The Orlando Magic had to know going into their contest Friday night against the Washington Wizards that their margin of error to come away with a win was going to be razor thin.
Unfortunately for the home teamnot enough went right against their Atlantic Division foes, as the Wizards handed the Magic their third-consecutive loss, 119-100.
Orlando was down to only eight available players Friday as Cole Anthony, Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr., R.J. Hampton, Gary Harris, and Moritz Wagner were all serving a suspension handed down by the NBA for their roles in an altercation with members of the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night (Kevon Harris, Admiral Schofield, and Franz Wagner were also suspended one-game by the NBA, but they will serve their suspension in Orlando’s next contest against Oklahoma City). As has been the case for some time, the Magic were also without Jonathan Isaac (knee), Chuma Okeke (knee), and Jalen Suggs (ankle) due to injury/recovery.
“I won’t say it’s easy,” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters after the game, when asked about only having eight players available against Washington. “Obviously, guys playing in different positions, playing in different spots. We talked about guys having the ‘next man up’ mentality. And for the most part, these guys battled, they competed, and (still) being undermanned takes its toll at some point.”
Wizards big man Kristaps Porzingis scored a game-high 30 points (9-13 FGA’s, 3-6 3PTA’s, 9-11 FTA’s), grabbed 13 rebounds, and blocked 4 shots to lead the way for Washington. Kyle Kuzma added 23 points (9-16 FGA’s, 4-8 3PTA’s), 6 assists, and 5 rebounds.
Despite turning the ball over 24 times, the Wizards were able to come away victorious due to the advantages they created over the Magic from beyond the arc (15 3PTM’s compared to 5 3PTM’s for Orlando), at the free throw line, and on the glass.
It was clearly visible from the onset of the contest that Washington was enjoying a considerable size advantage over the depleted Magic team - something that hasn’t been the case for the majority of this season.
Playing without their three centers, the Magic allowed the Wizards to grab 12 of the first 16 rebounding opportunities in the game. The towering Wizards also blocked four shots in the opening period - three of those coming from Porzingis.
After falling behind by double-digits, Orlando scored the first twelve points of the second quarter to take their first lead of the game. All in all - across the first and second quarters - the Magic scored 16 consecutive points.
A timeout called by Washington with just under nine minutes remaining in the half appeared to be just what the doctor ordered, as the Wizards responded to Orlando’s first half run with a 17-2 run of their own.
Porzingis was a man amongst boys in the first half, particularly in the second quarter where he scored 15 of his 30 points (4-6 FGA’s, 2-4 3PTA’s, 5-6 FTA’s in the second).
The Magic were called for nine personal fouls in the second quarter alone, but ten Washington turnovers in the first half allowed Orlando to keep the game within reach.
The Wizards began the second half on an 22-9 run to stretch their lead to 22 points. Washington made nine of their first ten attempts from the field in the third quarter, including a couple of three-point field goals from Corey Kispert.
It was an impossibly brutal third quarter for Orlando, who misfired on nine of their ten three-point field goal attempts in the period (compared to Washington, who shot 6 for 10 from beyond the arc). As has been the case recently, the young Magic players seemed to allow their poor offensive play negatively affect their defensive effort and attention as well.
However, after trailing by as many as 30 points in the second half, the Magic refused to wave the white flag down the stretch in this game. Orlando actually outscored Washington 27-21 in the fourth quarter.
But the sixteen-point margin the Wizards created in the third quarter alone proved to be enough to help the visiting team exit the Amway Center with a road victory Friday.
“I think there were some really good stretches,” Franz Wagner told reporters after the game. “We brought our best effort (in terms of communication). Everybody was engaged, they brought all their energy tonight. Obviously it wasn’t an easy task, I think (you) saw that in the third quarter a little bit. But I think we made some strides in the right direction. Obviously, not entirely the game we wanted. But like I said, I think we can take some things from this.”
Monte Morris recorded his first double-double of the season for Washington, scoring 12 points and dishing-out 10 assists in 28 minutes.
Wagner led the way for the Magic with 28 points (13 for 25 FGA’s), 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals in 38 minutes. Rookie Paolo Banchero added 21 points (7-24 FGA’s, 1-5 3PTA’s, 6-7 FTA’s), 5 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Orlando’s next opportunity to bring this current losing streak to a halt won’t come until the middle of next week as they travel to Oklahoma City. And due to more players set to serve their NBA-mandated suspensions, the Magic will once again be short-handed.
“These guys will come back resilient,” Mosley added after the game, when asked about his team trying to re-gain the momentum they enjoyed just last week. “They’ll respond when we get all of our bodies back. It’s going to take some time for the chemistry, but understand this group is willing and always willing to fight through (that).”