Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 118, Oklahoma City Thunder 107

Dwayne Bacon showed off why the Orlando Magic signed him with a solid effort in the Orlando Magic's win. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Dwayne Bacon showed off why the Orlando Magic signed him with a solid effort in the Orlando Magic's win. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic kept their poise and their pace to outlast the Oklahoma City Thunder and improve to 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.

149. Final. 118. 38. 107

The Orlando Magic have talked about pace the entire season. Their offense needs to move fast and quickly, putting pressure on the defense at all times. They need to work inside-out and keep the defense moving.

Going too fast can get the team in trouble too. Shots that go up too quickly without much ball movement can create chaos and put stress on their own defense as the team tries different things with its scheme and its decision to attack the offensive glass.

The team needs patience too. And with an Oklahoma City Thunder team undersized and undermanned with both Al Horford and George Hill out of the game, the Orlando Magic would need to exhibit that patience.

The third quarter was that time as they dumped the ball into Nikola Vucevic over and over again. He amassed points and forced the Thunder to double him.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, he was facing hard ball denials and any attempt to keep him from getting in the lane. When he got the ball with the Magic up a sizable amount late in the fourth quarter, it was his patience that won the day.

The Thunder brought he double as Nikola Vucevic worked the block. He then fired a bullet of a pass crosscourt to Terrence Ross as the defense tried to load up on Vucevic. Ross gave a hard pump fake as the defense tried to close out, knowing he did not have his 3-point shot working this game, dribbled in and buried the jumper.

The Magic were not challenged again as they finally warded the Thunder off for a 118-107 win. The victory makes the Magic 4-0 for the first time in franchise history and leaves them as one of two undefeated teams remaining in the league.

The Magic though had to struggle again to get their first double-digit victory of the season.

The team’s defense again struggled for much of the first half as Oklahoma City was able to spread the team out and attack the basket. Orlando’s rotations were often late as the team scrambled to contain the ball.

Orlando was able to get shots to go down, but could never create enough separation to put the game out of reach. Despite 20 Thunder turnovers, the Magic could not generate much push in transition to create a sizable lead.

Yet, it never felt like the Magic were out of control of the game. They were not firing on all cylinders by any means on either end. But they strung together enough plays to keep the Thunder at arm’s length.

Eventually, that paid off for the team and it was able to pull away. There were moments to get frustrated, but the Magic never let that happen. Despite their push for pace, they stayed patient, worked it inside and took the game again in the fourth quarter.

C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC. A-.

What didn’t Nikola Vucevic do offensively? With Al Horford out and the Oklahoma City Thunder throwing a relatively green Isaiah Roby at him, the Orlando Magic seemingly broke a lot of their offensive tendencies to feed Nikola Vucevic in the post. No one should complain about that with a 28-point, 10-rebound, five-assist effort. That is called filling a stat sheet.

Vucevic shot 12 for 18 and did whatever the Magic needed him to do. They needed a safety valve with the offense going through some spurts where it could not finish over the Thunder’s length and Vucevic just delivered. Orlando found him for whatever they needed and when the double came, he passed it well.

The only issue with Vucevic was how the Thunder were able to stretch him defensively. He is still learning how to track back and when to call off his hedge and blitz in pick and rolls with the Magic playing more aggressively on the perimeter. Five-out teams like the Thunder are going to give him problems when they make him defend in space. His positioning is still a step off and that is a big deal.

DWAYNE BACON. A+. . G/F. Orlando Magic

So far Dwayne Bacon has not made much of a statistical impact in his first games with the Orlando Magic. He has been trying to figure out where he fits in, having been pushed into the starting lineup with James Ennis out with a leg injury. Dwayne Bacon has struggled as a spot-up shooter and doing more than being a body that teams nominally have to pay attention to.

Tuesday, Bacon got to be Bacon. He got to attack the basket with aggression and look to finish. He gave the Magic a needed boost with both Aaron Gordon and Terrence Ross dealing with injuries at various points of the game and Ross especially not playing quite like himself (14 points, 0-for-4 shooting from deep).

Bacon scored 18 points on 9-for-10 shooting. His only miss was his only shot taken outside of the paint. He attacked the paint off the bounce and off cuts using his body to absorb contact and finish at the rim. That is how Bacon has found success throughout his career. The Magic finally got to see him play that way.

B. . G. Orlando Magic. MARKELLE FULTZ

Markelle Fultz has had an incredible start to the season and he has seemingly been able to get into the paint and score at his whim. The biggest issues with him have been how he has learned to manage the game. But even there he has been solid.

This was the first time where Markelle Fultz did not seem to bring the efficiency to score as he got into the paint. The shots were all there, this time he just missed them, shooting 4-for-16 for 11 points. Fultz dribbled himself into traps on several occasions and got into a habit of settling for quick jumpers without really initiating much offense.

Still, if this is a bad Fultz game, he was still fairly effective. Fultz had 10 assists and was able to move the ball to who he wanted when he was able to draw two defenders to him. The fact he lived in the paint is a positive sign for the team overall. Even with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s size, they could not keep him out for long.

Orlando Magic. COLE ANTHONY. B. . G

Cole Anthony is still figuring out where to get his offense in the NBA. That much is clear. His shot selection can still be good, but not great as he tries to force runners and jumpers at times within the offense. He scored only seven points on 1-for-5 shooting. But his fearlessness will serve him well. He is not afraid to miss and get himself in the lane. His ability to get to the line is probably his best offensive skill to this point.

But it is the things Cole Anthony was not advertised for that have stood out even more. His passing has been solid and he has not let the ball get stuck too much. He is making quick decisions.

His defense though has stood out as well. He has shown a willingness to fight and commit on the defensive end. He drew another charge in the fourth quarter, something that will surely go noticed in the film room. He also added another steal and four rebounds to his ledger. It is not uncommon to see Anthony angling for a rebound on either end.


The Oklahoma City Thunder fight. No one will deny that. And being undermanned and having to rely on some very young players certainly showed. They simply just did not have the firepower to keep up with the Orlando Magic for long enough. They could not string together enough shots.

The Thunder will point to a lot of mistakes they made however in the loss. They turned it over 20 times and missed nine of their 19 free throws. Those are a lot of opportunities left on the line. There is a lot to consider on Oklahoma City’s end.

The Thunder were certainly energetic and tough to crack. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got his with 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. And they had a nice starting debut from Isaiah Roby (19 points, seven rebounds). But they had no way to match up with Nikola Vucevic. And the Magic showed a lot of poise to stay in control through all the chaos.

Orlando Magic still have a lot to do, a lot to prove. dark. Next

The Magic are now 4-0 and one of two remaining undefeated teams in the league. They return to the Amway Center on Thursday to play the Philadelphia 76ers.