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Minnesota 126, Orlando 108: After difficult first quarter, short-handed Magic show grit against Wolves

Orlando finished their season-long seven-game homestand 3-4.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Orlando Magic Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It must have been incredibly frustrating (and a little lonely) for Orlando Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley to look down his bench in the first half Wednesday night, searching for players that he could utilize to try and slow down the Minnesota Timberwolves, only to see so many players dressed in street clothes.

“I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t frustrating,” Mosley told reporters after the game when asked about all the unavailable players that weren’t able to go against the Timberwolves. “Our guys are willing to step into the moment and do the right thing. Play their positions, and play those moments that they get. But obviously, maneuvering through it is not easy.”

So has been the story for all of Mosley’s time in Orlando the last couple of seasons, and so again was the story Wednesday night.

Playing without seven rotation players (Cole Anthony, Paolo Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr., Markelle Fultz, Gary Harris, Jonathan Isaac, and Moritz Wagner), the short-handed Magic dropped the final game of their seven-game homestand to Minnesota, 126-108.

All-Star guard Anthony Edwards led the Timberwolves offensive charge, pouring in a game-high 35 points (12-20 FGA’s, 7-13 3PTA’s) to go along with 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Karl-Anthony Towns added 30 points (10-15 FGA’s, 8-8 FTA’s), 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Minnesota jumped out to an early lead behind the scorching-hot outside shooting of Edwards. The third-year guard scored 11 points within the first four minutes of the contest, including three contested three-point field goals off the dribble.

Conversely, the Magic missed 10 of their first 15 attempts from the field. The one bright spot for the Magic to begin the game was the offensive play of big man Bol Bol. The 7-2 forward made four of his first five attempts from the floor, scoring 8 of his career-high 26 points in the opening period. Playing on his 23rd birthday, Bol also added 12 rebounds and 3 blocked shots against the Timberwolves.

The short-handed Magic really struggled to get stops defensively, as Edwards and the Timberwolves were able to get whatever they wanted in the first half.

“The ball pressure early on,” Mosley told reporters after the game when asked about what his team was struggling with defensively in the first half. “Ant (Edwards) got going early, easy three’s. And they gained a little confidence from there. We were sprayed out, not able to protect the paint at that point.”

Mosley was forced to burn a timeout just two minutes into the second quarter as Minnesota built a 25-point lead.

To compound already delicate matters, starting center Mo Bamba (who was playing in place of Carter Jr.) left the game holding his left side towards the end of the second quarter and went straight to the locker room. The fifth-year big man appeared to injure himself while committing a hard foul against Towns in the painted area, but he would return to the game in the second half.

Minnesota built a 27-point lead heading to intermission thanks to 72 percent shooting on two-point field goal attempts through the game’s first 24 minutes (18-25 2PTA’s, 8-20 3PTA’s).

Miraculously enough (and to Orlando’s credit), the game became much more competitive in the second half. The Magic outscored the Timberwolves 31-24 in the third quarter, thanks largely in part to Bol and Bamba - who combined to score 14 points in the period (combined 7 for 10 from the field in the quarter).

An ugly moment in the game occurred with 4.9 seconds remaining in the third when Minnesota veteran forward Taurean Prince maliciously fouled Magic guard Jalen Suggs while attempting to prevent a fast-break opportunity. Prince was assessed a flagrant-two foul and was ejected from the contest.

The hard foul somewhat ignited the home team (and the crowd), who went on to score the first nine points of the fourth quarter - cutting Minnesota’s once sizeable lead down to just nine points.

Unfortunately, a three-possession game would be as close as it would get for the Magic. The Timberwolves went on a 15-4 run coming out of a mid-fourth quarter stoppage to officially put the game away.

Suggs bounced-back nicely after suffering through a miserable game the last time Orlando took the floor. The second-year guard finished Wednesday with 23 points (5-11 3PTA’s), 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals against his hometown team. Franz Wagner added 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists.

“I think effort is the main thing,” Suggs said after the game when asked about the team’s performance Wednesday. “The previous night, we came out and got hit in the mouth early. We kind of let them (Charlotte) dictate the pace and how the game was going to be played that night. And early tonight, I think we did that same thing. We showed fight in the second half, we showed grit and toughness. But this is a great league that we play in, with a lot of great players, great coaches, and great schemes. So you have to bring it for both halves. You can’t (just) play twenty-four minutes of basketball.”

Like they have been all season, live ball turnovers were once again an issue for the Magic. Orlando coughed the ball up 16 times, which led to 22 points for the Wolves. Another issue the team really struggled with was getting back on defense, as Minnesota enjoyed a 30-9 advantage scoring on fast-break opportunities.

All in all, the Magic finished their season-long seven-game homestand with a 3-4 record, securing wins over the Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, and Phoenix Suns.

After an off-day tomorrow, Orlando will head back on the road to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Bulls Friday night.