In the midst of Austin Reaves’ scoring explosion and parade to the free throw line late in the game and the Orlando Magic’s mad rally to try to make it a game against the Los Angeles Lakers came all the little decisions in between.
Fans will point to the parade to the line that the Lakers had, especially in the fourth quarter. Austin Reaves took 11 of his 18 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter on his way to 35 points off the bench. The Lakers had 15 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter, nearly matching the Magic’s 17 for the entire game.
Orlando certainly has some complaints about that with Paolo Banchero even picking up a technical foul for finally letting his frustration out — then again the Magic put themselves in the bonus early with silly, undisciplined fouls.
The Magic too might have been able to win a challenge for Reaves sticking his leg out on a critical possession with 1:30 to play. Reaves would make only two of those three free throws and Franz Wagner answered with a floater.
Austin Reaves hit a pull-up jumper over Wendell Carter and Orlando ran out of answers. Wagner missed a pull-up 3-pointer.
The Magic were chasing. And then came Markelle Fultz inexplicably fouling with the team down three with 34 seconds to play. That put the Magic in a hole that was finally too deep to climb out of in a 111-105 loss at Crypto.com Arena.
The Orlando Magic made little mistakes down the stretch of the game that added up to a hill that was too big to climb in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
But those sequences mattered. The Magic made bad decisions with chances to take the lead and missed critical shots to swing momentum. Then they gifted the Lakers chances to retake control.
It might be a make-or-miss league, but it is also a decision and momentum league.
Orlando again found itself playing without much calm and poise late in a game — especially frustrating with how well the Orlando Magic played in Saturday’s win over the LA Clippers. The difference between those two games might well have been the Magic were protecting a lead Saturday afternoon and were chasing the lead Sunday evening.
The Magic found themselves down by as much as 16 giving away an early advantage and some strong defense with a bench group that gave up 3-pointers and gave away possessions.
Orlando gave up 6-for-11 shooting from deep in the second quarter alone to fall behind and trail by 10 at the half. At halftime, every Magic bench player had plus/minus of at least -12 except for Kevon Harris at +7. That is why Harris got those minutes in the second half.
Orlando is still looking for consistent scoring and defense off its bench. In this game, that disparity put the team in a hole it was climbing out of the rest of the game. The Magic never led after breaking their starting lineup in the first quarter.
That is a tough thing to survive and get through.
The Magic deserve credit again for their resilience and fight. They tied the game and put themselves in a position to win it in the end. But they also kept themselves from winning it with some poor decisions. And the Lakers took the critical win in the postseason chase.
Franz Wagner – B-
There are two parts to Franz Wagner in this game.
The first is that he was still a highly productive scorer for the Orlando Magic, leading the team with 21 points. He was the guy with the ball in his hands late in the game and he made some huge shots by attacking the basket. Wagner is starting to perk up again and play a whole lot more aggressively on offense.
On the other hand, he made that one critically bad decision to take a three early in the shot clock off a pull-up. That was a bad decision not because of the quality of the shot, but because he missed all eight of his 3-point attempts. It was just not his night to hit from deep.
Wagner finished 10 for 23 (with just two free throw attempts). So the inefficiency killed the Magic, especially in that second quarter. A growing experience for Wagner.
Still, Wagner had a pretty poor game and still nearly recorded a triple-double. He was positively involved in a lot of this game.
Paolo Banchero – B
Paolo Banchero also had kind of a dual game.
On one hand, he was in his bag early on scoring 15 of his 21 points in the first half. He was getting to the basket and playing aggressively. That is where Banchero is at his best. When he does not settle for jumpers (he still mixes them in) but he gets to the basket. The four free throws do stand out as something that detracts from his game.
Banchero certainly was frustrated with his inability to get to the line. The Los Angeles Lakers did a better job attacking him and getting the ball out of his hands. That is fine. Banchero is still learning how to attack this attention and how to be a better playmaker.
So many of the Magic’s problems come from decision-making and these young players are notably making mistakes.
Cole Anthony – B
Cole Anthony was really bad in the first half. He was cold and unable to hit shots. And his value decreases when his shots are not going down. The Orlando Magic’s bench lineups essentially sink without him in there. He has to score.
So his second half was the big boost the team needed. As the Magic did in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, Anthony came up with some big shots to get the team back into the game and give them a chance to win it.
Anthony finished with 17 points with eight of them coming in the fourth quarter. He tied the game with a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. He is doing a better job hunting his mid-range game. Anthony was key to bringing the team back into the game.
However, the Magic tried putting Cole Anthony on Austin Reaves late in the game. And the Lakers fed Reaves throughout the end of the game and hunted Anthony in matchups. That remains Anthony’s big weakness despite his effort on that end.
Wendell Carter – B+
Wendell Carter did not stand out so much from his offensive game, although he played well offensively. He had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Carter shined for his defense, helping keep Anthony Davis in check throughout much of the game. Davis scored 15 points on 6-for-15 shooting. Carter deserved a lot of credit for his discipline and defensive smarts to push Davis off his deep post position. That made Davis’ shots much harder to get to. And forced the Lakers to go somewhere else.
Carter got caught a few times in poor drop coverage. Especially on that go-ahead basket from Reaves that put the Los Angeles Lakers up for good. But Carter was solid for the Magic and remained a good base for the team in what turned out to be a solid defensive game at least until the final two minutes or so — 113.3 points per 100 possessions for the game.
The Orlando Magic return home Tuesday to start a three-game homestand with a game against the Washington Wizards.