With a 16-point halftime lead, the Magic’s quest to find consecutive wins seemed close to finally ending. Thanks to some crazy hot shooting and some high-energy defense, the Magic had a chance to steal one on the road, even on a night they didn’t have Nikola Vucevic.
Unfortunately, the quest continues, as the Magic couldn’t hold on late, falling 115-114 to the Washington Wizards. Terrence Ross led Orlando’s balanced scoring attack with 20 points, while Bismack Biyombo added 14 points and 15 rebounds starting for Vucevic. The Magic couldn’t contain Bradley Beal down the stretch, who scored 32 on the night. Bojan Bogdanovic was also a killer in the second half, hitting a ridiculous 8-10 3-pointers on the night.
The first half performance was about as good as the Magic’s new roster has looked since the all-star break, despite the loss of Vucevic. Biyombo filled in admirably, putting up 8 points and 9 rebounds, most of that in the first quarter. There was some concern that without Vucevic in to provide spacing, the Magic’s small-ball attack might falter, but for the first half it was much the opposite, as Orlando blitzed Washington inside and out.
The other big first-quarter star was Gordon, continuing to start at power forward. His series of dunks and hustle rebounds set the tone early, including a couple plays when he handled the ball himself to take advantage of his slower defenders. His 9 points led everyone early, and the Magic held a 28-25 lead.
The surprise of the second quarter was Mario Hezonja, who finally got off to a good start shooting the ball, hitting 3-3 from deep and adding a free throw to get 10 points leading all Magic scorers for the first half (and for a time, all scorers in the game). Orlando was able to exploit Washington’s infamously shaky bench, lighting them up all over the court, especially from deep, where they were 10-20 in the first half. That hot shooting and their solid defense gave them a comfortable 61-45 lead at halftime.
The second half is where it all went wrong, starting on the defensive end. The Magic did well to keep the Wizards off their spots in the first half thanks to their active hands deflecting passes, but the Wizards were able to score with impunity throughout the second half. After the Wizards had the lead down to 7, with Biyombo pushed out of the game thanks to his 4th foul and a tech, the Magic were forced to go to a lineup fans could only fantasize about: the ultra-small-ball group with no center. Gordon and Jeff Green manned the front line, which immediately went on a 10-0 run by pushing the ball and using their speed advantage. The dream quickly died, however, when the ball stagnated in the halfcourt, and the Wizards countered with an 8-0 run of their own. Still, Orlando held a 90-79 lead.
Much like the disappointing loss to the Trailblazers, the biggest letdown came in the fourth, all thanks to their defense. Bogdanovic was unconscious shooting the ball, and while the Magic did themselves no favors leaving him open several times, he even nailed the tough shots with a hand in his face. They could have overcome that, but Beal would prove to be a problem as well, driving when he handled the ball and benefiting from John Wall’s penetration while spotting up.
At the very end, following several minutes of tense, back-and-forth basketball, the Magic had a chance to win. They managed to get a stop on Wall, who took an ill-advised jumper, and Gordon caught the long rebound with about 4 seconds left. Vogel chose not to call timeout, letting Gordon instead drive it down the length of the court. Unfortunately, his shot from about 6 feet didn’t go down, letting Washington escape with a 1-point win.