The Orlando Magic came up short in Dallas tonight, but they fought like heck, and that should count for something. In a week that saw Markelle Fultz go down for the season, on the heels of a 42-point loss in Houston last night, the Magic refused to go down until the final buzzer.
Orlando took the floor without Jonathan Isaac, Evan Fournier, Markelle Fultz, Michael Carter-Williams, Chuma Okeke, or Al-Farouq Aminu. They didn’t hit a three-pointer until right before halftime, whereas the Mavericks were 20-40 from deep. And still, Steve Clifford’s squad kept it close throughout and led by 6 late in the third quarter.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen our fair share of moral victories in Orlando — but for a team that will be without several key pieces for the foreseeable future, nights like this could provide a window into what’s to come.
Fatigue was certainly a factor coming off the aforementioned back-to-back, but this one ultimately came down to three-point shooting. The Mavs are known for wing play, but it was the role players that came through tonight. Tim Hardaway Jr. exploded for 36 points, and Trey Burke was also automatic with his 29. The pair combined for an insane 15-of-21 from deep, making the Magic defense pay every time they were left open.
The Magic, meanwhile, struggled mightily from deep without Fournier. As mentioned, it took nearly an entire half of basketball before Orlando hit a three, and they finished a disappointing 19 percent from beyond the arc.
There were some bright spots, however.
Former All-Star Nikola Vucevic was the engine that powered the Magic machine tonight, and he had one of his better nights in Pinstripes, scoring 30 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in Dallas. His backup, Khem Birch, had an efficient 12 points and eight rebounds on a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor.
Though he struggled with his shot tonight, Magic forward Aaron Gordon led the team with five assists and brought a ton of energy in his team-high 36 minutes.
The Magic (6-4) will look to rebound on Monday as they host the Milwaukee Bucks (6-4) in a game that will see two of the East’s best teams so far.