The Magic starting lineup on Thursday - well, to put it kindly - didn’t have very many household names.
NBA fans reading the names in the Magic’s starting lineup tonight... pic.twitter.com/eHHhr90W2W— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) February 12, 2021
With Cole Anthony, Evan Fournier, Michael Carter-Williams and Al-Farouq Aminu all out (on top of Aaron Gordon, Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac), the Magic were left with just nine players, only one of which was a point guard.
And just four minutes and 17 seconds into the game, that point guard, Frank Mason, exited with an injury.
That left the Magic with eight players, also known as the minimum number of players needed to play an NBA game.
Things started as you might expect, with the Magic committing four turnovers in the opening four minutes, as they would finish with six turnovers in the quarter. Making matters worse was that the one sure thing in the starting lineup, Nikola Vucevic, got off to an extremely slow start. On a night when Vooch was expected to have a big night with the Warriors being without all of their big men, he was swarmed inside and hit just 1 of 6 shots in the first. Vucevic scored just 2 points while committing three turnovers. It was James Ennis who continued his strong offensive play of late, scoring seven points in the first for the Magic, who shot just 30 percent.
The Warriors hit seven threes in the first quarter. That was led by Curry, who connected on 4 of 7 attempts, the last of which gave the Warriors a 29-16 lead with 34 seconds left in the quarter.
If Magic fans on the East Coast understandably shut the TV off and went to bed at that point, they missed this shorthanded Magic team orchestrate a 13-0 run, capped by a Chuma Okeke three that evened the score at 35-35 with 5:16 left in the half. Okeke followed with another three, giving the Magic their first lead at 38-37.
There may not have been many Magic reserves, but those who were left came up huge in the second quarter, finishing the half with 31 bench points. Terrence Ross, sharing ball-handling duties with Dwayne Bacon, struggled initially, missing 9 of his first 10 shots before finding his rhythm and scoring 8 points in the second, capped on a pull-up that gave the Magic a 50-47 lead with a minute remaining in the half. The Magic, who didn’t commit a turnover in the second despite playing without a point guard, closed the quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 55-47 lead into the half.
The Magic shot 42.2 percent in the half, making 7 of 14 threes. Ross led the way with 11 and Ennis added 10. Vooch struggled from the field with 8 points on 2-for-9 shooting, but added a team-best 5 assists. Okeke hit all three of his attempts from deep for 9 first-half points,
The Warriors were held to 37.8 percent shooting, going 11-for-30 from three. Most of that damage from the perimeter was courtesy of Curry, who had 18 points on 6 of 10 shooting from three, with all of his field goal attempts coming from deep.
The Magic started the third with Ross on the floor. Vucevic quickly pushed the Magic lead to 11 with his first three of the game, making it 58-47. That lead was erased in two minutes and seven seconds of gametime during an 11-0 run highlighted by threes by Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre and Curry that evened the score at 58 with 9:11 to go.
The teams traded baskets until Okeke, who had a very strong game not only with his shot-making but with finding the open man, kicked it out to Vucevic for a three that gave Orlando a 75-71 lead. Vooch came to life in the third, scoring 12 points on 4 of 9 shooting. But the Warriors closed the third on a 12-2 run, highlighted by back-to-back threes by Steph, to take an 85-80 lead heading into the fourth. Curry scored 15 points in the third as the Warriors shot 66 percent in the quarter, making 7 of 12 attempts from deep.
You’d think the Magic, basically playing seven players with Mo Bamba getting just four minutes to this point, would be gassed by this stage. Not so much. Dwayne Bacon scored 8 points in the opening 2:30 of the fourth, banking in a three that evened the score at 86-86.
After Bacon put the Magic in front with a bucket, Ennis hit a three that pushed the Magic lead to 91-86 with 8:49 to go, giving him a season-high 17 points.
That, however, would be the last Magic points for quite some time as the Warriors applied backcourt pressure and Orlando turnovers began to pile up once again (seven in the fourth quarter).
The Warriors went on a 16-0 run that opened a 102-91 lead, capped by Curry’s 10th three of the game and an Oubre dunk in transition off Draymond Green’s 10 assist of the game.
Steph's teammate celebrating before the shot even went up pic.twitter.com/ajNZwthWQP— ESPN (@espn) February 12, 2021
Still the Magic fought until the final seconds, trimming the lead to 109-105 with 15 seconds remaining following a three-point play by Bacon and a three by Ross.
Curry sealed it with a pair of free throws. He finished with 40 points, going 10 of 19 from three-point range. The Warriors attempted 50 threes in the game, hitting 20 of them. Wiggins had 21 points, Oubre added 17, and Green, playing center for the shorthanded Warriors, had 8 points and 11 assists.
It was a valiant and admirable effort by a Magic team that was in an unprecedented situation, but it resulted in what was the team’s 15th loss in their last 18 games.
“In terms of effort, listen, couldn’t be prouder of them. And I’m not like that,” Steve Clifford told reporters after the game. ”Our guys competed hard the whole game. And Steph was Steph. And, you know, we had a chance.”
Orlando shot just 39 percent from the field but had 22 second-chance points that helped keep them in the game.
Vucevic finished with 25 points (8-for-23 FG), 13 rebounds and 5 assists. Bacon scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. Ross added 20 points but shot just 8-for-27 from the field. Ennis added 17 points and 10 rebounds, both of which are season highs. Okeke scored all 9 of his points in the first half and added five assists in a career-high 35 minutes. Mo Bamba, even on a night when the Magic were down to their bare minimum, played just seven minutes.
Not the greatest time for the Magic to be on a back-to-back, but that they are, taking on the Kings on Friday in the third game of this four-game West Coast trip. Hopefully they have more than eight players available...including, you know, a point guard.