Well, here we go again.
Any discussion arising from the Magic’s third preseason contest – a game they eventually won 110-105 – will rightfully be dominated by the injury sustained by Jalen Suggs in the first quarter. The second year guard looked to hyperextend his left knee after stumbling from a push in the back from Spencer Dinwiddie, eventually being helped to the locker room in dispiriting scenes. There was some tension evident in the aftermath of the altercation, with Suggs sharing some words with the Dallas guard from the ground as he clutched his leg. Magic officials soon ruled the sophomore out for the remainder of the game, with tests to come. The hope will be that the impact wasn’t as serious as it may have looked in the moment.
.@OrlandoMagic INJURY UPDATE:— Orlando Magic PR (@Magic_PR) October 8, 2022
Guard Jalen Suggs suffered a lower left leg injury during the first quarter of tonight’s preseason game at Dallas.
Suggs will not return tonight and will undergo further testing.#MagicTogether #MagicTipOff
In terms of the on-court product, the main stand-out for the Magic in the opening minutes was the play of Paolo Banchero. He opened the team’s account by converting a smooth post-up after securing deep position. Soon after he flushed home a dunk on an alert back-door cut. He generated chances for teammates by handling the ball and pushing the pace in transition. He scooped up defensive rebounds and even got his hands to a couple of deflections.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the rookie forward, with some growing pains still evident. Banchero was overzealous on a few sequences, dribbling into trouble in isolation or settling for inefficient shot attempts instead of locating a teammate. He hurled a careless pass out of bounds. He had to be waved into the right position by Wendell Carter Jr. on a handful of sequences. Moments like these are to be expected as he learns the professional game, of course, but tonight they served as a reminder of the up-and-down nature of most rookie campaigns.
Elsewhere, the early contest was a tale of Luka Doncic’s persistent brilliance contrasted with Orlando’s woebegone accuracy. In missing 14 consecutive shots the Magic allowed the Mavs to rattle off a 16-0 run over an eight minute stretch, Luka either scoring or assisting on all bar two Dallas buckets in the quarter. The end result was another grisly margin at the first break, Orlando more than doubled up and down 33-15.
For long stretches the second quarter had a bit of a pick-up game feel, with both teams launching away from behind the arc with impunity and showing little appetite for hard-nosed defense. After the deficit swelled to 21 Mo Bamba had 8 straight for the Magic which included a pair of triples, RJ Hampton providing the helper on each and capping the sequence with a transition bucket of his after tracking down an emphatic Bamba block.
The Magic were able to maintain this momentum after most of the starters checked back in, eventually slicing the margin to single digits. Carter Jr., Banchero and Cole Anthony were the key contributors, the trio combining for 13 points in a three-minute burst that left the score at 48-44 in Dallas’ favor. Terrence Ross soon got in on the act with 4 quick points of his own that briefly knotted the scores, but the Mavericks were able to steady and stake themselves a slim advantage over the frame’s final minutes. At half time the Magic trailed just 60-55, a 40-point second quarter having rocketed the team back into the contest.
Dallas chose not to return a couple of their starters after the break, limiting the minutes of some other veterans as well. As a result of the diminished star power the game stayed close throughout the quarter, the two teams going back and forth across the period. For the Magic it was the offensive play of Banchero that inspired the most optimism, the mobile big man getting to the line, finding the bottom of the net on a smooth step-back, and drilling his second triple of the game. Ross also continued to contribute, looking noticeably more engaged and active as he spaced the floor with incisive off-ball movement and his outside shooting threat. A strong drive by RJ Hampton as the term expired brought the Magic back within a point, down just 84-83 entering the fourth.
The final quarter was a battle of the deep reserves, Orlando ultimately pulling out the victory courtesy of a defensive effort that restricted the Mavericks to just 5 points across the period’s first eight minutes. The highlights package was led by Bol Bol, the big man flashing some playmaking chops and even quarterbacking a fastbreak sequence that he finished with a smooth mid-range pull-up. His late play, combined with a Moe Wagner dagger in the final minute, was enough for the Magic to be up on the scoreboard when the siren sounded.
There were a number of individual performances for the Magic that should inspire some optimism. Banchero finished off his best game in pinstripes with 19 points on 6-13 shooting, including 2-4 from deep and 5-6 from the line. Ross was a difference-maker with 16 points on a hyper-efficient 6-8 from the floor. Anthony had 12 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists and was aggressive in making six trips to the charity stripe. Importantly, the team’s collective ball movement looked a little more fluid and the defense a little more locked in.
Now we keep the fingers crossed as we await news on the severity of the injury to Suggs.