It wasn’t always pretty Sunday night inside the Amway Center. In fact, it often wasn’t for both Orlando and Atlanta.
But the Magic found a way to get another win, a victory they desperately needed to keep pace in the Eastern Conference, 101-91 over the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks came into Sunday’s game averaging just over 119 points per game in their last five contests, but the Magic held their Southeast Division foe to 41% shooting from the field (23% from the three-point line).
Nikola Vucevic had another All-Star level performance for the Magic, leading the way with 27 points and 20 rebounds. Aaron Gordon also had a very strong game Sunday night, scoring 22 points and pulling down 8 rebounds.
Orlando, who has been one of the worst teams in the NBA at drawing fouls this season (actually, in forever), marched to the free throw line 33 times (26-33 FTA’s) Sunday night against the Hawks (compared to Atlanta’s ten attempts). The Hawks committed 29 personal fouls in the game; the Magic committed just 15.
The D.J. Augustin/Vucevic pick-and-roll was really hurting the Hawks early in the game. Vucevic destroyed Atlanta in the paint in the first quarter, scoring Orlando’s first 13 points of the game (17 of their first 19 points).
The Magic were fortunate Vucevic started the game so hot. Orlando’s All-Star center was 8-13 from the field in the game’s opening period, while the rest of the team shot a combined 3-12.
Alex Len gave the Hawks a lift off the bench in the first quarter, scoring six of his nine first half points in the opening period.
Michael Carter-Williams debuted with the Magic midway through the first quarter, immediately inserting himself into the action by fiercely contesting an Atlanta breakaway dunk. Carter-Williams played with pace, something the Magic haven’t always gotten from Jerian Grant. The veteran guard picked up his first assist in a Magic uniform on a nice drive to his right, where he passed back across court to find Terrence Ross for a three (and one).
The Magic opened up the second quarter on a 9-2 run to create a bit of distance between themselves and the Hawks.
Gordon got two quick buckets midway through the second quarter off fast-break opportunities where he just out-ran everyone else on the floor.
Vucevic recorded a double-double in just over a quarter and a half, his 52nd of the season (career high double-doubles in one season for Vucevic).
Both teams began the second half rather sluggish, combining to score 12 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter.
Atlanta outscored Orlando in the third quarter (22-19), but neither team really played very well. The Magic shot 22% from the field in the third quarter (6-22 FGA’s), while the Hawks were 0-7 from three-point distance. The two teams combined for six assists and 11 turnovers. U-G-L-Y basketball.
After Atlanta cut Orlando’s lead to five points early in the fourth quarter, the Magic built their advantage back up to double-digits on a Wes Iwundu put-back slam that woke the Amway crowd up a bit, followed by a very difficult Gordon turnaround jumper from the top of the key.
Iwundu was huge for the Magic Sunday night. He scored a career-high 14 points in 25 minutes off Orlando’ bench (2-4 3PTA’s, 6-8 FTA’s), to go along with 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
A Dewayne Dedmon three-point make, his second of the fourth quarter, cut Orlando’s lead to 90-83 with 3:27 remaining in the game. Dedmon finished the game with a double-double against his old team (10 points and 15rebounds).
Atlanta drew within five points on their next offensive possession on a John Collins lay-in off a lob from Trae Young.
The Hawks continued to threaten late in the contest, stealing the ball away from Vucevic with just under two minutes remaining in the game (and down five points). However, Terrence Ross stole the ball back from Dedmon before he could find a teammate for an outlet pass, which eventually led to a D.J. Augustin lay-in at the other end. A Fournier paint score on Orlando’s following offensive possession finally put the game out of reach.
Young, who came into Sunday averaging 25.6 points per game over his last ten contests, led the Hawks with 20 points (0-5 3PTA’s), 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in a losing effort. Len was quiet in the second half, finishing with 13 points off the bench.
Collins, who has averaged 24.2 points and 12.4 rebounds over Atlanta’s last five games, was a non-factor Sunday. He fouled out of the game after scoring 10 points (5-9 FGA’s).
Orlando’s five-game home-stand will continue Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Magic remain one game behind the eighth-seeded Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.