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Wizards 131, Magic 116: Young core shows flashes, but defense fails

Cole Anthony returned and Mo Bamba had a career night

Washington Wizards v Orlando Magic Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

The Magic lost the game.

But at this stage and with this team, we’re looking for flashes. And we got a few as the Magic returned home after a long road trip.

There was Cole Anthony making defenders look silly in his return from a 25-game absence.

There was Wendell Carter Jr. having an efficient night.

There was Chuma Okeke showing off his post moves...and doing this:

There was R. J. Hampton scoring inside and out while sharing the backcourt with Anthony.

There was Mo Bamba setting a new career-high.

And there was Terrence Ross, though he may be an elder statesman, creating a few highlights himself....

While those clips were fun to watch, the Magic’s defense was not, as the Wizards shot 57 percent from the field, made 19 threes, and won 131-116.

“Just getting to the shooters and whether it was off pick and roll, they’re drive and kick game they had it spread out, the majority of the shots they made were in-rhythm shots for good shooters and they’re going to make them,” Steve Clifford said after the game.

Anthony returned after missing 25 games with a rib fracture and got right to work, making his first three shots. Anthony scored three straight buckets for the Magic, scoring in a different way in each. He stopped an early 7-0 Wizards run by draining a three to make it 19-17. He hit a mid-range floater from the edge of the paint and then attacked the basket with the dribble penetration in the video above. Anthony finished the first quarter with seven points and two assists in five minutes. He’d finish the game with 13 points on 5-for-14 shooting while adding seven assists in 26 minutes.

“I gotta get in better shape, didn’t play that well,” Anthony said after the game. “Gotta be better.”

The Wizards went on an 11-0 run in the second, capped by Russell Westbrook’s three-point play to make it 45-35. The Wizards hit 7 of 9 attempts from deep in the quarter, with Westbrook closing the half with a drive-and-kick to Deni Avdija for a corner three at the buzzer as Washington posted a 39-point quarter and took a 73-60 lead into the break.

The lead grew to 21 in the third before threes by Bamba and Anthony helped spark a 15-2 run late in the quarter to pull the Magic within 100-90 heading into the fourth.

Bamba then scored the Magic’s first 10 points in the fourth, draining a pair of threes, to cut the deficit to 105-100.

The Magic wouldn’t get any closer, but it was good to see Anthony and Hampton getting closing minutes while the game was still within reach. Bamba was also rewarded with some extra playing time, though by the time he checked in for Carter after a short breather with 3:26 remaining the Magic were down by 17.

Bamba was efficient from the field and active on the boards while scoring a career-high 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting, including 3 of 4 from three. He had eight rebounds, four on the offensive end, and also blocked two shots.

Carter, who remained in the starting lineup even with the return of Khem Birch, had 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Hampton finished with 14 points, making 3 of 5 attempts from deep. Recent 10-day contract signee Devin Cannady made his NBA debut and scored his first career points by knocking down a pair of late free throws.

Ross led the way with 24 points and 6 rebounds, and Michael Carter-Williams added 13 points and 5 assists as the Magic shot 47 percent from the field and made 12 of 31 three-point attempts while also grabbing 11 offensive rebounds.

Plenty of offense to win a game, but not on a night when Westbrook was doing whatever he wanted and his teammates were knocking down open looks. Westbrook posted yet another triple-double with 23 points, 15 assists and 14 rebounds.

“That dude is an animal,” Anthony said of Westbrook. “Anybody who says he’s washed up needs to watch basketball.”

Westbrook and Anthony chatted while on the court.

“He was just telling me ‘Yo, just be you, be aggressive and allow that to create for your teammates,’” Anthony said. “I told him this summer I want to try to work out with you.”

Bradley Beal had 26 points on 11-for-19 shooting. Davis Bertans had 22 points off the bench (6-for-11 from deep), Avdija added 16 points (going 4-for-7 from deep), and Robin Lopez had a season-high 19 points off the bench.

The Magic fall to 17-34 while the Wizards improve to 18-32. Next up for the Magic are the Pacers on Friday.