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Grizzlies 92, Magic 75: A classic third-quarter collapse dooms the Magic

The Magic muster just 32 second-half points in a loss that officially eliminates the team from playoff contention

Orlando Magic v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The patchwork Magic rolled into Memphis on Friday night for a showdown with the playoff-hopeful Grizzlies. What unfolded was an often-ugly yet oddly-endearing contest, with the two sides throwing down in a first half that was frequently reminiscent of the mid-90s before a classic third quarter collapse sealed Orlando’s fate.

It was a tepid start for Orlando across the game’s opening minutes, with the side managing to accumulate a full suite of missed shots: jumpers, lay ups, put backs and free throws. The inability to finish allowed Memphis to jump out to a 10-1 lead after just 98 seconds, before a Cole Anthony inspired burst settled things down. First he got a tough 12-footer to fall, which he immediately followed up with a transition three after Gary Harris pounced on a turnover. On the next possession he found Wendell Carter Jr. in space going to the hoop, a finish that put the Magic back within a bucket.

Orlando continued their steady ascent behind some strong play from Carter Jr. First he used his strength to finish a three-point play at the rim, helping the Magic keep pace with the Grizzlies early outside shooting. He followed this up by flashing smart court awareness when he found a cutting Gary Harris out of some two-man action, giving Orlando their first lead of the game. Unfortunately, he copped an accidental poke in the eye on the next possession, forcing his exit from the game. The Magic, however, were able to lean on their defense to maintain the slim advantage they had built, limiting Memphis to just three points and a single made field goal in the quarter’s last 5:32. They went into the first break up 20-19.

The lineup that opened the second played with a noticeable level of energy, particularly on offense. Both Dwayne Bacon and RJ Hampton were aggressive in driving into the painted area, while Mo Bamba created problems by routinely slipping to the rim and making himself a target. It was an inspired stretch for the big man, who finished his opening stint with 7 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks and an assist, capping the contributions with a smooth triple that pushed the Magic to a 33-25 lead.

Orlando were able to maintain their advantage heading into half time, benefiting from an epic cold spell suffered by the Grizzlies. After hitting their first four shots Memphis made just 11 of 45 attempts from the floor across the remainder of the half, an almost unbelievable 24.4% that would have been even worse if it wasn’t for a few downhill transition buckets that came in the quarter’s closing minute. In fact, without Orlando’s 12 turnovers, many of the careless or sloppy variety, the lead could have been significantly greater, despite the Magic’s own 33.3% field goal percentage woes. It truly was a disjointed and discombobulated game, Orlando up 43-39 with twenty-four minutes to play.

Problems securing the defensive glass and ineffective offensive possessions plagued the Magic through the opening minutes of the third quarter, with the Grizzlies ultimately knotting the score back up at 51 apiece on the back of a possession on which Orlando gifted them five attempts. At the other end it was unfamiliarity and indecisiveness stalling the scoring, with no one outside of Anthony able to generate much in the way of either penetration or clean shot attempts. A classic Magic inbounds turnover gifted the Grizzlies a second chance they turned into a corner three, which they followed up with a pair of fastbreak finishes aided by yet more Orlando turnovers and contested attempts. It capped a 17-2 run that sent the Magic scrambling to a timeout and facing a double digit deficit that eventually settled at 75-58 at the quarter’s end.

The fourth quarter was a relatively listless affair, punctuated by a few nice plays in a contest that was for all intents and purposes sealed. Bamba finished strongly in what was one of his more impressive performances in quite a while. Hampton settled down and converted his speed into a pair of quick finishes in the lane. Donta Hall threw down a vicious hammer on the head of Valanciunas. However, the Magic never could quite slice the margin to single figures, closing to within 11 at one point but getting no closer. The benches cleared with a few minutes to play, the string played out for a final score of 92-75.

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: Cole Anthony — a solid night for a rookie who is fast finding his feet in the big leagues. Started out 7 of 9 from the field before cooling off some, but still closed his night with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists, while looking like one of the only dangerous players in Orlando’s rotation.

Second star: Mo Bamba — a 23 minute double-double, 15 and 11 paired with 4 blocks as the final stat line for the young big. A welcome sighting of the per-minute monster.

Third star: RJ Hampton’s corner three — boy, for a minus shooter the stroke on this one was smooth. Can we see more of this?

The loss, coupled with Washington’s win earlier in the evening, officially eliminates Orlando from 2021’s postseason festivities. With nine games left to play the tank rolls ever onward.