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Magic 102, Spurs 99: The Wagner Bros. and Wendell Carter Jr. shine in win

The Magic claimed their first victory of the preseason in Franz’s first game back

Orlando Magic v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The story coming into preseason showdown number 2 for the Magic was the return of Franz Wagner, the sophomore forward back on the NBA court for the first time since his impressive showing at the EuroBasket tournament. And although he picked up right where he left off – and was complemented on the night by an equally outstanding Wendell Carter Jr. – it was actually his older brother who would finish the game as the team’s leading man. A high energy fourth quarter saw Moe Wagner first bring the Magic back into the contest and then lead the team to the win, Orlando running out 102-99 victors on the night.

The game’s opening sequence was a sweet one for the Magic, with Carter Jr. swatting away a Spurs’ floater that Franz pounced on and converted in a sashaying coast-to-coast effort. The interplay between the pair continued on the next possession, Wagner’s dribble penetration creating a chance for Jalen Suggs to attack a closeout and find a wide-open cutting Wendell.

Unfortunately, the primary story across the rest of the opening quarter was San Antonio’s outside shooting and general shot-making. The Spurs knocked in four triples in a three-and-a-half minute stretch to open up a 16-7 lead, taking advantage of Orlando’s lethargic zone to fire away largely unchallenged. The Magic’s defense was also pretty ineffective in walling up the paint, conceding 63.6% shooting on attempts within the arc and 57.9% overall for the quarter, as well as 9 free throw attempts.

By comparison, Orlando made just 7 of their 19 field goal attempts (36.8%) in the first, including zero makes from deep and a starting backcourt that was held scoreless. The team was having trouble creating usable space, with little penetration and a lack of purpose in the passing game restricting clean looks and contributing to a series of sloppy turnovers (6 in the quarter). It was no surprise that the team went to the first break trailing 33-19.

A bright spot across the contest’s opening half was the play of RJ Hampton and Chuma Okeke. As part of a bench unit the pair combined for a handful of alert and decisive plays, getting downhill when the chance presented itself and Okeke drilling a corner three to give the Magic their first long-range make of the game.

With the deficit threatening to extend beyond 20, Orlando went back to its starting unit and found some success. A renewed defensive focus helped to hold the Spurs without a point over an almost four-minute stretch, the Magic using the time to construct a 12-0 run. The highlight of this sequence was a defense-to-offense effort that saw Banchero pluck an errant pass at one end before piloting the fast break and finding Franz for a streaking finish. The pair then combined for 7 of the team’s final 9 points in the period, helping to pull the Magic within a single basket, down just 52-49 at the half.

The better energy continued for Orlando to open the third, particularly in the transition game. Outside of one broken sequence that delivered the Spurs an open three they were able to clamp down and take away easy baskets, while they powered their own offense by getting out on the break when the opportunity presented itself. In addition, purposeful off-ball cutting in the half-court helped to collapse San Antonio’s defense and create space for players like Wagner and Carter Jr. to finish. When Jalen Suggs drilled back-to-back threes the game was tied at 62, the Magic knotting things up for the first time since the game’s opening minutes.

Carter Jr. continued his strong night by staking the Magic to a slim lead, first stuffing home a beautiful alley-oop from Franz out of the pick-and-roll before knocking down a mid-range jumper on a broken play. The momentum didn’t hold, however, with some languid offensive sets gifting the Spurs a chance to regain the front foot. They did, rattling off a 12-2 run before the margin eventually settled at 7, Orlando trailing 83-76 at the final intermission.

Despite not going back to the starters, the Magic were able to make a contest of it in the fourth. First Moe Wagner powered the team to a 9-2 run that got them back within a basket. Then, in a single sequence, the big man managed to block a three-point attempt, draw an off-ball foul while in the penalty, and split the free-throws to draw Orlando within a single point. He followed that by making a driving layup on the next offensive possession before drawing a charge at the other end and negating a Spurs three-pointer. Brother Moe then hauled in an offensive rebound off a missed free-throw, Devin Cannady drilling a triple off the extra possession that effectively ended it.

Despite the underwhelming start there were a number of players for the Magic who ultimately found a rhythm. Carter Jr. tallied 20 points and 10 rebounds on 8-13 shooting, while Franz finished with 12 points, 3 assists and a pair of rebounds. Paolo Banchero was consistently active and decisive in racking up 9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals, with just 1 turnover in his 22 minutes of action. Elsewhere Moe Wagner pressed his case for a meaningful role in the rotation, compelling the team to victory with 10 rapid-fire points in just 12 minutes.

Having broken their preseason duck, the Magic will be back in action tomorrow night against the Mavericks.