As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. For the Magic and their modest two-game winning streak this would be proven all too true in decisive fashion, with Utah inflicting a clinical beatdown that effectively ended the contest before halftime. It was, as they say, a tough night at the office.
The game’s opening minutes were a make or miss proposition. Unfortunately for Orlando, it was Joe Ingles and the Jazz who opened the contest on a hot streak. With Ingles filling in for the late withdrawal of Mike Conley the Aussie wing was able to step in and make an immediate impact, drilling three of his first four attempts from deep to open up an early six point deficit. Some extra attention on the perimeter then created a little daylight for Donovan Mitchell, who knocked down a pair of his own to push the margin to ten.
The Magic were able to settle things down when the bench subbed in, primarily behind the play of RJ Hampton. The lightning quick guard got the team moving in the right direction, first finding Terrence Ross on a smooth cut and then absolutely roasting Jordan Clarkson on a direct drive after the Utah guard momentarily turned his head. It was a blistering turn of speed that speaks to what Orlando’s front office saw in the young guard at the recent trade deadline.
Also blistering? Utah’s outside shooting. The Jazz started the period hot and ended it scorching, making 9-15 from deep during the period. It was a stark contrast to Orlando’s 1-6 mark from beyond the arc, the 24 point difference basically accounting for the discrepancy between the two sides during the early going. A coast-to-coast solo effort from Hampton knocked two off the margin — he turned on the jets and weaved his way from one end of the court to the other in less than 4.9 seconds — but it was still 38-20 in Utah’s favor at the first break, a worrying portent of things to come.
The onslaught continued in the second. Utah made their first four shots of the period, including another pair of long range bombs. When they finally missed one, Gobert was there to clean up the miss, putting it back and turning it into a three-point play for his troubles. The Jazz had more than doubled up the Magic less than 15 minutes into the contest, pushing ahead 51-24.
Things didn’t really get any better from there. Utah had the decency to at least miss some shots for a short stretch, but the Magic’s problems scoring the ball meant they couldn’t take any sort of advantage. Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic soon got the Jazz’s long range party started again, banging in triple after triple in a barrage that extended the margin beyond 40. Some late free throws for Orlando shrunk things below that ignominious mark, but they still went into the main break trailing 78-40.
It’s difficult to underscore just how poorly things went in the first half. The 78 first half points conceded was the second most in Magic history, one short of the mark they surrendered to the Thunder in 2015. Utah’s long-range shooting was literally a performance for the ages, with their 18 three-point makes (at a mind-boggling 58.1%) an NBA record for triples in a half, beating out the 17 that the 2018 Warriors once put up. By comparison the Magic shot a frigid 2-12 from deep and just 33.3% from the floor for the half, a tough look by any measure but particularly troubling in a contest featuring a white-hot opposition.
that was not our favorite first half.— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) April 4, 2021
Everything you need to know about the second half can be summarized in the following statement: Utah committed a deliberate foul so as to pull the majority of their starters with more than 20 minutes still remaining in the contest. Less than 6 minutes later the Jazz were rolling with their deep bench exclusively. It didn’t have much of an effect on the state of the game, however, with the deficit continuing to hover around the 40 point mark and the shooting discrepancy simply all too evident.
As the teams played out the string the only real points of interest were whether the Jazz would set a new NBA record for three-point makes and whether Mo Bamba would be sighted again after a noticeably low-energy first half cameo. The answer to both questions was no, with Utah’s deep reserves going cold and Bamba eventually getting ruled out due to illness. When this one thankfully came to a close it was 137-91, a lopsided result that decisively snapped the two game winning streak the Magic had been on. The biggest question now is whether Orlando will even have eight healthy bodies for tomorrow night’s tilt against the Nuggets.
Orlando’s three stars
Hockey is a pretty great sport, so I thought I would steal one of its best little touches for my own game analysis: the three stars. Here is who caught my eye tonight.
First star: RJ Hampton — finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 stocks, but all that anyone should remember is the incredible set of wheels he had on full display on a handful of occasions. Speed to burn.
Second star: Chuma Okeke — finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 stocks, and looked good when flashing a post game against an outmatched Bogdanovic. The Magic genuinely have something in the young forward.
Third star: Wendell Carter Jr — got the start and tossed up 19 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks. Got Gobert in the torture chamber at least once, and just generally looked fluid and connected in the middle (even on a team well-beaten).
Well, the Magic are now at least one loss closer to the end of a long season. We’ll be back with you tomorrow night and hoping for a reverse revenge game as they do battle with the Nuggets and Mr. 50 himself.