On a night where Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero barely impacted the score column and Mo Bamba and Jalen Suggs were ejected in the third quarter for their involvement in a brawl with Austin Rivers, it was the Orlando Magic bench that helped secure a 127-120 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center on Friday.
The Magic rallied behind their defense with Suggs giving the team a spark in the second quarter. That is where the Magic flipped a seven-point deficit into a seven-point lead. A lead they would nurse and grow to 22 points early in the fourth quarter.
The Orlando Magic survived another brawl in the third quarter as they came from behind and scored a road win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After that slow first quarter, the Magic played like a true team with seven players scoring in double figures and three players registering at least nine points.
Cole Anthony was the leading scorer and assist man for the Magic with 20 points and six assists. Not to mention tying with Paolo Banchero for the team lead in boards with eight.
It took a team effort with Wendell Carter out with the plantar fascia injury that has bothered him all season.
Mo Bamba stepped into the starting lineup in his place and was a nice surprise to see Friday night. This was perhaps in a “trade-deadline audition” type of role. He had 11 points and four rebounds in 21 minutes of play . . . before the viral moment of the night.
In what will surely be the only national storyline from this game, a fight broke out between Mo Bamba and Timberwolves guard Austin Rivers late in the third quarter.
It seemed as though words were exchanged after a missed three by Rivers and by the time the fight was already taking place, the cameras were still on the other end of the court.
Five players, two for the Magic (Bamba and Suggs) were ejected. Suggs was tagged with an ejection for essentially throwing Rivers to the ground trying to separate the two players.
It is uncertain how this will affect other players for the Magic regarding availability in future contests.
After paying the price for a scuffle back in late December that resulted in pretty much every rotational player having to miss games, it was nice to see the young squad keep their cool. And not only keep their cool but expand the lead for the win.
It was especially impressive because not soon after, the Magic extended their lead 22.
Top Two Takeaways:
1. Ability to produce without Franz and Paolo
Throughout this year, the Orlando Magic have ridden the waves of the play from their youngsters.
If you had said earlier in the season — maybe even last month — that Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner combined for six points deep into the fourth quarter, many would have turned the channel.
But this Magic team has evolved in the past few months, and they are much better top-to-bottom than when they were on their win streak in December.
Part of that is health. The other is confidence from every member in the rotation which has been instilled from coach Jamahl Mosley.
When Col Anthony is throwing down lobs, Jalen Suggs is swarming on defense and the entire front court is healthy, it reminds everybody how much talent the front office has accumulated.
Seeing it all contribute to a win when the biggest pieces of the franchise have an off night feels like a combination of relief and hope.
2. Mo Bamba audition season
It is to be determined whether Mo Bamba will continue to receive this level of playing time prior to the All-Star break.
But against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bamba got the call and played well up until getting tossed. It was definitely different from what has been the norm all season.
Before Friday night, and since Jonathan Isaac’s return, Mo Bamba has mainly been a spectator.
For the year, Bamba’s minutes are down to 16.9 per game compared to 25.7 last year and nothing has been guaranteed.
Just more than a week ago, Bamba logged 20 minutes in a blowout loss to the Washington Wizards. But outside of that, it had been a month since a played significant time.
And it had been well over two months since he took nine shots in a game.
When you take into account the ejection cutting his time on the court short, the involvement Friday night sticks out. Couple that with the trade deadline fast approaching, it is easy to connect the dots.
Safe to say, it is something to keep an eye on over the next week.
With the win Friday night, the Orlando Magic are 21-32 on the year and four games behind the 10th and the 9th seeds.
The play-in is well within reach. If you do not believe so, consider this:
The Magic have made it through injuries, they have made it through suspensions, and they have made it through a 6-21 start, which for most teams is a death sentence and an invitation to tank.
This team is resilient, and also holds a way better spot in the standings than two months ago.
Their next game is against the Charlotte Hornets Sunday afternoon. That is one of the six teams under .500 on the Magic’s schedule for the month.