Do you believe in Magic?
After Thursday night’s contest inside the Amway Center against the defending NBA champions, some additional basketball fans around the NBA might indeed believe.
In just their third home game of the young 2022-23 season, the Orlando Magic came back from a 16-point deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors 130-129. Orlando outscored Golden State 77-64 in the second half.
“The great thing about it for these guys is, it was an immediate response,” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters after the game when asked about his team finding away to close out a game against a quality opponent such as the Warriors. “Understanding what they needed to do to execute down the stretch. To get timely stops, and then (obviously) offensively - getting the execution we needed to get things done.”
Second year guard Jalen Suggs scored a career-high 26 points, dished out 9 assists, and swiped 4 steals to lead the way for Orlando. 15 of Suggs’ 26 points came in the fourth quarter.
Despite Golden State shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc (19 for 43 3PTA’s), Orlando was able to gain an advantage over their veteran counterparts by attempting a season-high 46 free throw attempts (33-46 FTA’s, 71.7 percent). The Warriors committed 32 personal fouls against the Magic Thursday.
Golden State’s starters helped the defending NBA champions build an early double-digit lead in the first quarter over the home team, buoyed by strong play coming from their starting big man Kevon Looney. The eighth-year center, who averages 5.8 points per game in 2022-23, scored 8 of his 17 points in the opening period.
It was Orlando’s second unit who helped turn things around, led by an unlikely source of sorts. Reserve forward Chuma Okeke came into the game and immediately caught fire, knocking down all three of his three-point attempts (4-4 FGA’s in the quarter) in six first quarter minutes. The third-year forward, who came into the game shooting 34.8 percent from beyond the arc, finished with 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists in 27 minutes.
The Warriors were able to build back their double-digit lead in the second quarter behind their Hall of Fame backcourt. The ‘Splash Brothers’ combined to go 8 for 16 on three-point attempts in the first half Thursday - three of those makes coming from Thompson in the first quarter, and three more coming from Curry in the second.
It didn’t help that Orlando turned the ball over six times in the second quarter, which led to 12 of Golden State’s 35 points in the period. The Magic, who have been plagued by turnovers throughout the early part of this season, turned the ball over 19 times against the Warriors Thursday.
Another unlikely contributor in reserve wing Kevon Harris helped the Magic stay connected in the first half. Harris, the 25 year-old rookie out of Stephen F. Austin, scored 6 of his 12 points over seven critical minutes in the second quarter. Veteran wing Terrence Ross missed Thursday’s game due to a left knee contusion he suffered against the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday night.
While the Magic did find a way in the second half to mitigate the turnover problems they were suffering from earlier in the game, they continued to struggle when it came to slowing down the Warriors’ high-octane offense. Offensively, Golden State was able to get the ball in the third quarter anywhere they wanted: in the paint, kicked-out to the perimeter, side to side. For the Warriors, finding quality open looks was seemingly happening every time they ran their offense.
The Warriors opened up a fifteen point lead following a made Curry three-point field goal with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter. Eight of Golden State’s 19 made three-point field goals came in the period (Curry: 3-5 3PTA’s, Thompson: 2-4 3PTA’s in 3rd quarter).
But that’s when Orlando closed the period on a furious 21-8 run, fueled again in large part by their second unit (Harris, Okeke, R.J. Hampton). The Magic shot 62.5 percent from the field in the third, and held a 10-1 advantage over the Warriors at the free throw line.
A pair of Okeke free throws early in the fourth quarter, followed by an uncontested driving layup through the heart of Golden State’s defense by Suggs, gave the Magic their first lead of the contest. The momentum Orlando finished the third quarter with carried over to fourth, allowing the Magic to score 17 of the first 25 points in the period.
After the Magic built as much as a nine-point lead in the fourth, Golden State began to chip away mid-way through the quarter. A Looney paint conversion (plus a foul, and a questionable technical foul called on Wendell Carter Jr.), followed by a viscous Draymond Green dunk in the paint off a dribble-handoff he elected to keep at the top of the key, cut Orlando’s lead to just one point with 3:27 left in the game.
Golden State briefly reclaimed the lead following a late Curry three-point jumper, but Orlando came right back. Paolo Banchero converted a deep paint touch with Green on his back, and Suggs knocked-down a three point field goal from the left wing on the next possession where the defender went well under a screen a dared him to shoot the ball. Last season’s fifth overall pick deflected and stole the ball away from Curry on the next defensive possession.
Another Curry three-point field goal with just under a minute remaining tied the game at 126-126 before Suggs ultimately brought the house down with a long three-point make from the right wing as the shot clock was expiring.
“That’s who he’s been,” Mosley said of Suggs after the game. “He is a fierce competitor, and that’s what we’ve asked him to become. Stepping up in the moment, being able to guard some of the better players out there. And then offensively, just being able to settle things down and take what the defense gives him.”
Thompson made one final three-point field goal to cut Orlando’s lead to just one point with 29.0 seconds remaining, and then Banchero inexplicably turned the ball over to give the Warriors one final shot to win the game. But the Magic defense was able to force Thompson into a heavily contested baseline runner that would not fall, giving Orlando’s young nucleus a signature win to build upon.
Banchero finished with 22 points and 8 rebounds, while Franz Wagner chipped in with 19 points. Orlando had seven players who scored in double-figures.
Curry led all scorers with 39 points (13-22 FGA’s, 8-15 3PTA’s) and 9 assists, while Thompson added 27 points (10-24 FGA’s, 7-15 3PTA’s).
Thursday marked the first of a seven-game homestand the Magic will enjoy to begin the month of November. Orlando will look to make it two in a row Saturday when the Sacramento Kings come to town.