Sunday at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.