The Orlando Magic followed up their staggering come-from-behind victory against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night by dethroning LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers at home, 130-117, giving them their sixth win in their last eight contests.
The Magic used an explosive run by their bench on both ends of the floor to start the second quarter, and the separation continued in a third quarter that saw the Magic score 38 points! While a unit of Kentavius Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Brandon Ingram and Syk Mykhailiuk would bring the game within ten with 4:34 to play, LeBron never reentered, and Nikola Vucevic poured in eight consecutive points for the Magic, extending their lead to 123-115 with 2:37 to play, to assure the victory.
On the first night of a back-to-back, you could forgive the Magic for looking ahead of LeBron and the 8-6 Los Angeles Lakers, who entered the night on a four-game winning streak. After all, the much more merciful 4-12 New York Knicks await judgement on the second half of this doubleheader.
“You’re always thinking long term,” head coach Steve Clifford said before the game. “If the game starts getting away from you, on the first night of a back to back, you might pull guys quicker, but to me you just try to win the first game.”
Led by Nikola Vucevic’s 36 points and 13 rebounds, the Magic improve to 8-8 on the season after a disconcerting 2-6 start just two weeks ago.
The Lakers tried to bring in the best player in basketball and didn’t realize it was Nikola Vucevic.— Kevin Clark (@bykevinclark) November 18, 2018
Vucevic’s 15 converted field goals on 23 tries helping him to move into fifth place all-time among Magic scorers, passing Hall of Famer, Tracy McGrady.
D.J. Augustin was another fulcrum in the contest as his dribble penetration and spot-up corner marksmanship thwarted any run the Lakers would attempt. Evan Fournier scored 15 wpoints and had five rebounds and four assists, Terrence Ross had 13 points, Aaron Gordon had 12 and six rebounds, and Jonathon Simmons had 12 points, five rebounds, and six assists.
But it was the Magic’s bench that created early separation and held fast in a game that saw the Magic take the lead for the first time at 34-32, and then extended it throughout the end of the game.
The Magic entered tonight’s contest winners of five of their previous seven games, and though they suffered a 31-25 deficit in the first quarter, they would respond with a mighty surge to begin the second.
The big story early was the play of Jonathan Isaac and the Orlando Magic’s bench. This same unit scored just five points in their first six minutes on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, but tonight raced out to a 14-1 run early in the second, and held the Lakers to just two converted baskets on their first ten tries in that period.
After shooting a paltry 11/24 in the first quarter, the Magic would combine to shoot 15/24 in the second, all while holding the Lakers to 9/19 in that same stanza. The Magic would do it everywhere, shooting 6/9 from three-point range in the second after shooting 1/9 in the first.
Nikola Vucevic contributed 12 points and six rebounds on multiple put-backs and 2 of 3 from three-point range. Augustin followed suit in the second with back-to-back three pointers, propelling the Magic to another mini 6-0 run, forcing a timeout from head coach Luke Walton and his Lakers.
While Isaac was held to just ten minutes in the first half due to his minutes restriction (ankle), he would make the most of it with seven points, five assists, four rebounds, and FOUR blocks! Two of which came against the King himself on successive possessions. He’d finish with five blocks on the night.
Another night, another big @jisaac_01 block. pic.twitter.com/qMwY2yX96T— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) November 18, 2018
The first of the encounters saw LeBron with a bit of space on the perimeter. As Isaac closed, LeBron lifted the ball to a height that normally would see little to no resistance. But Isaac’s length extends beyond that of normal men, and his fingertip forced the ball well short of its intended target.
Simmons led the Magic in transition on multiple possessions in the first half and moved the ball beautifully. In transition, Augustin tossed it to Simmons in the corner, who immediately lofted it cross court to Gordon, who touch-passed to a wide open Augustin for the corner three. After just five first quarter assists, the Magic shared it ten times in the second.
Simmons also penetrated at will, and his six assists helped contribute to the Magic’s 62 points in the paint on the night, a distinct advantage, as the Lakers are 29th in opposing points in the painted area.
On perhaps the most exciting possession of the first half, Augustin wrestled the ball from Ball, and a led a 4-on-1 fast break against LeBron, leading to an Aaron Gordon flush.
Halftime:— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) November 18, 2018
Magic 62, Lakers 53@NikolaVucevic - 12 pts & 6 rebs
D.J. Augustin - 11 pts@TFlight31 - 8 pts@ThaRealJsimms - 8 pts & 6 asts
: @FOXSportsFL | #PureMagic pic.twitter.com/tmgiqb6wlP
As the Lakers attempted to close the gap, LeBron calmly hit a three with 9.2 seconds left, only to see Vucevic respond on the other end with .9 seconds left, securing the 62-53 halftime lead.
The Lakers would grant the Amway Center some highlights of their own, led by the King, LeBron James. Though Isaac got the better of him on consecutive possessions, he still contributed with a productive first half, including this show-stopping tomahawk.
Bron incoming pic.twitter.com/rlc2tqTOnD— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 18, 2018
The King would finish with 22 points, seven assists and four rebounds on just 8/19 shooting.
Though the Lakers refused to play any defense in the second and third quarters, Lonzo Ball proved his development as a tantalizing defender had no limits as he used this possession to slow all five Magic players on the floor.
Lonzo was locking up pic.twitter.com/YZ717MnXz3— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 18, 2018
But the defense would end with Ball, as the Magic would score 38 third quarter points en route to a lead that extended to as much as 20 points. The explosive 38-28 third quarter was captained by 14 points from Vucevic as well as high volume scoring from Fournier, Augustin and Ross. It was a quarter of runs for both squads, as the Magic opened with an 8-0 run, only to see Los Angeles respond with one of their own. A 13-3 run by the Magic would follow, catapulting the Magic faithful into disbelief as the Magic would close the quarter with a 19-point advantage, much to the delight of an elated Amway Center, 100-81.
The Lakers backup squad, led by Ingram, closed the gap in the fourth but it was all for naught, as LeBron would sit for the entirety of the fourth quarter, and the Magic would secure the victory, 130-117.
After a sluggish first quarter, the Magic would finish the game shooting 54%, with 28 assists on 50 made baskets. With just 13 turnovers and 62 points in the paint, head coach Steve Clifford must be pleased as the Magic look to build on their impressive streak.
Ingram finished the night with 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds, Stephenson had 19, Hart 13, McGee 11, and KCP rounded it out with ten.
With tonight’s victory, the Magic reach .500 at 8-8, move into a tie for first int he division with the Hornets, and sit in sixth-place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Next, the Magic play the second half of their back-to-back in the Amway Center as they play host to the New York Knicks.