It was going to be a much-needed win before a much-needed break for the Orlando Magic.
The Magic led for nearly the entire game, with their lead reaching as many as 19, and they were withstanding every Atlanta run.
But nothing has come easy in what has been a disastrous first half to the season, complete with devastating injuries that have contributed to disappointing losses. But it was the Magic’s final game of the first half of the season that may have been their most disastrous of all as they collapsed in the fourth quarter and lost to the Hawks, 115-112.
Coming off a game in which they hit 20 three-pointers for just the third time in franchise history, the Magic’s long range efficiency carried into the first quarter against the Hawks. They went on to have their best offensive first quarter of the season, scoring a season-high 39 points.
Terrence Ross, starting in place of Evan Fournier, led the way with a perfect shooting performance in the first, knocking down both of his three-point attempts and finishing the quarter with nine points.
His backcourt mate, Michael Carter-Williams, was nearly perfect from the floor in the first as well, scoring nine points on 4 of 5 shooting. The Magic overall shot 58.3%, including 6 of 11 from deep. They also dominated the Clint Capela-less Hawks on the boards, 16-5, including four offensive rebounds.
As for the Magic back-up center rollercoaster, Khem Birch was first off the bench, playing 5:30 in the first quarter. Mo Bamba soon came in, with the two actually sharing the court for a while, and logged 2:44 in the first (2:44 more than he played last game).
The Magic didn’t shoot quite as well in the second, outside of Vucevic, who had 10 of his 18 first-half points in the quarter. The Orlando lead grew by holding the Hawks to 33.3% shooting in the second. As good as MCW was offensively (so good in fact that the Hawks switched Trae Young off of him defensively), he was even better at the defensive end, locking up Young and denying him, with the point guard limited to just one field-goal attempt in the second quarter and 12 first-half points. The Hawks attempted just two free throws in the half, compared to 10 for the Magic (10 makes).
The Magic lead grew to 17 when a turnover by Young led to Dwayne Bacon’s floater in transition at the buzzer, sending Orlando into the break up 61-42. The Hawks closed the quarter on an 8-2 run, with Gallinari hitting a three with seconds left, to trim the Orlando lead to 90-78 heading into the fourth.
Young scored 12 points in the third as the Hawks shot 50% and put up a 36-spot in the quarter. Young did most of his damage in the quarter at the line (6-for-7) as the Hawks made 10 of 11 free throws after being limited to two free-throw attempts in the first half.
An 11-3 Atlanta run, capped by threes by Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari cut the Magic lead to 64-53 with 9:15 left in the third. The lead was down to five after an 8-0 run, capped by Young’s three-point play, cut it down to 66-61. Ross answered with a three-point play of his own, and Aminu followed that with a straightaway three to push the lead back up to 72-61.
That was the start of a stretch where Aminu scored seven straight for the Magic, putting him in double figures for the first time this season and giving him 14 points with nearly five minutes remaining in the third (notable because it’s the most points he has scored during his injury-plagued tenure with the Magic, eclipsing the 13 points he scored on two occasions last season).
The Magic went up by 18 following threes by Vucevic and Ross.
The Hawks closed the quarter on an 8-2 run, capped by a Gallinari three with a second remaining, to trim the Magic lead to 90-78 heading into the fourth.
For every Ross jumper, the Hawks had an answer, and ultimately went on a 10-2 run early in the fourth to pull within six with 8:45 remaining in the game. The Magic once again withstood the run and responded with an 8-0 stretch of their own, capped with threes by Ross and Gary Clark to take a 102-88 advantage.
Just when you thought the Hawks were out of runs they went on another, with John Collins, Gallinari, Tony Snell and Huerter hitting threes in a 12-0 run (the last two off an offensive rebound and a turnover) that pulled Atlanta within 106-102 with 4:15 to go. It became a one-possession game after a long three by Young made it 108-105 with 3:14 left.
Nursing a fie-point lead, Aminu made a huge block from behind after Young found Collins for what looked to be an easy two.
That should do it, right? Not quite.
Young was left wide open on the ensuing possession and knocked down the three to cut the lead to two with 1:31 left. After a missed three by Ross at the other end, Snell drained a three with 1:09 left to give the Hawks their first lead of the game at 111-110.
Out of a Magic timeout, Vucevic passed down low to Aminu, whose shot hit nothing but backboard, but Vooch followed up with the putback to give the Magic a 112-111 lead with 18 seconds remaining.
Young drove the lane the next trip down and MCW was called for a questionable foul on the lay-up attempt with eight seconds left. While an irate Carter-Williams was in the refs’ ears, Young hit both free throws to put the Hawks back on top, 113-112.
After the Magic used their final timeout, Ross caught the inbounds pass, cut across the court and missed a contested floater in the paint.
Magic blow a 19-point lead, lose to the Hawks 115-112 pic.twitter.com/qnAjUWt8sm— David Baumann (@DavidBaumannORL) March 4, 2021
Collins then hit two free throws at the other end to increase the lead to three. With no timeouts remaining, Aminu’s downcourt pass was batted away and the Magic lost a heartbreaker. Ross and Carter-Williams both confronted the refs after the game, with MCW needing to be restrained.
"I'll tell you with 100% certainty there was no contact to the head, so I didn't think it was a foul," Steve Clifford.— FOX Sports Florida & Sun (@FOXSportsFL) March 4, 2021
Coach said that he went back and watched the play with MCW and Trae Young and thought there was not enough contact to call a foul. #MagicTogether pic.twitter.com/aQx2UgcaML
23 as the Hawks went 21-for-45 from three (46.7%).
The Hawks outscored the Magic 37-22 in the fourth, hitting 9 of 13 three-point attempts in the fourth. Young finished with 32 points and Gallinari added 23 as the Hawks shot 21-for-45 from three (46.7%)
Vucevic had 29 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Magic. Ross finished with 28 (4-for-9 from three), MCW had 20 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds, and Aminu finished with 14 points. The Magic shot 42.9% from the field, but made all 27 of their free throws attempts, setting a franchise record for most attempts without a miss in a game, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic.
The Magic head into the All-Star break on a five-game losing streak. They sit 4.5 games out of the eighth spot, 4 games out of the 10th spot for the plan-in tournament, and with Detroit upsetting Toronto, 2.5 games out of the worst record in the Eastern Conference.