The Orlando Magic welcomed former lottery selection and three year starting point guard Elfrid Payton back to town in a battle of weakened basketball teams this Saturday night in the Amway Center.
In a game absent T.J. Warren, Tyson Chandler, Devin Booker, Jonathan Isaac, Evan Fournier and Jonathan Simmons, Payton’s spotlight only grew as he set out to take on his former franchise.
The Magic looked to run away quickly early on with an initial 10-2 start, before falling off a cliff offensively. The Magic’s dreadful second quarter saw them sink two field goals on 18 possible tries.
But with their tails firmly planted between their legs heading into halftime, a different team exited the tunnel at the start of the third quarter.
“In the second we were playing with a lot of young guys and couldn’t find a rhythm. We were down at halftime and our guys came back a little more motivated. We had a little more of a normal rotation.” – Frank Vogel
“We had a conversation with each other.” – DJ Augustin
“We knew we needed a fire, and our competitive juices started flowing.” – Aaron Gordon
After scoring just 38 points on 14 of 41 from the field, including three of 14 from three, the Magic combined for 39 points in the third quarter, on 13/24 shooting, drawing contact often to the tune of 11 of 14 in the third alone.
With much of the attention on game leader Aaron Gordon and his highlight spectacle dunks, Nikola Vucevic was the aggressor heading out of the tunnel, scoring eight points in the first three minutes, and 12 in the quarter total.
Shelvin Mack got going two, much as he did in the second quarter of the Raptors game, by hitting two three pointers to give the Magic their first lead 63-62 since they held a 29-28 lead early in the second.
The Suns would never lead again after that point, though they would close to 88-87 behind a three point play engineered by former Magic point guard, Elfrid Payton.
Elfrid Payton played an efficient game in his return, scoring 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals, with only one turnover on 6 of 15 shooting.
“He got me once on a steal. He knows my tendencies. It was fun to see him out there. I wish him all the best.” – Aaron Gordon
“I caught him before the anthem. Gave him a quick hug. I miss him being around here, I really do.” – Frank Vogel
The Amway Center gave Elfrid Payton a tribute video early on in the first quarter, and though he was received warmly, it didn’t stop Magic fans from booing him the very first time he saw the free throw stripe.
Closing it Out
Back to our regularly scheduled program. The Magic finished on a 17-12 run to close this one out, led by Mario Hezonja who was quiet in the first three quarters, before scoring seven fourth quarter points.
Aaron Gordon led all scorers with 29 and a career high eight assists to go along with 11 rebounds. DJ Augustin also closed in on his first career triple double with 15, 10 and 9, though he didn’t seem to concerned with it.
“I didn’t notice the stat. Winning is all that matters and we got a good one tonight.” – DJ Augustin
Other notables were Vucevic with 24 and 11, Hezonja with 14, Mack with 12.
Josh Jackson elongated his streak of 15 point games to six with an 18 point performance, and Alex Len dominated in his early time on the court with 11 and 6 in the first quarter alone. He would finish with 15 and 9, while Tyler Ulis and Troy Daniels had 14 and 12 respectively.
Not so pretty (The First Half)
The two teams combined to shoot 32 of 86 in the first half. Phoenix missed all 12 of its first three point attempts.
Are You Sure?
“That’s a good team over there, I don’t care what their record says.” – DJ Augustin
Next up the Magic will face the Brooklyn Nets this Wednesday, March 28th.