Aaron Gordon left the Magic’s 111-100 loss to the Bucks on Saturday night in the third quarter because of a sore Achilles he had been trying to play through.
“I know it’s something you definitely don’t want to mess with,” Gordon told reporters after the game. “I feel like I might have been playing on it a little too long already. Now’s the time I got to get it taken care of. I just want to get healthy to get back with my team.”
"I gotta get it taken care of before I continue to play," @Double0AG.— FOX Sports Florida & Sun (@FOXSportsFL) December 29, 2019
AG talked his achilles injury and the helpless feeling of not being able to be out on the court with your team. #MagicAboveAll #NBA pic.twitter.com/OckXFAB5QJ
Should Gordon have to be replaced in the starting lineup, it will further deplete a Magic bench that even at full strength has struggled to keep Orlando in games. Such was the case against the Bucks on Saturday, beginning with a stretch in which they closed the first quarter on a 13-0 run.
The Magic trailed 20-19 when D.J. Augustin checked in with 5:02 remaining, but Orlando would be limited to just two field goals for the remainder of the quarter (both by Augustin). The lineup of Augustin-Terrence Ross-Wes Iwundu-Aaron Gordon-Khem Birch allowed a 22-20 deficit grow to 37-25 heading into the second quarter. It was the start of what would be an ugly night for the second unit, particularly for Augustin, who on a night when Markelle Fultz had his worst shooting game of the season, finished with a dreadful minus-35 in 28 minutes. Birch, playing back-up center with Mo Bamba out with a sprained ankle, also struggled as he was repeatedly outmuscled down low.
The Bucks, playing without both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe, shot 60 percent in the first quarter. And on the shots they didn’t make, the Magic were allowing second chance opportunities. On one possession, the Bucks grabbed three offensive rebounds that ultimately led to a bucket, prompting a Steve Clifford time out. It was a sign of things to come for a Magic team that would be outrebounded 57-35, which included 13 offensive rebounds by Milwaukee.
The Bucks’ lead reached 19 midway through the second quarter. The Magic defense, though, would tighten up and limit the Bucks to 19 points in the quarter. At the other end, Orlando began to knock down some outside shots, with Nikola Vucevic’s second three of the quarter pulling the Magic within 54-46 late in the second.
The Magic starters continued to chip away at the Bucks’ lead. Jonathan Isaac scored the first seven points of the third for the Magic, pulling Orlando within 58-53 with 8:44 remaining. The Magic got within two after a 7-0 run that was capped by a pair of free throws by Vucevic to make it 65-63 with 4:46 to go. Orlando, after outscoring the Bucks 28-22 in the quarter, would enter the fourth down by just four at 78-74.
The Bucks, though, would again take advantage of the Magic second unit. Milwaukee opened the quarter on a 11-2 run, which included a pair of threes by Ersan Ilyasova, and held Orlando without a field goal for the first 3:53 of the quarter to take a 89-76 advantage. The lead would grow to 17.
The Magic, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, were unable to build off their victory over the Sixers and take advantage of the shorthanded Bucks. Good teams have depth, a quality the Magic are simply lacking right now.
Fournier had 23 points and Vucevic added 21 to lead the Magic, who shot 40 percent from the field. The two combined to shoot 9 of 17 from three (Vucevic 5-for-10, Fournier 4-for-7), as the Magic overall shot 40 percent from long range (14-for-35).
Isaac had 19 points, nine rebounds, and a career-high seven steals, which was one shy of the franchise record set by Nick Anderson in 1991 (Isaac was initially credited with eight steals but a stat correction when the box score became official removed one steal).
“I try to time things and try to guess whats going to happen, and it worked out tonight,” Isaac said after the game.
Fultz shot just 1-for-10 from the field and finished with four points and six assists, but even as he suffered through his worst shooting game of the season, the offense still flowed better when we was on the court. Augustin had 12 points and four assists, but his tendency to dribble aimlessly, particularly when he isn’t playing alongside the Magic starters, leads to a very stagnant offense. Still, Steve Clifford opted to play Augustin for nearly the entire fourth quarter (10:12).
The core of the Magic bench all finished in the minus, with Ross at -21 in 27 minutes, Birch at -14 in 16 minutes, and Iwundu at -12 in 18 minutes. The Bucks bench outscored the Magic’s 51-28, led by George Hill (7-for-11 FG) and Robin Lopez (7-for-8 FG), who each had 17 points (season-high for Lopez).
“When both teams went to their benches, their bench was very good and ours really struggled,” Clifford said after the game. “Our starters, if you look at it, for the most part we were plus when the starters were on the court. When they put their bench in, it was a different story.”
Kris Middleton had 21 points to lead the Bucks, who shot 51.2 percent from the field and had 14 second chance points, helping them overcome 24 turnovers. The Magic struggled to contain Giannis’s replacement, Ilyasova, as he scored an efficient 17 points (5-for-6 from three) and grabbed 14 rebounds.
The Magic (14-18), after facing two of the East’s best, return home on Monday to play a 6-27 Hawks team that could be without Trae Young (sprained ankle).