The Magic got their All-Star back, but it was a balanced attack that led to their best offensive performance of the season.
With the return of Nikola Vucevic, the Magic’s core was fully intact for the first time in a while, and everyone got in on the action. The Magic had eight of their nine players finish in double-figures to tie a franchise-high (Come on, AG!), and set a new season-high for points in a game during their 130-119 win over the Pelicans. The Magic, who eclipsed their previous season-high of 128, made a season-best 17 three-pointers to help snap a three-game losing streak.
Vucevic, after missing 11 games because of a sprained ankle, shot 8-for-15 from the field and finished with 20 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes. Just as encouraging was Mo Bamba continuing his impressive play by scoring 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting and grabbing six rebounds in 19 minutes.
Jonathan Isaac led the way with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Markelle Fultz had 10 points, seven assists and one crazy highlight reel play. Evan Fournier added 16 points on 6-for-14 shooting. Fournier and Aaron Gordon were the only members of the Magic to shoot below 50 percent in the game, with Gordon going just 3-for-13 for nine points.
The Magic got 54 points from their bench, who combined to shoot 60 percent from the field (18 of 30) and dish out 14 assists with only one turnover. D.J. Augustin, playing in his hometown one night after having his high school jersey retired, had 17 points and eight assists. Terrence Ross had 14 points, making 4 of 6 three-point attempts. Even Michael Carter-Williams got in on the three-point shooting, making 2 of 3 attempts and finishing with 10 points and four assists.
Vucevic connected on his first shot attempt, grabbing an offensive rebound and converting a hook shot just over one minute into the game. Even with the return of their All-Star, who went on to score nine points in the first, the Magic trailed 30-24 after the first. That was thanks in part to a 49-second span where JJ Redick, Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball each hit a three to give the Pelicans a seven-point advantage. The Pelicans, who closed the first on an 11-3 run, shot 59 percent from the field in the quarter, compared to 46 percent for the Magic.
The Magic came out strong in the second, evening the score at 34 on a three by D.J. Augustin with 9:27 left in the half. After falling behind by six once again, the Magic went on an 11-2 run, highlighted by a Vooch three, to take a 48-45 lead.
V CH pic.twitter.com/4m3zPCwzko— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) December 15, 2019
The Magic and Pelicans traded baskets to close out the half, with Orlando heading into the break with a 58-57 lead despite the Pelicans shooting 45 percent in the half and torching the Magic in the pick-and-roll. Vucevic and Fournier led the way with 11 points each for the Magic in the first half.
And Fultz did this...
M A R K E L L E F U L T Z pic.twitter.com/F5hScSYwvX— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) December 15, 2019
The Magic enjoyed their best offensive quarter of the season in the third. They scored 41 points, the most they’ve scored in a single quarter this season, and shot 63.2 percent from the field (12 of 19) and 66.7 percent from three (6 of 9). A 14-5 Magic run gave Orlando a 75-67 lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the third. The lead grew to 15 when Carter-Williams drained a three with 31 seconds left to send the Magic into the fourth up 99-84. Jonathan Isaac scored 11 points in the third as the Magic outscored the Pelicans, 41-27. Rough quarter all around for the Pelicans, who saw Brandon Ingram go to the bench with his fifth foul, Josh Hart receive a technical foul for complaining about a non-call, and Alvin Gentry get tossed after receiving two technical fouls. That gave the Magic three straight technical free throws, adding to their advantage on the night from the stripe.
Scored a season-high 41 points in the third quarter. pic.twitter.com/kb8hJYxb5s— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) December 15, 2019
The Magic lead peaked at 25 points following a three by Ross and a pull-up jumper by Carter-Williams that made it 120-95 with 6:55 to go. The Pelicans managed to trim the lead to single digits with a minute remaining but ultimately went on to lose their 12th straight game.
The Magic shot 51.7 percent from the field, hitting 17 of 34 three-point attempts to make it the second straight game in which they have made at least 15 threes. They also had a huge advantage at the free throw line, where thy connected on 21 of 26 attempts compared to just 6 of 12 for the Pelicans.
The Pelicans actually outshot the Magic from three, going 19-for-43 from deep (44.2 percent). They had four players finish with over 20 points, led by Jrue Holiday, who had 29 points. Redick, who needs a one-way ticket back to Orlando, added 23 points. Ingram had 21 points and Hart had 20.
Some concerns for the Magic on the defensive end, particularly in the pick-and-roll, but a very satisfying offensive night. It was a much-needed win considering the opposition on the remainder of Orlando’s four-game road trip gets more challenging, beginning with a well-rested Jazz team on Tuesday.