The Magic starters built a lead and then watched the veterans protect it in the fourth.
Jamahl Mosley elected to stick with the second unit of R.J. Hampton, Gary Harris, Terrence Ross, Chuma Okeke and Moe Wagner for the entire fourth quarter, even as a double-digit lead was trimmed to one-possession. Ross took over down the stretch, with some trademark threes and a SportsCenter-worthy dunk, to help the Magic defeat the Pelicans 108-102 on Wednesday in New Orleans.
The Magic took an early lead as Mo Bamba hit a pair of threes, and a Pelicans team without Brandon Ingram missed six of their first seven shots while also committing early turnovers, for a 10-3 advantage. The Magic attacked the basket early and often and had success finding the open cutter, with Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr. converting back-to-back dunks.
Wagner then followed with a three to give Orlando its first double-digit lead at 19-8. The lead reached 14 when Chuma Okeke knocked down a three to make it 26-12. The Magic led 30-17 after one, mixing it up inside (12 points in the paint) and outside (4-of-10 from three) while shooting 52 percent in the quarter.
The Magic cooled off from the field overall in the second but continued knocking down some threes, with Gary Harris opening the quarter with a make from deep to push the lead to 16. Moe Wagner scored eight points off the bench in the quarter, knocking down a pair of threes.
The Pelicans got no closer than 11 in the second, and when they did so, Cole Anthony responded with a three of his own...
The Magic held the Pelicans to 35 percent shooting in the half and took a 56-41 lead into the break.
Orlando was held without a field goal over the opening 3:30 of the third, including one stretch with three consecutive turnovers, as the Pelicans went on an 11-0 run to cut the Magic lead to 57-52. Anthony, who scored 10 points in the third, helped re-establish the double-digit lead by hitting a fadeaway and a three.
CJ McCollum (32 points) and Jonas Valanciunas (30 points) then powered a Pelicans comeback. McCollum scored 12 of his 14 third-quarter points over the final six minutes, knocking down a three that tied the score at 73-73 with 2:48 left in the quarter. The Magic responded well with an 8-0 run to close the third, highlighted by a turnaround fadeaway by Carter Jr. that sent Orlando into the fourth with an 81-73 lead.
The fourth-quarter combo of Hampton-Harris-Ross-Okeke-Moe Wagner pushed the lead back to double figures, with Ross hitting threes on consecutive possessions with about seven minutes remaining. He followed with a runner that pushed the lead to 96-84.
Ross’ tenth straight point for the Magic was the prettiest of all, as he received a bounce pass from Moe Wagner on the backdoor cut and threw down a 360 dunk...
That dunk the Magic a 14 point lead with 5:08 to play, but it would be their final field goal of the game. Valanciunas scored seven straight for the Pelicans to cut the lead to nine. A corner three by Herbert Jones cut the Magic lead to five with 36.7 seconds left. McCollum later hit a jumper to make it a one-possession game at 103-100 with 13 seconds remaining. But Okeke and Ross were able to seal the victory from the free throw line.
Ross scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, Harris finished with 16 points on 4-for-6 shooting from deep, and Moe Wagner added nine points and nine rebounds as the veteran trio helped Orlando close out the win. The closing unit also helped the Magic outscore the Pelicans 50-18 in bench points.
The Magic overcame 18 turnovers by shooting over 47 percent from the field, going 14 of 37 from deep and holding a plus-nine advantage at the line. Anthony finished with 19 points on 6-for-9 shooting with five assists. Franz Wagner had 15 points and six rebounds. Carter Jr. added 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
The Magic return home to host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday for the start of a six-game homestand.