There was no shortage of story-lines inside the Amway Center Friday night as the Dallas Mavericks came to town to close out their two-game season series with the Magic.
Hall of Fame forward Dirk Nowitzki, who is presumed to be retiring at season’s end, made quite possibly his last visit to Orlando in his illustrious 21-year career.
And Luka Doncic, the inside favorite to win this season’s NBA Rookie of the Year Award, made his debut in City Beautiful as well.
Oh, and the Magic were pretty much in a must-win situation.
Orlando got the victory they desperately needed, defeating Dallas 111-106, despite finishing the game rather flat.
Terrence Ross led the Magic with 22 points (8-16 FGA’s) off the bench, keeping his name in the discussion for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. Nikola Vucevic chipped in 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Orlando was outscored 33-19 in the fourth quarter, but had thankfully built-up (early) just enough of a cushion to come out ahead Friday night.
Jonathan Isaac was a man on a mission early in the first quarter, scoring 7 points and grabbing 3 rebounds in the game’s first five minutes.
Ross returned to Orlando’s lineup Friday after missing the team’s last game in Philadelphia with a sore Achilles. Ross gave the Magic a lift in the game’s opening period, knocking down two quick three-point attempts coming off the bench midway through the first quarter. The Magic connected on five of eight three-point attempts through one period of play.
Dallas was ice cold to open the game, missing 16 of their 24 first quarter field goal attempts. The Magic were mixing-up their defensive looks aimed at checking Doncic, putting both Aaron Gordon and Wes Iwundu on the star rookie to begin the contest.
Two more Ross three-point makes in the second quarter helped Orlando push their first half lead to 17 over Dallas. The Magic displayed great balance in the first-half with four different players scoring in double-figures (Gordon, Ross, Isaac, Vucevic).
A silly foul by Vucevic, who got caught up in the air from a Doncic pump-fake, resulted in three made free throws for the Slovenian leading into the break.
Dallas opened the second half on a 14-5 run to cut into Orlando’s lead.
D.J. Augustin was huge in the third quarter, scoring 10 of Orlando’s first 12 points in the period. Augustin hit a big three-point attempt from the top of the key, and then converted a reverse layup on Orlando’s following offensive possession, to help the Magic offset Dallas’ run.
REVERSE LAYUP— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) March 9, 2019
D.J. Augustin has 10 points in the 3rd and is helping keep the @orlandomagic alive with this drive to the basket!
Watch all of tonight’s action on FOX Sports Florida and on the FOX Sports App!#PureMagic #NBA pic.twitter.com/KPvOhaxnsN
A jumper/prayer by Jerian Grant went down as Orlando’s shot-clock expired at the end of the third quarter, providing the Magic with their largest lead of the game heading into the game’s final period. Grant played back-up point guard minutes Friday night, and is set to serve in that capacity for the foreseeable future. Prior to tonight’s contest, Orlando team officials announced that rookie Isaiah Briscoe had suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee.
The Magic seemed to be in cruise control to begin the fourth, stemming from a play that exemplifies the maturity that some of Orlando’s young players are displaying amidst this playoff run.
Gordon made a horrible pass at the top of the key, leading to what was assumed to be an uncontested layup at the other end. However, Gordon stayed engaged in the play, and blocked Courtney Lee’s attempt on the fast-break. The highlight block led to a Ross three-point make at the other end, his sixth made-three of the game.
.@Double0AG with the block ➡️ @TFlight31 swishes the 3 and the @orlandomagic are on— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) March 9, 2019
Watch all of tonight’s action on FOX Sports Florida and on the FOX Sports App!#PureMagic #NBA pic.twitter.com/0ZjDDjrZsi
However, Dallas cut Orlando’s lead to nine with just over two minutes remaining in the game, and then drew even closer (within five with) after a Trey Burke lay-in with 46 seconds left in the contest.
The Magic failed to score in the game’s final 1:22 minutes, but mercifully held on for the win.
Nowitzki finished with 15 points in 18 minutes, matching his season-high in points. Doncic led all scorers with 24 points (9-20 FGA’s). He also pulled down 8 rebounds and dished out 5 assists.
The Magic now head out on a quick trip to Memphis for an early Sunday evening tilt with the Grizzlies.