The Orlando Magic looked like they were running out of gas.
The LA Clippers slowly dissipated the Orlando Magic’s first-half lead and their weaknesses were coming to the front. The turnovers, the offensive rebounds and the lack of surefire star power as Paul George went on a scoring binge. The Clippers led by eight at the end of the third quarter.
All the Magic’s hopes and dreams have slowly dimmed on this road trip.
But that is not who this Magic team is. They are resilient as their head coach likes to say over and over again. They have been left for dead plenty of times before this season. They have been counted out.
And while they may not be able to overcome their 5-20 start to reach their goal of making the postseason this year, they keep showing everyone why they are going to be that team very soon.
They were at least going to overcome this deficit against the Clippers and not let this road trip end without a fight.
So it was Cole Anthony leading the charge early to get the Magic back into the game. Then it was Markelle Fultz, Wendell Carter and Franz Wagner putting the finishing touches.
The Magic took the lead for good with 6:41 to play on a Carter three at the top of the key. They then made their final six shots to close the door, silencing even some late-game struggles of late with stellar defense from Carter and superb finishing from Fultz.
The Orlando Magic closed the door to score a big victory and make sure they did not go winless on their four-game West Coast trip.
When Franz Wagner gave the Magic some breathing room and a five-point lead with a step-back three, answering a three from Paul George, the Magic could sense the relief of a 113-108 victory Crypto.com Arena. They were certainly rolling in the confidence that this team has exuded for much of this stretch since the team started winning in December.
It was at least good to see that spark again, something that has been missing as the Magic have treaded water for some time now.
There were still a lot of the issues that have plagued the Magic for some time. The Magic had 18 turnovers for 23 Clippers points. Their offense went into the cellar in a 17-point third quarter where the Magic gave up the lead and fell behind for the first time in the game.
But that is the thing about this team, they keep grinding and fighting. And when they are at their best, they find a way to get themselves back into the fight pretty consistently.
Cole Anthony went through a scoring burst early in the fourth quarter to set the table for Markelle Fultz to finish things off with his control over the team’s pace and attack in the final moments.
Markelle Fultz – A
Markelle Fultz has had a killer March. There is no denying that and no getting around that. All the people who want to naysay him or dismiss that he has turned himself into a solid NBA player are quickly running out of things to grasp on. Even that pesky 3-point shot is coming around as hesitant as Fultz can be to shoot it.
Plain and simple, the Magic are not winning this game without Fultz and his constant attack and pressure on the basket. They are not winning this game without Fultz’s ability to control the pace and stop on a dime to hit a pull-up mid-range jumper. Fultz had this game completely under his control.
Fultz scored a career-high 28 points to go with six rebounds and four assists. He was on the attack and the Magic seemed to have the ability to get to the basket and get a good basket when it was in his hands.
On top of this, he had four steals as he continues to show that he is also quietly a solid and disruptive defender on top of all of this.
Wendell Carter – A-
Whatever Markelle Fultz was missing during the course of the game, it felt like Wendell Carter was the one cleaning it up. He was everywhere in the paint really on both ends for a good chunk of the game, even with Ivica Zubac collecting 16 rebounds and seven offensive rebounds.
Carter finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds for the game. He hit four of his eight 3-pointers, helping space the floor. And he was aggressive crashing the offensive glass with two big putbacks in addition to a big alley-oop snag over a few LA Clippers defenders.
Defensively, Carter did get caught out of rebounding position on several occasions as he stepped up to help (the Orlando Magic gave up 13 offensive rebounds with seven coming from Zubac). But the Clippers only scored 16 second-chance points off those opportunities.
That is because Carter, along with the Magic’s other interior defenders including at times Markelle Fultz and Keovn Harris, did a good job crashing the paint and crowding the bigs to make those shots difficult. Carter was still big on the interior and a big part of this win.
Franz Wagner – B+
Franz Wagner was locked in for this game, scoring in bunches early in the game and in the second quarter as the Orlando Magic maintained their lead. He was expertly driving through the lane and finishing around the basket.
Then there was that step-back three-pointer in the final minute that virtually put the game away (Paul George did answer it and Markelle Fultz hit a layup to ice the game officially away). Wagner looked like the player earlier in the year who seemed capable of carrying the team.
Wagner though deserves a lot of props for his defense though. It continues to improve and he did a good job challenging Paul George throughout the game (even with George totaling 30 points, albeit on 12-for-25 shooting). George had to work with Wagner on him.
Cole Anthony – A
With so many starters playing so well and stepping up late in the game, it is easy to forget about the player who probably set the table more for them than anyone else.
Cole Anthony has been on a heater lately and it should not go without notice. There are a lot of times this year where Anthony’s constant scoring pressure has kept the team in games. That was the case here.
Anthony scored seven of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Magic get back into the game early on before giving way to the starters. That is some serious sacrifice and deserves a lot of kudos and credit.
Anthony has embraced his sixth-man role and his ability to mix his in-between floater and mid-range game with some standstill 3-point shooting has been a huge boost. He was on his game Saturday afternoon in a big way.
The Orlando Magic wrap up their road trip Sunday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.