The focus Thursday around the Orlando Magic, around the league for that matter, was all about the NBA’s Trade Deadline. Much to the excitement of many Magic fans, Orlando did in fact make a move earlier today, trading Jonathon Simmons and two future picks for the rights to former first overall pick (‘17) Markelle Fultz.
Two key cogs of Orlando’s current rotation, Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, also survived the deadline without being traded despite their impending unrestricted free agency status this upcoming July.
If Terrence Ross was happy to still be in Orlando, he sure showed it Thursday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ross scored a season-high 32 points off the bench, helping the Magic secure a 122-112 victory over the Wolves.
“He’s an exceptional shot-maker,” Coach Steve Clifford said of Ross after the game. “And he’s a lot better off the dribble than I realized. He’s playing at a really high level.”
The Magic began the game pretty hot from the floor, and that never really changed throughout the game. Vucevic and Aaron Gordon combined to score 12 points and help the Magic convert 8 of their first 12 attempts from the field in the contest.
Minnesota rookie Josh Okogie gave the Wolves a really nice lift in the first quarter. The Georgia Tech-product, who averages 7.3 point per game this season, provided his team with seven first quarter points.
Orlando’s offense may have been humming out of the gate, but their defense wasn’t where it needed to be. Coach Clifford mentioned before the game that his team had been fouling too much recently, and that trend continued as the Magic committed six personal fouls while also allowing nine second chance points in the opening period.
The second quarter turned into the Ross show. The veteran wing, who the Magic decided to hold on to past the deadline despite is unrestricted free agency status, torched the Wolves for 13 points in the second frame.
“Right now is not the time to change anything you’re doing,” said Ross when asked about his relief now that the deadline has passed. “You’ve got to stay in your routine as much as possible.”
The Magic shot a torrid 74% (17-23, 4-5 3PTA’s) from the field in the second, pulling away from Minnesota as they built a double-digit lead.
The Magic outscored the Timberwolves 39-27 in the second quarter and took a 71-58 lead into the break behind Ross’ 20 first half points off the bench.
"I'm happy to be here, I'm happy to be playing."@TFlight31 talks about remaining a part of the @OrlandoMagic roster after the trade deadline after having a 20-point first half! #PureMagic #NBA pic.twitter.com/g3s0GvGXTW— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) February 8, 2019
The game swung back and forth through the third period with neither team gaining much of an advantage on the scoreboard. Andrew Wiggins scored 11 of his 23 points in the third quarter, but Gordon was just as effective (scoring 10 in the period).
Orlando’s double-digit lead extended to 17 points after a Wes Iwundu three-point attempt as the shot-clock was expiring went through with just seconds remaining in the quarter.
A Ross three-point make put Orlando up by 20 after their first possession of the fourth quarter.
The Wolves chipped away in the fourth as the Magic started to settle for some less than ideal looks from the field.
A Karl-Anthony Towns lay-in (and-1) with 2:36 remaining in the game cut Orlando’s lead to just nine points. Minnesota brought some half-court defensive pressure on Orlando’s ensuing offensive possession, producing a turnover.
Another Magic turnover on the following possession resulted in an uncontested breakaway for Wiggins, that is until Ross hustled back and broke up Wiggins’ attempt at the rim at the last moment.
Ross knocked down a three in the corner Orlando’s next time down the floor and that was enough to give the Magic the margin they needed to stay ahead for good. Ross reached the 30-point mark for the second time in a week, topping his previous season-high of 30 points set last Thursday night against the Indiana Pacers.
“That was a huge play because everyone else had given up,” Clifford said of Ross’ effort getting back on defense. “Like you said, he ran it down, and then they pressed again, and Aaron hit him in the corner (and he hit the big three).”
Towns finished with a game-high 27 points (12-16 FGA’s) to go along with 11 rebounds. Wiggins finished with 23 points and 9 rebounds (10-28 FGA’s).
Orlando had really nice balance Thursday night, with Vucevic finishing with 21 points, Gordon with 19 points, and Evan Fournier with 18 points. The Magic shot 11-26 (42.3%) from behind the arc in the contest.
It remains to be seen how Markelle Fultz will be worked into Orlando’s rotation, or if he will even play at all this season. President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman addressed the media at halftime and clearly stated that the team would be very patient with Fultz.
“We’re not going to do it fast, we’re going to do it right,” Weltman said. “(Markelle) Fultz was the number one pick in the draft two years ago. It wasn’t a fluke, the whole league had him there.”
But for now, the Magic got a much needed win. They now head to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks Saturday night.
And to the benefit of the team, the fans, and the entire organization - Sixth Man of the Year candidate Terrence Ross will be making that trip with them.