And there will be no double-digit losing streak to speak of in City Beautiful on this night.
After dropping their last nine contests, the Orlando Magic were able to come from behind in dramatic fashion, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers in overtime 116-111 Wednesday evening.
Rookie forward and number one overall pick Paolo Banchero made four free throws late in overtime to ice the game for Orlando, helping bring the team a victory for the first time in nearly three weeks.
Moritz Wagner led the way for the Magic with 20 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in 36 minutes. Forward Bol Bol added 20 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
The Magic were able to overcome frigid outside shooting against the Clippers (8 for 28 3PTA’s, 28.6 percent) by scoring 29 points off 17 Los Angeles turnovers.
“I thought they did a great job focusing in, once we locked into the game-plan,” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters after the game. “Understanding how physical we could be, and our guys did a really nice job staying the course throughout that entire game. Going down eighteen (points) and still being able to bounce back.”
Turning the ball over twice over their first three possessions of the game, the Magic spotted the Clippers a 7-0 lead before Mosley called an early timeout just under three minutes into the contest. In fact, it took less than five minutes into the opening period for Los Angeles to build a double-digit lead. The Clippers completely dominated the start of the game, scoring 23 of the game’s first 29 points.
Orlando’s first made field goal in the contest did not come until the 6:09 mark of the first quarter. Los Angeles, who came into Wednesday’s game sporting a top-five defensive rating in the league, suffocated Orlando both on the perimeter as well as in the painted area in the first.
All in the all, the Clippers held the Magic to 22 percent shooting in the opening period (4-22 FGA’s).
After being down by as many as 18 points in the second quarter, Orlando started to close the gap behind inspired play from Wagner. The 6-11 big finished a dunk in the paint over Clippers center Ivica Zubac with resounding authority, which forced Los Angeles to burn a quick timeout to slow momentum and left Zubac shaking his head all the way back to the bench.
Wagner finished another dunk moments later in the second, this time alone on the break off a Bol steal. Wagner’s tenacity - fighting for offensive rebounds, diving for loose balls, banging bodies in the painted area - single-handedly woke up an otherwise quiet Amway Center crowd.
“He absolutely was (that guy),” Mosley said after the game, when asked whether the elder Wagner was the guy that got Orlando going Wednesday. “That’s what he’s capable of doing, he brings the energy.”
“It’s one thing to kind of talk and be an energetic leader by communicating because everyone can do that, right? It’s easy to talk and I’ve been making a challenge to myself to let my game speak a little bit more,” Wagner told reporters after the game when asked about the impact his energy had on the team (and the outcome of the game). “Whether I score or not, just bring a 100%, communicate during the game, and hope that it translates over to my teammates. I get a lot of trust from my teammates, a lot of encouragement, and so I want to give that back because I love them and it’s a lot of fun to be out there. You need that in order to win. You need a cohesive group and so I’m going to give it my best.”
The highlight of the first half came with just over two minutes remaining in the second quarter when Bol picked-off an errant Leonard pass and took the ball the other way, going coast-to-coast and finishing the play off with a monstrous dunk. Orlando outscored Los Angeles 26-17 in the second.
The Clippers, backed by three consecutive three-point field goals from Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum (two), began the second half on a 10-4 run.
After a fast-paced up-and-down third quarter, Orlando found themselves within seven-points of Los Angeles’ once rather large lead. The Magic closed the period on an 11-3 run, capped off by a three-point field goal from Cole Anthony from the right wing as time expired in the quarter.
Riding the momentum from Anthony’s made shot to end the third, Orlando scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter, drawing the game even on a running floater in the lane from Franz Wagner. A F. Wagner three-point field goal from the left wing moments later gave Orlando their first lead of the contest with just over nine minutes remaining in the game.
Orlando scored 12 of the first 13 points scored in the fourth quarter.
A driving left-handed layup by Robert Covington ended a 24-5 Orlando run over a five minute segment that stretched across the third and fourth quarters. Kawhi Leonard converted a three-point field goal from the right-wing moments later to draw the Clippers within one point of the Magic midway through the fourth quarter.
The lead changed four times in the fourth before Los Angeles ran off eight straight points, forcing Mosley to call timeout with just under five minutes remaining in the contest.
The Magic were able to inch back, drawing within one possession with under two minutes remaining. A critical moment in the game occurred when the Magic were called for a lane violation late in the fourth quarter, wiping a made free throw off the board.
That didn’t deter F. Wagner, who drew the Magic within one (99-98) after converting a runner through the right-side of the lane. Markelle Fultz split two free throw attempts on Orlando’s next offensive possession to tie the game with 33.7 seconds remaining.
After getting the stop they needed in regulation, the Magic couldn’t convert on their end, as a game-winning attempt in regulation by Fultz rimmed in-and-out. With just seconds remaining, Los Angeles opted not to call timeout, instead settling for a heavily contested Paul George fadeaway three-point attempt in front of his own bench which fell short as time expired.
The lead changed six more times in overtime, with Batum burying a crucial three-point field goal from the right-corner to briefly give the Clippers the lead with just over thirty seconds remaining in the game.
However, after a strong drive to the basket that resulted in a trip to the free throw line with 7.0 seconds remaining in overtime, Orlando’s rookie forward calmly knocked-down a pair that put Orlando ahead for good.
“I think the whole game, I was letting the game come to me. I was really focused defensively this game on my assignment and trying to slow down (Kawhi) Leonard,” Banchero said after the game. “I think the ball just found me later in the game, I don’t think that I was passive. I think that I was aggressive all game and I was just letting it come to me. I just tried to take my opportunities when they came.”
Banchero finished with 23 points, 16 of those points coming in the fourth quarter and overtime period.
Orlando’s defensive attention led to a Los Angeles Clippers turnover (five-second violation) on their in-bounds attempt. And after two more free throws from Banchero, the Clippers again turned the ball over, handing the game over to the home team with just over five seconds remaining in the game.
“Resiliency. I think in order to win in this league, you’ve got to have a very high level or high amount of belief in yourself and your teammates,” M. Wagner said after the game, when asked about what he saw in the second half Wednesday. “Sometimes when you go through tough times, you lose, and all of your work doesn’t translate into wins, it gets harder and harder, or it takes more energy every day. You’ve got to engage on that, communicate on that, and talk about that stuff. I think that we showed tonight that we have it and it finally translated. I think that’s something that we have to keep doing. Believe in each other and communicate that because that’s super important.”
The Clippers had seven players finish in double-figures, led by Terance Mann’s 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists off the bench. Leonard (14 points) and George (11 points) combined to go 7 for 27 from the field (25.9 percent). Zubac finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
The Amway Center crowd was treated Wednesday to one of the signature wins in Orlando’s 2022-23 season thus far, snapping a lengthy losing streak while defeating an NBA title contender in the process.
“I think they were huge for us,” Banchero told reporters after the game, when asked about the energy the team felt from the fans down the stretch. “The last three minutes of the game, they were standing up the whole time. They have just been showing up for us every home game being loud and bringing energy. It was time to give them a win and just play our hearts out to try and get them a win. It’s been a minute and they deserve it, I appreciate them.”