It was only a scrimmage. And it was only a few minutes. But the Orlando Magic’s future flashed before its eyes.
Jonathan Isaac hadn’t been seen on the court since Jan. 1 when he suffered a knee injury. Markelle Fultz hadn’t been seen on the court since March when the NBA season was paused.
With 3:27 remaining in the first quarter of the Magic’s final scrimmage before games begin to count, Isaac and Fultz, the two pieces many consider the most valuable of the Magic’s young core, both made their returns.
The Magic would score the next 19 points of the game.
The two, Isaac in particular, powered a 22-2 Orlando run that would provide enough of a cushion to hold on for a 114-110 win, sending the Magic into the seeding games on a high.
The two wasted little time picking up where each left off when last on the court. Fultz used his quick cuts and change-of-direction speed to attack the hoop. He was unable to finish at the rim on his first attempt but Isaac grabbed the loose ball and converted the putback plus the foul for his first bucket just 45 seconds after checking in.
On the ensuing Magic possession, Isaac drained a corner three and the Magic run was just getting started.
Fultz’s fadeaway from just inside the elbow rattled in with three seconds remaining in the first as the Magic closed the quarter on an 11-0 run to take a 29-19 lead.
Isaac scored eight quick points in the second quarter, highlighted by a four-point play. All said and done it would be a 22-2 Orlando Magic run, during which Isaac and Fultz combined for 18 points and helped open a 21-point advantage.
Isaac checked out with 8:27 remaining in the second quarter, bringing an end to what was a riveting restart debut. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting (hitting both three-point attempts), and also had seven rebounds in two steals. All in SEVEN MINUTES of play.
Fultz, in 8:52 of playing time, finished with five points and two assists, going 2-for-5 from the field, including a corner three.
Neither played in the second half, but they had already made an impact and provided a lift.
The Nuggets opened the second half on a 7-0 run to trim the Magic lead to four. Orlando responded with a 10-2 run. Gary Clark, who started in place of Aaron Gordon (sore left groin), hit all four of his three-point attempts in the third en route to finishing with a team-high 17 points.
D.J. Augustin added eight points in the third to help the Magic maintain their lead.
The Nuggets trimmed the Magic lead to four late, but Khem Birch came up with a game-sealing block to help the Magic get their first scrimmage victory….
The Magic shot 44.9 percent in their final tune-up, connecting on 18 of 37 three-point attempts (48.6 percent). James Ennis and Terrence Ross each had 15 points. Augustin finished with 13, going 3-for-4 from deep, and Nikola Vucevic added 10. Mo Bamba didn’t check in until 2:15 remained in the third but would play 11:21, the most playing time he received in the three scrimmages, finishing with three points and three rebounds.
Even if only for a few minutes, the Magic’s young core was reassembled (minus Gordon) for the first time in a long time.
Now we wait and see if they all will be available on Friday, when the Magic restart the regular season with a 2:30 p.m. tip-off against the seventh seeded Brooklyn Nets.