This game was essentially defined by three disparities:
-the difference in production between the Magic starters and reserves
-the difference in free throw attempts between the Magic and the Wizards
-the difference in Jeff Green on Monday and his entire season with the Magic
The Magic bench, outside of Terrence Ross once again, had another one of those performances that Steve Clifford might call “embarrassing.”
On the second night of a back-to-back, getting such poor production from the reserves makes it that much more difficult to win. And just as they did when Clifford had his rant after the loss to the Pistons last week, the Magic surrendered a double-digit lead and fell to the Wizards, 117-109.
Ross once again provided an immediate spark, finishing with a team-high 21 points on 7-for-14 scoring, including 4 of 4 from three. But the rest of the Magic bench shot just 4 of 17 for 10 points, with all posting a negative plus/minus.
And to make matters worse, the Wizards got a boost off the bench from none other than Jeff Green.
It’s one thing when you get beat by John Wall (25 points, 10 assists) or Bradley Beal (21 points, 8 rebounds). It’s another when you get beat by a 32-year old reserve who essentially stole $15 million from the Magic a few years back.
Green had 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including 4 of 5 from three with his only miss coming on a heave with the shot clock winding down.
Entering the night winners of four of their last five games, the Magic were denied a three-game winning streak. The score of the game was tied about 20 different times, including after the first, second and third quarter.
Ross scored eight points off the bench in the first as the Magic ended the first tied at 30.
The Magic hit seven of 11 three-point attempts in the first half, entering the break tied at 55.
It looked like the trend was about to stop in the third. The Magic held a double-digit lead with 4:17 remaining in the third after Nikola Vucevic’s tip-in opened a 77-67 advantage. But the Wizards stormed back with a 13-0 run to take an 80-77 lead with 1:12 to go in the quarter. Ross drained a three and later converted three free throws after being fouled on an attempt from long range to help the Magic pull even at 83 at the end of the third.
The Wizards then pulled away in the fourth thanks to 10 points in the quarter from Green and a wide disparity in free throw attempts by the two teams. The Wizards got to the line 18 times in the fourth, making 12 attempts, compared to just 1-for-2 for the Magic in the quarter. Overall, the Wizards finished 24-for-33 from the line and the Magic were just 8-for-11, a disparity that was a combination of the Orlando’s inability to attack the rim, too much fouling by the Magic, and some poor calls by the refs that favored the Wizards.
Evan Fournier led the starters with 20 points on 7 of 14 shooting. Aaron Gordon, who’s status was in question because of a sprained ankle, had 18 points (8 of 13 shooting) and 10 rebounds. Nikola Vucevic (8 of 17 shooting) also posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. D.J Augustin (6 of 10 shooting) had 15 points and four assists. And Wes Iwundu added eight points on 3 of 4 shooting.
The Magic starters shot 55.1 percent, connecting on 32 of 58.
But the bench (outside of Ross) was unable to match their efficiency. Jonathon Simmons, who did play well defensively, was the biggest offensive culprit of the ineffective second unit. He aggressively attacked the rim (sometimes bringing the offensive to a grinding stop) but made just 2-for-10 for five points.
Coming off a game against the Knicks in which the Magic made 17 threes, Orlando made 15 of 30 attempts from three. But the Wizards, who shot 50.6 percent overall, nearly matched them with 13 made threes.
Dwight Howard had 17 points and eight rebounds for the Wizards, who have won two straight and improved to 4-9.
The Magic squandered an opportunity to reach .500, falling to 6-8. They now return to Orlando for a four-game homestand.