The game started ugly for Mo Bamba on the offensive end.
He looked lost and unsure of himself, and then this happened...
The 7-0 Bamba was blocked by the 6-1 Trae Young. Minutes later, Bamba was blocked by another Hawks’ point guard, Jeff Teague, while attempting a three. While Bamba continued to block shots himself at a seemingly historic rate, swatting two shots in the opening quarter, it seemed like it was going to be an offensive-setback type of night for the young Magic center.
Bamba scored 15 points in the second quarter, matching his single-game career-high, and it helped turned the game around as the Magic beat the Hawks, 130-120. Bamba in the second connected on three three-point shots, got to the free throw line, and converted a putback in the final seconds of the half. He also grabbed nine first half rebounds, and added two second quarter blocks to bring his first half total to four. All in 12 minutes.
Bamba anchored a second unit that helped spark the Magic after the Hawks jumped out to an early seven-point lead. The Magic, coming off their Jekell-and-Hyde shooting performance against the Nets, looked more Jekell-ish early in the game, missing their first four threes. But Terrence Ross hit a pair late in the first to help pull the Magic within 27-23 after the first.
Bamba’s offensive explosion in the second helped the Magic take a 42-35 lead. But he was topped by Trae Young, who despite playing through flu-like symptoms, scored 20 points in eight minutes of play in the second quarter to help even the score at 64-64 at the break. He finished the half with 26 points on 8-for-13 shooting to lead the Hawks, who shot 52.4 percent in the half.
Evan Fournier and Ross each had 12 in the half and Vucevic added 11 for the Magic, who shot 46 percent. After missing their first four threes, connected on 8 of their next 16 in the half to shoot 42 percent from deep.
The Hawks connected on their first three thee-point attempts early in the third to take a 73-66 lead. Aaron Gordon then scored all six points during an 6-0 Magic run to cut the Hawks’ lead to 75-74.
James Ennis made it an 11-0 run by following with a layup and then a three-point play in transition after a Gordon block and Fournier outlet. Gordon continued his strong quarter, scoring 18 in the third as he played the entire quarter. His two late free throws gave the Magic, who shot over 60 percent in the third, a 103-91 lead. But a strong quarter didn’t end well for the Magic as the Hawks closed with four points off a pair of Orlando turnovers in the closing seconds to pull within 103-95 going into the fourth.
A 10-2 run pulled the Hawks within 108-104 with 8:29 to go. While Bamba dominated the second quarter and Gordon controlled the third, it was Fournier who took over in the fourth. He scored 14 points in the quarter, including six straight during one stretch that was capped by a coast-to-coast three-point play for a 120-109 Magic lead.
Fournier finished with 28 points on 11 of 18 shooting. Gordon had another efficient and all-around game with 25 points (9-for-14 shooting), 10 rebounds, six assists and three blocks. Vucevic had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Ennis added 12 points. Bamba, who oddly played just five second half minutes after his strong first half, didn’t get to set a new career-high but finished with a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds).
The Magic made the Steve Clifford-mandated extra pass for a bulk of the night, assisting on 30 of 49 buckets, and shot 49 percent from the field, including 14 of 32 three-point attempts (43.8 percent). On the defensive end they had nine blocks.
Young was quieter in the second half but finished with 37 points and 11 assists (and went 13 of 14 from the line, doing his part to help Michael Carter-Williams foul out in 13 minutes of play.
With the win, the Magic evened the season series with the Hawks at 2-2 and earned their fourth win in five games. For a team with one of the league’s easiest remaining schedules, the Magic won a game they were expected to win, a trend that will hopefully continue down the home stretch. They’ll have another of those favorable games on Friday when they return home to face the 16-40 Timberwolves.