Orlando Magic Grades: Washington Wizards 131, Orlando Magic 116

Mohamed Bamba turned in a career-best game for the Orlando Magic in a loss to the Washington Wizards. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
Mohamed Bamba turned in a career-best game for the Orlando Magic in a loss to the Washington Wizards. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

38. Final. 131. 142. 116

The Orlando Magic could feel the energy building in the fourth quarter.

They had reduced a 21-point deficit all the way down to five on the back of a lineup full of young players. The Magic were seeing their group mature.

No one more than Mohamed Bamba. He scored the team’s first 10 points in the fourth quarter, draining the 3-pointer to cut the deficit in half from their 10-point deficit to enter the final quarter.

Yes, Bamba, the guy who had seemingly been buried on the bench and whom Steve Clifford said the main goal is to see him consistently run up and down the floor and give consistently strong effort. He did plenty of that in his minutes as the Magic’s bench, composed mostly of the team’s young players at this point, continually dominated the game.

But everyone runs out of gas. And the Magic’s brief spurts are still full of plenty of youthful frustration. This is still a young team making tons of mistakes without the consistency from veterans and steadier hands.

And so a five-point deficit becomes a 10-point one quickly. A 10-point deficit balloons to 17.

The Magic wanted to make good on some poor execution late in their loss Sunday. No one would claim the Orlando Magic did not score enough to win in Wednesday’s 131-116 loss to the Washington Wizards. But the defense was not there all night long.

The Orlando Magic saw plenty of promising play from young players who have taken center stage. But also plenty of mistakes as the Washington Wizards buried them from deep.

Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal made a living blowing by the Magic’s defenders and kicking out to open shooters, whether they be Davis Bertans, Deni Avdija or each other. Washington made 19 of 36 3-pointers for the game, burying the Magic with big runs in the second and ultimately the fourth quarters to keep the game out of reach.

Orlando is still finding its organization and will defensively. Against two of the best guards in the league, the Magic had very little defense. And this Magic team is simply not going to be able to outscore very many teams.

That is the situation Orlando found itself in and the team never could get out of the hole once Washington got going.

COLE ANTHONY. B+. . PG. Orlando Magic

Cole Anthony played his first game since early February, missing the past 25 games with a fractured rib. And he certainly looked like he was getting out some pent-up energy. He scored seven quick points in the first quarter, nailing a three and then pulling off two fantastic drives to finish in the paint. Anthony looked completely in control of his game and eager to get himself going.

Anthony is hard on himself. He did not think he played particularly well. He scored 13 points on 5-for-14 shooting and dished out seven assists. All things considered, the only issue he had was his inefficiency. He hit those first three shots and then missed his next five. Anthony was a bit shot happy all night. But the Magic got a big spark from Anthony and his return was very welcomed.

A. . C. Orlando Magic. MOHAMED BAMBA

It has taken a lot for coach Steve Clifford to give Mohamed Bamba compliments. Sometimes, it seems like he goes out of his way to point out the things Bamba is struggling with even when he is putting up decent numbers. A lot of whether Bamba would play or not would depend on the little things that do not show up in the box score. Clifford is still seeking some basic things from Bamba. But even he could not deny the impact Bamba made.

The numbers looked good — a career-high 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting including three 3-pointers to go with eight rebounds, including four offensive rebounds. He had a 10-point burst to open the fourth quarter that brought the Magic within five points.

But it was also the little things. He had several deflections just from his presence. When he had position, he held his ground against Robin Lopez, allowing other players to clean up the glass or even get blocks with his presence acting as the final deterrent at the rim. This was a huge game for Bamba and one he can really build on.

G/F. Orlando Magic. DWAYNE BACON. C-.

The time for Dwayne Bacon is quickly ending. Many of the Orlando Magic’s veteran players seem to be running out of some leash. Players like Dwayne Bacon and James Ennis played fewer than 20 minutes and the Magic got the majority of scoring off their bench, where most of their young players play. Steve Clifford is not going to trot out a lineup that is all young players. He wants some veterans out there. But the Magic probably need to find a better balance between those younger and older players.

Bacon feels like the best example of this. He is good at getting himself into the paint, but that is about all he is useful for on that front. This Magic team needs drivers who can dish out to the perimeter or keep the ball moving. Too often, Bacon settles in for his own shot and it is usually a tough fadeaway when a pass would be the smarter play. Bacon scored six points on 3-for-9 shooting.


For now, the one veteran who clearly has a place in the rotation is Michael Carter-Williams. His defensive energy and know-how are necessary for the team to function at a higher level. He provides some stability, even if he is still not the most reliable offensive player. Still, Carter-Williams’ ability to get into the lane and force action matters, even if his finishing is a bit inconsistent.

Carter-Williams scored 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting. He added four rebounds, five assists and four steals. He was energetic defensively and did a good job containing Russell Westbrook when they were matched up. Westbrook did not get going until the Magic broke the lineup — R.J. Hampton and Cole Anthony struggled with that matchup. Carter-Williams remains a key player for the team.

18-32. 13th East. WASHINGTON WIZARDS. A-.

The Washington Wizards were definitely happy to have Bradley Beal back. And they were likely still stinging from their buzzer-beater loss to the Toronto Raptors in Tampa on Monday. They were probably a bit uncomfortable watching their 21-point lead dwindle down to five once again. But they relied on their star power to pace them and they got plenty of help from beyond the arc.

Russell Westbrook’s triple-double stole the headlines. Beal returned for 26 points, including four 3-pointers. But it was Robin Lopez scoring 19 and Davis Bertans scoring 22 and Deni Avdija hitting four 3-pointers on his way to 16 points that made the real difference. Those two passed the ball to the open man as the Magic’s defense struggled to find its footing.

Next. Orlando Magic have to rediscover rebounding. dark

The Magic fall to 17-34, 14th in the Eastern Conference. They trail the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the play-in tournament by five games. The Orlando Magic return to action Friday against the Indiana Pacers.