Looking to build off their impressive performance against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, the Orlando Magic continued their five game road trip in Memphis against a depleted Grizzlies team. Despite leading by as many as 14 in the fourth quarter, the Magic fell to the shorthanded Grizzlies, 95-94.
Early on, the Magic offense was able to get going behind 12 points from Evan Fournier, along with hot shooting overall as a team. For the quarter, the visitors shot 54.5 percent from the field, but were unable to get anything going on the defensive end, allowing the Grizzlies to shoot 54.5 percent as well. The Magic’s usual tough three-point defense gave up a set of three-pointers, and struggled to stop the Grizzlies dribble penetration, getting broken down more often than not. Despite the defensive struggles, the Magic’s offense was able to keep them afloat, trailing Memphis by just two, 30-28, after one.
With struggles defensively plaguing them in the first quarter, the Magic began turning up the intensity in the second quarter, holding Memphis to 20 points in the quarter. After shooting 12-of-22 in the first quarter, Memphis shot just 8-of-24 in the second quarter, including a single three-pointer after making a set in the first. Orlando’s offense continued to find openings in the Memphis defense, but struggled with turnovers, coughing it up 10 times in the first half, a performance much like their loss to the Milwaukee Bucks last Monday. Thanks to 17 points on 7-of-7 shooting from Fournier, the Magic trailed by just one, 50-49 at the half.
Out of halftime, the game seemingly came to a stop, with neither team being able to find any flow to keep the game going. From turnovers, to hard, fouls, the third quarter inched along with both teams searching for some semblance of what worked for them in the opening half. Orlando’s defense buckled down even more, holding the Grizzlies to just 15 points in the quarter. Thanks to their improved play on the defensive end, the Magic took a three point lead, 68-65, into the final quarter.
Looking for something to spark their offense once again, the Magic turned to an unlikely source... Jeff Green. Green, who struggled defensively, got things going on the offensive end, scoring 12 of his 14 off the bench in the fourth quarter. With Green carrying the offense, Bismack Biyombo began carrying the defense, terrorizing the Grizzlies, blocking shots left and right.
After going up by 14, things began to turn in the Grizzlies favor, starting with a Biyombo foul on a Troy Daniels three-point attempt. Orlando’s offense crumbled, with the visitors turning the ball over and struggling to find any flow over a string of seven possessions. The Grizzlies turned the Magic’s struggles into a 13-0 run to cut the lead back down to one with just over three minutes to play.
Needing a big bucket, Fournier came in clutch, knocking down a big three-pointer to push the Magic lead back to four. Marc Gasol answered with a three-point play of his own, with Fournier coming back and scoring yet another tough bucket to stabilize the Magic offense. After trading free throws, Fournier found Nikola Vucevic for a big dunk to push the Magic lead back to four.
After nearly forcing a turnover, the Magic gave up a three to JaMychal Green, once again cutting their lead to one with under a minute to play. Vucevic’s wide open three-point attempt went halfway down and popped back out, giving Memphis a chance to win the game with just 18 seconds remaining. After a foul from Biyombo, Gasol knocked down a pair of free throws to giving Memphis a one point lead with 13 seconds to play. A sloppy possession ended in an Elfrid Payton turnover, ending the Magic’s chances.
Gasol led the shorthanded Grizzlies with 25. Daniels added 19 off the bench. Andrew Harrison also finished in double figures with 11.
Fournier led all scorers, finishing with a highly efficient 28. Nikola Vucevic added 18 points and 11 rebounds, with Serge Ibaka scoring 11 of his own.