The Orlando Magic continued their road struggles Wednesday against the Washington Wizards, falling by a 115-106 final for their 16th consecutive defeat away from Amway Center.
John Wall led all players with 27 points for Washington. The All-Star point guard has his outside shot working in concert with his slick handles on his forays to the rim, making him an exceptionally tough cover. Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal added 22 and 21 apiece, respectively, to keep the floor spread for Wall.
Magic rookie Victor Oladipo scored 26 and Maurice Harkless added a season-high-tying 22 in what might have been his finest performance as a professional, but scoring wasn't an issue for Orlando on Tuesday night.
As a consequence of injuries to Nenê and Kevin Séraphin, Washington played much of the night with a smaller lineup featuring Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton at power forward. What it gave up on the glass--Orlando won the rebounding battle by a 45-46 margin--it gained in floor spacing, punishing the Magic from beyond the arc to the tune of 10-of-16 shooting on threes. Orlando's late defensive rotations enabled the Wizards to uncork many of those threes uncontested.
Two aggressive, impressive, and surprising Harkless drives and finishes in traffic helped Orlando to close to within four points with 1:29 to go in the first half, but the Wizards scored five uncontested to end the period, taking a 62-53 lead at intermission. The Magic had to be pleased with scoring 53 points in a half on 50 percent shooting away from Amway Center, but its defense proved to be its undoing.
At the risk of sounding obvious, the object of any defense is to take something away from one's opponent. But with Wall varying his speeds to befuddle perimeter defenders and get to the rim; Wall hitting his pull-up jumpers; Ariza canning open threes; and Marcin Gortat scoring quickly and decisively on his post touches, the Magic didn't take anything away from the Wizards.
And, in a manner of speaking, the Magic indeed gave opportunities to their foes Tuesday with myriad turnovers, as their 17 miscues led to 23 Wizards points, including 13 on the fast break. Apart from the turnovers, Orlando's offense hummed; this game is one it might have won had it played more soundly defensively and taken better control of the ball.
Despite those numerous issues, Orlando kept the game close throughout due to strong play from Oladipo, Harkless, and Nik Vučević. Those three combined to score all 11 points in a Magic scoring run in the third period, trimming a 17-point lead--the Wizards' largest of the night--to six in a two-minute span. Once again, the Wizards closed a period out strong, scoring seven unanswered points. Ariza scored three of them and assisted on the other four, punishing Orlando more than five years after it traded him.
The Magic simply couldn't get enough stops in the fourth quarter to mount a significant challenge to Washington's lead, though they did draw to within eight on two occasions.