Orlando got their first look Wednesday night at last year’s second overall pick in the NBA Draft, point guard Lonzo Ball. The Magic stomped the Lakers five weeks ago in Orlando, but Ball did not play in that contest.
Ball finished with 16 points (6-16 FG), 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
The Lakers were led Wednesday night by one of their other rookies, forward Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma, who reportedly worked out numerous times last June for the Magic prior to the draft, had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
The story of this game was an unfortunate clock malfunction with less than one second remaining in the game that cost the Magic a chance at a possible game winning shot-attempt.
“There was a clock malfunction,” Coach Frank Vogel said in his post game conference. “The operator started the clock before it was supposed to start, and as a result, they took the ball from us and made it a jump ball situation - which killed any chance we had of tying the game or taking the lead.”
The Magic got some energy early on from Aaron Gordon, who provided the crowd at Staples Center with a couple of thunderous highlight dunks.
Gordon had a huge first quarter, scoring 12 points and pulling down 6 rebounds in the period.
Jonathan Isaac got an early call into the game with 2:14 left in the first quarter and immediately made an impact. Isaac collected a rebound, snagged a steal, and forced another turnover. But the rookie picked up two fouls in just under two minutes of action. He went on to pick up another foul, his third, before the half.
The Lakers started the second quarter on a 10-3 run, fueled by strong play from Isaiah Thomas and Ivica Zubac. In fact, their run going back to the end of the first quarter (combined with the beginning of the second) was 15-3.
It was a first half of major runs. The Magic jumped out big early, but the Lakers began to impose their style of play on the Magic. The fastest “pace” team in the NBA this season forced Orlando into ten first half turnovers, along with multiple other quick/bad shots that fed right into what the Lakers were trying to do. Los Angeles got 17 fast break points in the first half a took a 56-51 lead into halftime.
Gordon led the Magic with 14 first half points; here is his first half shot chart courtesy of Fox Sports Florida:
Nikola Vucevic rattled off seven straight points to begin the second half, but Lonzo Ball answered back for the Lakers, scoring 13 of his team’s first 16 points in the third quarter. Ball also made an incredible play after he turned the ball over, hustling back and breaking up an Isaac uncontested breakaway dunk by slapping the ball away from behind.
Evan Fournier left the game at the 8:19 mark in the third quarter and went straight to the locker room with what was later determined to be a sprained left knee.
The score was 81-81 at one point, but the Lakers then used a 18-6 run to break away from the Magic midway through the fourth quarter.
A wild Gordon three-point attempt banked home from the top of the key, which spurred a late 7-0 Magic run.
Jonathon Simmons was a huge factor late in the game, fighting for second chance opportunities and cutting into the lane at will. Simmons marched to the free throw line with an opportunity to tie the game with less than a minute to play, but only converted one of his two free throws.
After a Magic defensive stop, Aaron Gordon pushed the ball up the court and converted a layup with five seconds remaining to give Orlando the lead (107-106).
The Lakers’ last possession went to Brook Lopez, who was able to lean into Vucevic and draw a foul with less than a second remaining in the contest. Lopez had 11 huge fourth quarter points (finished with 27 points), none bigger than the two he knocked down from the line to give the Lakers the lead.
With 0.6 seconds remaining in the game, a completely bizarre and disastrous moment for the Magic occurred. The clock operator at Staples inadvertently started the clock before anyone on the Magic touched the ball.
After a lengthy debate, the refs placed the ball at center court for a jump ball, essentially taking any chance the Magic had for a miracle last shot attempt away.
.@OrlandoMagic coach Frank Vogel explains what happened at the end of Wednesday's frustrating loss, saying it stings to have the ball taken out of your hands with the game on the line. #PureMagic #NBA pic.twitter.com/t0LIbewNoD— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) March 8, 2018
The Magic were led by Gordon, who finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds. Vucevic had 24 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Orlando’s West Coast trip carries on Friday night as the Magic take on the Sacramento Kings. Game-time is set for 10:00 PM EST.