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Wizards 112, Magic 106: Slow start leads to Magic dropping their tenth straight

Eight misses on the game’s opening possession was ultimately a sign of things to come for the Magic on a tough night

Orlando Magic v Washington Wizards Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Magic traveled to the nation’s capital on Wednesday night for round two of a home-and-home set against the Wizards. Despite Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba being added to an already lengthy list of unavailable players Orlando would have liked their chances against Washington, themselves undermanned due to the absence of All-Star Bradley Beal. Unfortunately, however, a frigid opening term ultimately doomed them, the team struggling through a cold shooting night that ended in a six-point loss.

In what was one of the more absurd opening sequences to an NBA game, well, ever, the Magic missed their first eight shots from the field, reeling in offensive rebound after offensive rebound but continually coming up empty on a possession that stretched across 62 seconds. The team’s offensive futility, which was compounded by careless turnovers and further misses on the next three possessions, allowed Washington to build an early cushion, the Wizards scoring the game’s first nine and eventually extending the margin to double-digits as they went up 15-5 after four minutes.

A Chuma Okeke-inspired burst threatened to give the Magic some zip, an opportunistic offensive board leading to a smooth three-point make which he followed up with an athletic block at the other end of the floor. This briefly cut the lead to just seven but Orlando simply had no defensive answers, Washington ultimately going a perfect 7-7 from the field (including 3-3 from deep) and forcing the Magic to a time out.

The clunkiness continued for the Magic across the remainder of the first. In fact, when quarter time rolled around only three Orlando players were on the scoresheet, Gary Harris with 7, Moe Wagner with 6, and Okeke with 3. Otherwise the team was shooting just 7-28 from the floor (25.0%), including a combined 0-12 from Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner and Robin Lopez. Add to that four turnovers and the fact that the Wizards were converting at 68.4% from the field (13-19), and it’s easy to understand why the Magic had already been more than doubled up, trailing 33-16.

Orlando started to find some range in the opening stages of the second, compiling a quick 8-0 run that cut the margin to 12. Terrence Ross and Admiral Schofield both contributed triples to the streak, Franz Wagner capping it when he finished a clean look generated by RJ Hampton’s dribble drive. The game then went cold, with the two teams combining to go just 4-13 over the next four minutes, including six straight misses at one point. As a result the Wizards were able to maintain their comfortable lead, up 45-31 as the teams went to another huddle.

A left-handed hammer by Hampton injected some excitement into a muddled contest, and when the Magic were able to sandwich a pair of triples around a Wizards bucket it cut the deficit to single digits. Ross sliced a little more from the margin by making two-of-three free throws after Washington’s defense got too aggressive, but Orlando couldn’t find another bucket over the half’s final minute. When the main break hit it was 52-43 in favor of the Wizards, a 27-19 margin in the second getting the Magic back into the contest

Orlando shot just 33.3% from the field across the first half, including a scoreless effort by Anthony. The Magic were led by Ross with 8 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists, while Franz Wagner had 4 points, 2 rebounds and an already career-high 8 helpers. For the Wizards it was their backcourt doing most of the scoreboard damage, Spencer Dinwiddie with 12 and Raul Neto with 9 at the half. Kyle Kuzma was also working on a triple-double, a well-rounded 7 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists actually underselling his level of intensity and effort to this point. Although they had cooled off after their sizzling start, Washington still shot 48.8% from the field (20-41) across the first two quarters, supplemented by an efficient 8-9 from the stripe.

A connection with Lopez got Anthony on the board early in the third, the three-point play giving the Magic a chance to make it a one-possession game. However it actually preceded a 14-4 Wizards run, a flurry of long-range bombs allowing them to get back out by 16. Harris threw down an authoritative dunk coming out of the hastily called timeout to settle things down for Orlando, soon after hitting a triple that was part of a 7-0 burst. A minute later Anthony hit his first three-pointer of the night, the make bringing the Magic within 10, now down 74-64.

The two teams traded buckets as the third quarter wound down, neither able to claim the ascendancy. A pair of late free-throws to Dinwiddie allowed the Wizards to get out to a dozen, a margin that would have been greater if not for a highlight-reel block by Hampton on Avdija at the hoop. Instead it remained at 84-72, the Magic hanging around in a game that they started arctically.

Orlando opened the fourth with a funky center-less lineup, ostensibly playing Okeke as the big man as the team looked to run against a Wizards side on the second-half of a back-to-back. They were able to twice cut the margin to single-digits before Washington used some of their bigger bodies to bully their way inside and re-establish their advantage.

Anthony capped a quick 8-3 spurt by the Magic with a rainbow-arcing triple, some extended defensive pressure by Orlando helping to disrupt the Wizards some. However, every time they made a push it seemed the opposition had an answer, whether it was Corey Kispert’s third three of the night or a pair of fancy finishes by Neto. It ensured the margin continued to hover around the 10-point mark, the teams eventually going to a time-out with Washington leading 99-90.

A drawn foul on a three-point attempt by Anthony pulled the Magic within 7, which he sliced to just 5 on the next possession with a pull-up jumper in the mid-range. A Kuzma airball gifted them the chance to make it a one-possession game, but both teams promptly went ice-cold again, combining to miss seven straight shots before Washington got an easy flush off a designed ATO.

The Magic continued to search for the run that would allow them to even things up, but they couldn’t quite locate the necessary execution. The team occasionally settled for long-distance looks when space existed inside, also having trouble finishing at the hoop when they did venture inside. Still, baskets by Wagner, Anthony and Harris in the dying minutes all provided chances, but 6 late points to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ultimately allowed Washington to seal the result. It finished 112-106, the Magic succumbing to their tenth straight defeat.

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 — was genuinely terrible in the opening quarter and frustratingly cold in the first half. Still, he was the spark that gave the Magic a shot in the second, finishing with 19 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists and plenty of effort on a difficult night.

Second star: Franz Wagner — was more of a complementary piece than the main attraction most of the night, but still put up 14 points, a career-best 10 assists and 6 rebounds, with Point Franz on display for significant stretches.

Third star: Terrence Ross — his three long-range makes led the team, the veteran wing continuing his scoring tear in putting up 17 much-needed points.

With the defeat, the Magic’s win-less streak now extends to ten. They’ll next be in action on Friday against a Hornets team that has won four straight in impressive fashion.