The Orlando Magic needed a win Friday night in the worst way. Losers of seven of their last nine, and coming off losses to the Chicago Bulls and the Phoenix Suns in the last week, you could make an argument that Orlando’s season was on the brink of seriously turning in a bad way.
Not an ideal time for the Magic to welcome the Toronto Raptors to town, owners of the league’s best overall record (26-9 coming into the game).
“And that’s why they play the games,” as an old-timer at ESPN would say.
The Magic blitzed the Toronto Raptors inside the Amway Center, charging their way towards an inspired 116-87 victory. Orlando was led by their star center Nikola Vucevic, who scored 30 points, pulled down 20 rebounds, and dished out 8 assists (in 33 minutes).
The Magic received 39 points from their bench, a unit that has been mostly down the last couple of weeks.
Orlando really struggled at the beginning of the game to stop Toronto on the defensive end. The Raptors effectively utilized screen-and-pops, dribble hand-offs, and movement off the ball to knockdown six of their first nine shots.
On the other end, the Magic couldn’t buy a bucket, starting the game 6-17. The Magic were getting good looks for the most part, they just weren’t knocking anything down.
In a surprising move, Coach Clifford called on Wes Iwundu as his first man off the bench, and it worked out in a big way. Iwundu scored six points (+4) for the Magic in 10 minutes of play in the first half.
Mohamed Bamba picked up three personal fouls in the second quarter, but he was a lot more active than he has been recently. Bamba scored five points in the second quarter, pulled down three rebounds, and changed multiple Toronto shots at the rim.
Jonathan Isaac, another young Magic cornerstone piece, also showed up (and showed out) in the first half. Isaac scored nine points (six of them coming in the second quarter), pulled down four rebounds, dished out two assists, and blocked two shots in 17 first half minutes.
Orlando outscored the Raptors 32-19 in the second quarter, limiting the Raptors to 22% shooting from the field (5-23) as they took a nine-point lead into the break (57-48).
J N A T H A N I S A A C pic.twitter.com/X1vNqOaqzx— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) December 29, 2018
“Everything is working. We’re getting the ball in the paint to Vucevic. We’re attacking the rim and kicking out for open shots. We just have to keep it going.”— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) December 29, 2018
- @jisaac_01 gives his thoughts on the @OrlandoMagic's first half of play tonight against the Raptors#PureMagic #NBA pic.twitter.com/HYoqDjekds
The Magic opened the second half on a 17-6 run as they pushed their lead to 20 points. After starting the game 11-21, the Raptors shot 10-49 (20%) combined in the second and third quarters.
A 35-15 drubbing of the Raptors in the third quarter extended Orlando’s lead to 29 points (92-63) heading into the game’s final period.
The Raptors cut into Orlando’s lead a little bit in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late. In fact, after a late push from Orlando’s reserves, Toronto’s 29-point deficit remained the final margin in the game.
HAVE A NIGHT @NikolaVucevic— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) December 29, 2018
Vucevic goes one-on-one with his defender, spins and lays it in to give him 30 points on the night!
Watch all of tonight’s action on FOX Sports Florida and on the FOX Sports App!#PureMagic #NBA pic.twitter.com/3QBsP8JbYF
Nikola Vucevic did it all tonight! #PureMagic pic.twitter.com/Ho5MtC282m— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 29, 2018
The night belonged to Vucevic, who continued his serious All-Star campaign with a 30-20 game (his first such game this season, third of his career). With his effort Friday night, Vucevic became just the ninth player since 1976 to score 30+ points, grab 20+ rebounds, and dish out 8+ assists (joining Cousins, Lee, Duncan, Nowitzki, Barkley, English, Abdul-Jabbar, and McGinnis).
Coach Clifford has said numerous times already this season that “in this league, you’re never as high as the highs, and you’re never as low as the lows.” The Magic must build on their effort Friday night when they host the Detroit Pistons on Sunday afternoon (3:30 PM EST).