For most of this game, the Magic played like a competent basketball team. Unfortunately, when you give yourself a 19-point handicap with 40 minutes left to play, you’re going to have a very hard time winning, and that was the case for the Magic, who fell 94-91 to lose their third game in a row. Vucevic led the way for Orlando with a 17-17 double-double, along with 2 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. John Wall led all scorers with 26 points and 10 assists.
The first quarter was another classic out of the Magic’s playbook of terrible quarters, as they shot under 24% from the field and committed 8 turnovers, while giving up 11-21 shooting to Washington. Wall’s presence was felt early, as Washington hit three quick 3-pointers early on to open up an early lead thanks to his passing (as part of 5 assists). Mario Hezonja notably made a quick appearance as Frank Vogel searched for an answer, but found himself on the bench again no more than 3 minutes later. Things looked even bleaker for most of the quarter, as Washington actually led 26-7—prompting a chorus of booing from the crowd—before Orlando put together a small 7-0 run to close out the quarter. Still, the Magic faced a big hole to dig out of by the end of it, 26-14.
Last time around, Orlando found a lot of success playing against Washington’s weak bench, and that was the case again in the second quarter when the Magic really got rolling. They employed some odd lineups that had barely seen minutes throughout the season, such as Augustin-Fournier-Gordon-Vucevic-Biyombo, but most of the groups that saw time in the quarter also saw some success. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see Hezonja sit for the rest of the half, but Vogel brought him out again in the second, and he rewarded the crowd with a highlight alley-oop dunk thrown by D.J. Augustin. On their next offensive possession, Vucevic drained a 3-pointer to get the lead back under single digits. Vucevic was instrumental in the Magic’s comeback efforts, leading the team not only with his scoring but also with his passing in the halfcourt and in transition. The Magic got as close as 7, but settled for a 10-point deficit at halftime, 48-38.
The third quarter faceoff between the starters went very differently from the first, as the Magic found a way to correct their turnovers, transition weakness, and perimeter defense all at once. It was Ibaka’s turn to carry the offense as he dropped 12 in the quarter, going 4-6 while grabbing 5 more rebounds to get to 8. The Wizards got cold from beyond the arc, despite Wall’s continued drive-and-kicks. Orlando did a better job getting out to those shooters, and those rebounds led to more opportunities for them to get up the floor quicker and get into earlier sets. Orlando gradually whittled the lead down thanks to their rejuvenated offense and energized defense. getting as close as 2 before finishing down just 4, 72-68.
It took about 4 minutes in the 4th for the Magic to find their first lead of the night, and that set the stage for a tense, back-and-forth conclusion to the game. Midway through the quarter a small altercation broke out between the teams, with Biyombo exchanging words with the Wizards. One angle on the TV broadcast seemed to show Beal reaching for Fournier’s throat, but in the end the reviewed call was a double technical.
Like many of their recent games, the Magic’s defense down the stretch was good, but the offense completely locked up. Orlando reverted to bad habits and slowly developing plays, only finding points when Fournier got to the line with about 2 minutes left. That’s when Wall went into takeover mode, switching from passing to scoring around the rim. He got to the rim at will, making multiple layups, including an and-1, which he converted to put the Wizards up by 4. With a minute left the Magic were unable to score, but they picked up a clutch block on Wall and a quick layup by Payton to get within 2. By then it was too late and Orlando was forced to play the foul game, and they were unable to close the gap.