The Orlando Magic dropped their fourth-straight game Wednesday as they fell 130-109 to their division-foes, the Atlanta Hawks.
Led by All-Star guard Trae Young, who scored 22 points (5-13 FGA’s, 4-5 3PTA’s) in 25 minutes, the Hawks outscored the Magic 72-53 through the first two quarters of the contest, and had things in cruise control for the rest of the game.
Bogdan Bogdanovic added 23 points (9-13 FGA’s, 4-6 3PTA’s) off Atlanta’s bench - in only 25 minutes on the floor.
“Credit them,” Orlando Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters after the game. “They did a great job finding shooters, making shots, (you know) they’re shooting 50-60 percent in the first half. Again, Trae (Young) does such a great job getting downhill, forcing all the attention on him. Their offense, and the way they space it, they did a fantastic job of that.”
The Magic were able to get whatever they wanted in the painted area to begin the contest, scoring 14 of their first 17 points at the rim. Orlando’s lead guards were able to get down-hill, attacking Young off the dribble, while their ‘bigs’ were able to finish in the paint relatively undeterred.
The problem was, Orlando wasn’t shooting straight from the perimeter. And well, the Hawks absolutely were.
Atlanta buried six of their first eight three-point attempts, led by Young - who made three three-point field goals within the game’s first five minutes. It took the Hawks all of eight minutes to push their lead to double-digits, which forced the Magic to use their second timeout of the game (all within the first nine minutes of action). Atlanta knocked-down seven of their 18 made three-point field goals over the opening period (7-10 3PTA’s, 70%).
The Hawks were able to extend their lead to twenty points following three consecutive Orlando turnovers. A Jalen Suggs errant pass led to a Bogdanovic fast-break. To his credit, Suggs hustled back to break-up the layup attempt, but no other Magic player followed him - allowing Lou Williams to tip-in the missed layup uncontested. Rookie Franz Wagner then threw the ball away, which led to a Kevin Huerter three-point field goal. And following another unforced error (this time by Gary Harris), Bogdanovic capped off the run with a three-point field goal from the top of the key.
Young and Bogdanovic combined to make 8 of their 9 three-point attempts in the first half.
Coming off a lengthy West Coast road trip, the Magic looked considerably jet-lagged and flat-footed defensively for most of the contest Wednesday night. Plainly, the Hawks were able to get whatever they wanted offensively - open perimeter jump shots, opportunities off the dribble, free throw attempts, and second chance points in the paint.
A single play that exemplified the lack of energy and attention the Magic were playing with defensively Wednesday occurred off a dead-ball in-bounds play midway through the third quarter, where the Hawks were able to get the ball in, and beat half of the Magic players down the floor for a layup (and-1) within the first few seconds of the possession.
“I don’t think we did a good enough job pressuring,” Suggs told reporters after the game. “You know, putting heat on the ball, especially early - getting them out of their rhythm. They could really do whatever they wanted, get to their spots and get everyone going early. So, we need to do a better job (defensively) putting heat on the ball and taking on that challenge.”
Two free throws from Williams put Atlanta at the century mark with 1:30 still to play in the third quarter (and gave the Hawks a 26-point lead).
A couple porous offensive possessions by Orlando to open the fourth quarter, and Atlanta had extended their lead to over 30 points with ten minutes remaining in the contest - essentially sending the few brave Magic fans that had stuck around at Amway to their vehicles.
“We talk about it often, we want to have aggressive ball pressure,” Mosley added after the game. “We want to get into the basketball, we want our help to be there early (rim protection). So that’s the biggest thing, rim protection - and then defending the three.”
As they often do, the Magic were able to fight and claw back late in the game, making the final score appear closer than the game really was throughout the contest (and the final score wasn’t really all that close).
Cole Anthony, who was designated as a game time decision Wednesday (ankle), led the Magic with 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in 25 minutes. Suggs finished with 19 points (6 for 19 FGA’s), 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
“What weren’t they able to do out there tonight,” Anthony responded when asked about Atlanta’s offensive attack Wednesday. “They pretty much had their way with our team. Obviously, they are a very good three-point shooting team. But look, we’ve got to do a better job stepping up defensively, and just challenge them more. They were super (super) comfortable out there.”
Magic big Wendell Carter Jr. finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Anthony, Suggs, and Wagner are now off to Cleveland to take part in the Rising Stars Game over All-Star Weekend.
Anthony will also be competing in the annual NBA Slam Dunk contest over the break. After the game, he declined to let reporters in on what he’s been working on, just promising that “Greg” (his father and former NBA player) will be involved in some way.
The rest of the team, assistant coaches, and staff will be taking a few much needed days off before the final twenty-two game push to close the season out, which will tip-off nine days from now in Orlando.