We got our very first look at Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony successfully coexisting.
The play of the two Magic point guards was the biggest takeaway in the Magic’s 116-107 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night. Fultz led the Magic with 21 points on 9-for-19 shooting and Anthony was the team’s second highest scorer with 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting.
The two shared a backcourt, and played alongside three other Magic starters in Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Dwayne Bacon, while helping the Magic make a run in the third quarter.
Fultz, who made both of his three-point attempts, also added four assists and five rebounds in 31 minutes. Anthony, who played much better off the ball than he did in a preseason opener where he described his performance as “terrible,” connected on 2 of 4 attempts from deep and also had four assists and four rebounds in 27 minutes. Each had just one turnover.
“I’m super comfortable out there with Markelle,” Anthony told reporters after the game. “Markelle is at his best when he’s in the open court. So if I can get it, I can push and I can hit him ahead. That’s what we want right there.”
That Markelle Fultz - Cole Anthony backcourt looked nice tonight pic.twitter.com/KBXemIRDij— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) December 14, 2020
But outside of the play of the two point guards, Steve Clifford wasn’t thrilled with the Magic’s lackluster performance, saying he “couldn’t be more disappointed.”
“We need to be an effort team. We need to be an intangible team. We need to be ready to play every night,” Clifford said. “If we do, we’ll be good enough to beat anybody. If we play like tonight, it will be hard to beat anybody. It was a very, very disappointing effort.”
“I hated our approach. I hated our intensity. I hated our attention to detail,” he added. “So I didn’t like any of it.”
The Magic defense folded at times, highlighted by a 19-0 Atlanta run over a four-minute stretch in the third, during which the Hawks hit 6 of 9 three-point attempts to take an 83-66 lead. Orlando commit 27 personal fouls, sending the Hawks to the free throw line 34 times (23 makes). The Magic did a decent job containing Trae Young in the pick-and-roll, but he finished with 21 points and seven assists in 32 minutes.
Orlando fought back by closing the third on a 9-0 run and stayed within striking distance through the fourth.
Evan Fournier, the only player besides Fultz and Anthony that Clifford praised in his postgame presser, had 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting, including 3 of 6 from three. Nikola Vucevic added 14 points and 15 rebounds. Aaron Gordon was active early on and aggressive in looking for his shot, scoring seven of his 15 points in the first quarter. The Magic’s other rookie, Chuma Okeke, is also showing signs in limited playing time that he might be legit, whether by making a pretty backdoor feed, or crashing the glass or hitting the catch-and-shoot three...
The Magic now return to Orlando to close out the preseason, taking on the Hornets Thursday and Saturday.