It had the making of the Markelle Fultz game we had all been waiting for. And it was coming at a time when the Magic were in need of a win to complete a successful homestand before heading out on the road.
Fultz started strong, knocking down his first two three-point attempts of the game, shooting 6-for-6 in the half, and setting a new season-high with 14 points all before halftime. Fultz, though, was quiet for a majority of the second half, scoring just two points in the third to match his career-high of 16 points.
With the Wizards refusing to go quietly, having trimmed an 18-point Magic lead down to three in the closing seconds, Fultz delivered a potential game-saving play. With 45 seconds remaining, Bradley Beal drove to the basket and attempted the kick-out, but Fultz got a hand on it to tip it away, raced down court and threw down a two-handed dunk plus the foul for a three-point play that gave the Magic a six-point lead and Fultz a new career-high of 19 points.
Fultz shot 8-for-10 from the field in 26 minutes and also had three rebounds and two assists.
But it was the Magic veterans who were the main force in the victory. Nikola Vucevic was extremely efficient and in All-Star form, scoring a season-high 30 points on 11 of 14 shooting, including 3-for-4 from three, while also added 17 rebounds and six assists. Evan Fournier continued his solid play with 25 points and nine assists. Fournier shot 7-for-13, including 5 of 8 from deep, and during the five-game homestand shot 54.7 percent from the field (35-for-64) and 61.3 percent from three (19-for-31). With the win, the Magic went 4-1 on the homestand and won their third straight to improve to 6-7.
Vucevic got off to a quick start, scoring nine points in the first quarter as the Magic jumped out to an early lead. Fultz drained a pair of threes in the quarter, the first he has made at Amway Center, to give the Magic a 22-11 advantage.
Fultz had eight points in the second quarter, including this throwdown...
D.J. Augustin also had eight points in the second before exiting with a dislocated finger. With Michael Carter Williams having exited earlier in the quarter with a hip strain, it seemed like Fultz was in store for big minutes in the second half, but Augustin was able to return to split the workload.
The Magic, who shot 47.8 percent in the half, led 61-52 heading into the third quarter.
Each time the Magic restored a double-digit lead in the third, the up-tempo but defensively inept Wizards chipped away and kept in close. Orlando led 88-77 after three.
Orlando opened the fourth on a 7-0 run, capped by an Aaron Gordon jumper that gave the Magic their largest lead at 95-77 with 10 minutes left. The Wizards later responded with a 14-2 run, capped by a Mo Wagner three to pull within 97-91 with 7:23 to go.
Again the Magic again reestablished a double-digit advantage, with threes by Vucevic and Evan Fournier opening a 106-91 lead with six minutes to go.
The Wizards then went on a three-point barrage, led by Beal, who was coming off consecutive 44-point games but had been quiet against the Magic until the fourth. Beal, who through three quarters had 19 points on 7 of 18 shooting, scored 15 in the fourth. That included three triples, the last of which cut the Magic lead to 117-116 with 1:01 remaining.
Vooch then hit a pair of free-throws to make it 119-116, and that set the stage for Fultz’s game sealing steal and dunk.
The Magic shot 49.4 percent, including 15-for-38 from three (39.5 percent), and outrebounded the Wizards 52-38. Orlando continued to take and make a bunch of free throws, going 24 of 26 from the line, while limiting the Wizards to just 12 attempts (10-for-12).
Terrence Ross had 15 points off the bench, but made just 1 of 7 attempts from three. Augustin finished with 13 points and three assists. Gordon had 13 points and nine rebounds but struggled from the field, making just 5 of 16 attempts. Al-Farouq Aminu - starting for the second straight game in place of Jonathan Isaac, who is recovering from a sprained ankle - had six points and six rebounds.
Beal’s 40-point streak was snapped as he finished with 34 points to lead the Wizards, who shot 46.3 percent from three (19-for-41) and scored 44 points in the fourth quarter. C.J. Miles added 21 off the bench.
Closer than it should have been, but it was a much-needed win. The Magic now set out on a four-game road trip, beginning in Toronto, where Orlando looks to reach .500 when they face the defending champs.