That’s the simplified version of what happened, but the full game was a taste of everything fans love and hate about the current version of the Magic.
Orlando missed their first 10 three-pointers but controlled the game early. In fact, despite some vintage heroics by Dallas’ J.J. Barea in the second quarter, the Mavs wouldn’t take their first real lead of the game until two minutes left in the third quarter.
The Magic defense was relentless, spearheaded by do-it-all wing Jonathan, Isaac, who would finish one steal short of the third 5x5 game in team history (13/10/5/4/6). Relying on their often-memed length and athleticism, Orlando held the Mavs to 42 percent shooting on the day, even after their late run.
But that aforementioned Mavs run felt like a fever dream of what has plagued Orlando for years. With just six minutes left in the game, Markelle Fultz converted a beautiful and-one to put the Magic up 71-60. Just when it seemed like the Magic could relax, they decided to, and the Mavs capitalized to the tune of a 26-8 scoring blitz to close the game.
The Magic offense that had looked passable for most of the night, using good communication to get easy looks at the rim, totally collapsed. They abandoned what had been working in favor of what never has – iso ball. It was a familiar sight as Orlando tried to plug the hole of their hemorrhaging lead with the Evan Fournier/Nikola Vucevic two-man game and sets that featured little motion.
Aaron Gordon scored 21 points by halftime but was largely ignored in the second half until it really mattered. Conversely, Dallas’ Luka Doncic scored 21 of his 27 points in the latter half of the game.
Despite these inadequacies, the Magic defense kept them in the game until the end, where three late miscues sunk it for good.
On two separate occasions during the final minute of the game, Markelle Fultz stole the ball and drove it down the court, kicking it to Aaron Gordon. On both such possessions, Aaron Gordon committed an offensive foul.
The Magic defense held fast again and again, leading up a final shot that was open, but unlikely to go in for Nikola Vucevic. With Orlando down one, the final play of the game was a three-point attempt by a player (Vucevic) that was shooting just 19 percent from deep headed into the game.
Though the Magic played hard and finally broke 100, the final result was one of disappointment and very little surprise.