Orlando Magic Grades: Atlanta Hawks 115, Orlando Magic 112

The Orlando Magic ran out of shotmaking and could not keep up with the Atlanta Hawks in blowing a fourth-quarter lead. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic ran out of shotmaking and could not keep up with the Atlanta Hawks in blowing a fourth-quarter lead. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

115. 125. 112. 38. Final

Nikola Vucevic was going to do his best to make sure the Orlando Magic were not going to lose a heartbreaker at home.

Their 19-point lead in the first half, 18-point lead in the second half, a 15-point lead with six minutes to play was completely gone. The Atlanta Hawks kept coming, eventually hitting their 3-pointers to clear the way for Trae Young. It was not so much the Magic’s offense stopped, their sloppiness finally caught up to them.

But they were still hanging on. Down by one in the final minute, Nikola Vucevic hit a touch pass to Al-Farouq Aminu for a tough layup. But Vucevic was there to clean it up. The Magic might salvage something yet.

The door was left open though.

The Magic had plenty of chances to shut it. But their defense, which looked sharp in the first half in building that initial 19-point lead, suddenly looked disorganized. They did not know how to track all of the shooters or collect rebounds or do any of the things that are fundamental to the team.

Trae Young is going to squeeze through that door if it is left there. And it was a narrow margin but he got his team through it.

The Atlanta Hawks erased a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter and upended the Orlando Magic, sending them to their fifth straight loss heading to the All-Star Break.

Trae Young would score the game-winning free throws after drawing a controversial foul from Michael Carter-Williams with less than 10 seconds. Terrence Ross got one last look at the basket but missed his floater with 1.6 seconds left.

The Hawks had completed an improbable comeback, defeating the Magic 115-112, sending the Magic to the All-Star Break with their fifth straight loss and a whole lot more questions about who this team is and who they want to be.

The Magic gave the Hawks a healthy diet of Nikola Vucevic throughout the game to help build the lead early. It was an offensive clinic for the team as they hit the paint and kicked it out to open shooters throughout the game. Michael Carter-Williams victimized Trae Young throughout the first half.

But Atlanta adjusted. The Hawks hid Trae Young on Dwayne Bacon and tried to double- and triple-team Nikola Vucevic. They dared others to shoot and that proved to be very inconsistent.

Still, every time the Hawks made a run, the Magic pushed the lead back out. Atlanta cut Orlando’s 12-point lead to start the fourth quarter in half within four minutes of the fourth quarter. But the Magic extended the lead back out with a nice spurt of scoring from Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross.

The Hawks kept coming and the Magic were unable to lock in defensively enough to stop them. Atlanta made 21 3-pointers in the game, including 9 of 13 in the fourth quarter. The Magic were simply not able to defend the line and it proved to be the equalizer in the game.

B+. . C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC

Nikola Vucevic was the center of attention offensively and looked like the most impactful player of the game for long stretches. He scored 29 points on 10-for-21 shooting, making two of his eight shots. And he gave the Magic a needed outlet. The biggest problem was honestly getting him the ball consistently with how much the Atlanta Hawks surrounded him at all times.

He has to take some blame for the team’s defensive struggles. Although, his job is to deflect players from the paint. He should not have to be running around the perimeter to contest 3-pointers. That was the bigger issue in the game at the end of it. It is hard to find fault in Vucevic’s game, he did about all he could as a center, including hitting the potential game-winner and hitting several shots that temporarily stemmed the tide.


Michael Carter-Williams played fantastic defense on Trae Young throughout the night. His foul was literally a split-second decision and the officials could have easily let the call go and been justified in doing so. It was not clear whether he hit Young on the head and Carter-Williams was heated after the game, needing Cole Anthony to restrain him. Frustration for this team is warranted as they are still scratching and clawing.

But Carter-Williams played a great game. Young struggled to break free when Carter-Williams was defending him. He stayed disciplined for the most part and kept Young from pulling up for three or even drawing cheap fouls. More importantly, Carter-Williams attacked Young at every opportunity he got. He finished with 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting. It was a strong game from him.

B. . F. Orlando Magic. AL-FAROUQ AMINU

Al-Farouq Aminu is looking like he is getting a lot more comfortable on the floor. He is playing with more spring and showing off the defense that made him such a prized free agent last summer. Aminu had what looked like a game-saving block late in the game. And he earned his closing minutes in this game with solid defensive play throughout.

He is even showing more confidence offensively and is hitting some perimeter shots. Certainly enough to keep defenses honest, most of the time. Aminu scored a season-high 14 points to go with eight rebounds. He made only 4 of his 13 shots. He was certainly a bit shot happy and teams are still going to be fine leaving him open.

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

It is rare that Terrence Ross has a stat line of 28 points, five rebounds, four assists and four 3-pointers that it feels like he somehow left something on the floor. This is usually enough from Ross for the Orlando Magic to win and win fairly easily. And there is no arguing with how good Ross was offensively. The Magic have two reliable offensive options right now (with Evan Fournier missing Wednesday’s game). They leaned as heavily on Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross as they needed to.

But Ross has been a poor defender for a while now. He often loses track of his man or bites on pump fakes and gets caught leaning in the wrong direction. Teams are rightfully attacking him when they can. Those struggles were endemic of struggles throughout the roster. They played an undisciplined game defensively and that is why the team lost this game.

ATLANTA HAWKS. A-. . 16-20. 11th East

The Atlanta Hawks are still seemingly getting their bearings after firing coach Lloyd Pierce surprisingly earlier this week. This team still does not seem like it fits together perfectly. Their game and their effort were disjointed throughout. The Orlando Magic did whatever they wanted in the first half. Trae Young even looked like he was trying too hard to get others involved and was taken out of his game. This could have been a blowout.

But give credit where it is due. Atlanta never quit on this game. The Hawks kept pushing, using their shooting prowess to threaten the Magic and keep them on their toes. They changed up their defensive strategy at halftime, forcing the offensively challenged Magic to mix things up and adjust themselves. And eventually, they found a way to break through the dam.

Give Young the chance to finish and game, and he will finish it. He had 32 points and eight assists on 9-for-19 shooting. But he got plenty of help. Danilo Gallinari kept pace and helped deliver the first run for the Hawks. And then others filled in as the Hawks ripped the Magic open in the second half.

Next. Nikola Vucevic has turned into the Orlando Magic's star. dark

Orlando finishes the first half of the season at 13-23, 14th in the Eastern Conference. They are four games behind the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the play-in tournament. The Orlando Magic return to action next Thursday in Miami against the Miami Heat.