Orlando Magic Game Awards: Magic fall short again in tight game

The Orlando Magic again showed their ability to compete but also showed their struggles to close. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic again showed their ability to compete but also showed their struggles to close. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

Final. 122. 34. 119. 38

The Orlando Magic had fought hard to stay in the game.

The Damian Lillard onslaught is a real thing and it puts pressure on every defense. The Magic were scrambling to stop him. The attention seemed to have created cracks and with Wendell Carter and Gary Harris out with injuries, the Magic’s defense was buckling.

The Magic still had a chance though. That is all the team could ask for. Give them a chance.

Through Lillard and his 41-points, his miss proved big. Paolo Banchero rotated over and contested a Damian Lillard layup and Markelle Fultz tracked down the rebound. Fultz took off to the other end of the court. With less than a minute to play, he tied the game on a layup.

Orlando had its opportunity.

It could get taken away quickly. And even with the Magic able to get the ball out of Lillard’s hands to avoid “Dame Time,” he delivered anyway. Lillard fed the ball to Drew Eubanks on the pick-and-roll as the Magic blitzed him at the top of the key.

The ball worked its way around the horn to Nassir Little to bury a go-ahead three with 35 seconds left. The Blazers had their three-point lead, all they needed to do was exchange free throws the rest of the way to win 122-119.

The Orlando Magic had their opportunities to close, but could not recover from a late Portland Trail Blazers three in a frustrating loss at home.

The only shot the Magic got to take was a half-court shot from Banchero in the final seconds of the game.

In a game where Wendell Carter Jr and Garry Harris did not play the Magic shot the ball terrifically shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from three, both better than the Blazers. Orlando also forced 17 turnovers and dominated in transition scoring 23 fast break points.

The Magic did virtually everything better than the Blazers but lost the game due to the free-throw battle and their lack of rebounding.

Although the Magic lost there were still some standout performances in this game.

MVP: Paolo Banchero

Paolo Banchero made his case for the Rookie of the Year more prominent and this game and was the MVP in Sunday’s loss. Paolo did it all on both sides of the ball and did his best to get his team a win.

Offensively Paolo had 26 points and two assists on 9-for-18 shooting. Banchero started out the game 7 for 7 and had the hot hand early on.

In the second half, his shot had slowed down a little, but his ball movement and playmaking abilities were still there. The box score says he only had two assists but had multiple passes that lead to free throws.

His inside presence offensively was great as well as his mid-range. The way he controlled the game, moved the ball and set up his teammates made him dominant this game for the Magic.

Defensively he was just as dominant. He was given the assignment of Jerami Grant and held him to just 5-for-14 shooting and 3 for 8 from three. He had four fouls but most of those were at the end when they had to foul, so he did a good job of playing good defense without getting handsy.

He also had five rebounds, one steal and a clutch block on a Damian Lillard three with just less than a minute and a half to go. Banchero used these rebounds to start fast breaks and a couple of nice outlet passes that led to free throws.

Banchero’s defense has improved tremendously this season and it is part of the reason he is MVP of this game.

Defensive player of the game: Jalen Suggs & Markelle Fultz

The defensive player of the game will be shared between Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz for their tremendous defense on Damian Lillard.

Lillard had 41 points. But he struggled a lot offensively in this game.

He shot just 10 for 25 from the field and 4 for 16 from three getting most of his points from the free throw line. He shot just 3 for 9 in the first half and 7 for 16 in the second half. He also did not make a three until the second half.

Suggs started out with the task of guarding Lillard. But after some foul trouble, he began to share the assignment with Fultz. They both did a tremendous job guarding Lillard, which is not an easy task as Lillard is one of the most elite scorers and shooters in the game.

They would pick up Lillard as soon as he crossed half-court and sometimes even guarded him the full 90 feet. They made sure he got no open looks and they did not leave him to play help defense. The most impressive part of their defense came on pick and rolls.

Every pick and roll they would go over the screen so he could not shoot a three and Lillard would immediately get doubled and was forced to pass the ball. A majority of Lillard’s shots were contested shots and the defense was very impressive.

They also combined for seven steals and forced Lillard into five turnovers. They were very disruptive on defense and made sure that they would not be beaten by Lillard.

They both had really good all-around games as Fultz had 15 points, eight assists five rebounds along with four steals. And Suggs had 15 points, four rebounds, two assists with three steals, but defensively is where they stood out.

If they can guard all of the league’s top guards like this the Magic have a very bright future defensively ahead of them.

Offensive player of the game: Franz Wagner

Paolo Banchero had the best all-around game and Markelle Fultz and Jalen Suggs were the best defenders, but Franz Wagner was a pure bucket in this game. He had 24 points, six assists, two rebounds and a steal.

He was very effective at getting to the paint and getting to the line which is something he has struggled at in his career. He also started off missing his first two 3-pointers and then made four of his next five including going 3 for 3 in the third quarter.

He also did a good job of not settling, he took no mid-range shots which is where he struggles the most and made sure to get to the basket and he converted six out of his seven free throw attempts. He also did a great job of getting out in transition.

He also added six assists including a four-assist second quarter that led to 13 Magic points. He was great at finding the open man and helping the offense flow by moving the ball around. Wagner who normally gets stuck in isolation and going at defenders one-on-one had a very fluid game.

Although it was a loss he showed a lot of promise in his game that shows improvement.

Bench Player of the Game: Bol Bol

Bol Bol was Sunday’s bench player of the game as he played outstanding off the bench. Bol stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in just 17 minutes.

He was great on both sides of the ball. Offensively he was great in the paint, making some tough driving buckets and hitting a contested three to end the second quarter. He moved the ball great and had 3 assists that lead to 7 Magic points. He did not settle for bad shots and made sure he got to the paint.

He was just as great defensively. He had a nice block on a reverse layup attempt from Cam Reddish and had a clutch steal on Reddish midway through the fourth quarter. He also guarded the paint terrifically and did not mess up his rotation due to trying to get blocks.

Bol played great and it was a surprise he did not get more minutes, especially down the stretch.

The Magic have shown they can compete with the best teams in the league and showed a lot of promise for a bright future. Despite the loss, there is a lot to be excited about and a lot of improvements made.

Next. Tragedy of Jonathan Isaac's injury will not define season. dark

In a late-season game that has playoff implications the Magic played their hearts out and that is all you can really ask for. They stepped up when it mattered and even though it did not result in a win you can see that the Magic want it and have what it takes to get it done.