For only the second time this season, the Orlando Magic are enjoying a winning-streak.
The Magic were able to hold on late against the Dallas Mavericks Sunday night at the Amway Center, defeating the Western Conference defensive stalwarts 110-108.
Despite Luka Doncic’s 34 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists, the Magic were able to do just enough defensively in the fourth quarter, holding the Mavericks to just 20 points in the game’s final period.
“For me, it’s about the fans and that locker room,” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters after the game, deflecting a bit when asked about coaching against his former team, where he was an assistant over the last seven seasons. “We talked about empowering each other, building each other up. So today, it feels good for these guys (and the locker room) and how hard they fought for this one.”
Orlando outscored Dallas 60-46 in the paint, and held the Mavericks to just 18 free throw attempts in the game. In their previous matchup this season, Orlando fouled Dallas 26 times in the contest, which led to 38 free throw attempts for the Mavericks.
Rookie forward Franz Wagner, who finished with 18 points and 3 assists, hit the game-winning shot with 54.0 seconds left in the game.
Poise is one aspect of the game Mosley cited where he’s seen growth from his team over the now completed five-game homestand (Orlando finished 3-2).
With Kristaps Porzingis out of the game due to soreness in his right knee, the Magic were able to get whatever they wanted in the paint early in the game. However, three early turnovers over their first seven offensive possessions put Orlando in an early eight-point deficit.
Both teams came out of the gate hot from the floor. The Magic were able to convert 7 of their first 11 attempts in the game, while the Mavericks buried 5 of their first 8 three-point attempts.
A three-point field goal, coming from Jalen Brunson in the right corner as the horn sounded to end the first quarter, gave Dallas their first double-digit lead of the game.
The Magic steadied themselves in the second quarter, scoring 21 of the first 32 points registered in the period. Second-year forward Chuma Okeke spearheaded Orlando’s charge, scoring 7 of his 19 in the period - including a couple thunderous dunks that energized the Amway Center crowd.
The Orlando run in the second also coincided with Doncic going to the bench to begin the quarter.
Following an emphatic dunk in transition by F. Wagner, the Magic took the lead for the first time after Mo Bamba tipped-in a misfired perimeter jump shot. A lay-in off a back-door cut by Wagner a couple of offensive possessions later finished off a second quarter for the Magic in which they outscored the Mavericks 41-25.
Behind 24 for 44 shooting from the field in the first half, including 9 for 16 from beyond the arc, Orlando took a five-point lead into the break.
A 9-3 opening to the third quarter helped the Magic push their lead to double-digits over the Mavericks. Suffocating defense by Orlando, highlighted by a perfectly timed help-side block by rookie guard Jalen Suggs early in the third, helped limit Dallas to just seven points through the first six minutes of the third quarter.
The Mavericks cut Orlando’s lead to six points following a Doncic layup, but Orlando pushed their advantage right back to double digits behind a Wendell Carter Jr. paint conversion, followed by an Okeke dunk in transition (off a Doncic turnover).
Dallas head coach Jason Kidd called timeout to slow Orlando down, which proved to be a timely decision. The Mavericks came out of the timeout on a 12-2 run, tying the game with a couple minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Magic finished the third furiously, again behind strong bench play from Okeke. The gadget forward cleanly picked Doncic’s pocket after picking him up full-court defensively, then converted an uncontested dunk in transition on the other end. Moments later, Okeke found Moritz Wagner cutting down the lane for a two-handed powerful slam.
“Just spur of the moment, I thought I could get it,” Okeke told reporters after the game, when asked about stealing the ball away from one of the best players in the world. “I tried to bait him (really), to think I was going to reach one way, and then reach the other way. This time, I got him. It paid off this time.”
Those two key reserves stayed a part of the action for Orlando to begin the fourth quarter. A spinning M. Wagner in the lane found Okeke in the right corner for Orlando’s first three-point field goal of the fourth. Off a back-cut, Wagner again thunderously dunked a feed in the paint, this time coming from Terrence Ross. To finish the trifecta of highlight plays coming from the Okeke/Wagner duo, Okeke found Wagner for yet another dunk in the half-court, this time as the initiator off pick-and-roll action (moments earlier, Okeke found Gary Harris cutting backdoor for a layup down the left baseline).
Despite Orlando’s sharp play, Dallas remained hot from beyond the arc throughout the game, knocking-down 16 of 38 three-point attempts in the contest (42 percent). Reggie Bullock’s three-point field goal in front of Orlando’s bench with 5:15 remaining in the game gave Dallas their first lead since midway through the second quarter. Scoreless at the half, Bullock made three three-point field goals in the second half.
Much like they were early in the game, turnovers became a serious problem for the Magic in the fourth. Orlando committed seven giveaways in the final period, which proved to be costly enough to allow Dallas back in the game.
Orlando tied the game with just over three minutes remaining in the game, following a left-handed floater in the lane from Cole Anthony.
After both teams traded consecutive empty offensive possessions, F. Wagner broke the tie with a running floater in the lane. Off the dribble, with the shot-cock winding down, Wagner drifted to his right and converted a highly-contested field goal among multiple Dallas defenders.
Up by a single point, the Magic failed to ice the game on their next offensive possession, but Suggs stole the ball in the backcourt from Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber - who had pulled down a defensive rebound. The Suggs steal led to Carter Jr, splitting a pair of free throws, leaving the door open for Dallas - who now trailed by just two points with 16.8 seconds remaining.
Orlando made sure Doncic wasn’t going to be the one to beat them, doubling him as he began to dribble into the paint (actually, a third defender came in late to help as well). The All-Star found Bullock wide-open at the top of the key, who swung it to Kleber in the corner, but the Dallas big man’s jumper rimmed out. Bullock grabbed the offensive rebound, but his shot as time expired was off the mark, sealing Orlando’s second consecutive victory.
Okeke led the Magic with 19 points (7-10 FGA’s, 3-6 3PTA’s), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in 24 minutes. And his defense on Doncic in the second half was arguably the difference in the game.
“The crowd was great tonight, they brought a lot of energy,” Okeke said after the game. “When we went on our runs, they helped us continue those runs. And you know, they helped us come away with a win too.”
Seven Orlando players finished the game in double-figures, recording 26 assists on 43 made field goals (43 for 84, 51.2%).
“The togetherness of this group, the resiliency of this group to understand that we’re going to keep fighting (keep competing),” Mosley said after the game, when asked about his team’s balanced attack Sunday. “Again, our fanbase and support that you just hear in the gym every single night during these games, it’s just been fantastic. But our guys, understanding what it takes to continue to get better and grow (and the chemistry continues to get better and grow) each night.”
The Magic will look to make it three in a row, which would mark the longest winning streak of the season, Tuesday night in Chicago against the Bulls (tipoff set for 8:00 PM EST).