It was a career night during what has been a career season for Wendell Carter Jr.
One of the silver linings during another long year in Orlando, one that was much needed on a ugly night as such where a loss was more valuable than a win, has been the emergence of Carter Jr.
That continued Sunday as Carter Jr. scored a career-high 30 points on 12-for-15 shooting to lead the Magic to a 90-85 win over the Thunder.
Wendell Carter Jr. is the 3rd player in Magic history with 30 points, 15 rebounds and 80% shooting in a game, joining Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal. pic.twitter.com/8ANuU4KlLm— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2022
It was apparent very early on that Carter Jr. was in store for a big night, as he had his way inside and scored eight of the Magic’s first 10 points.
With the Magic trailing 25-17 in the first, Carter Jr. lobbed a pass over the top to a cutting Franz Wagner for the lay-in plus the foul. After a Carter Jr. rejection at the other end, he drained a three to pull the Magic within two. Carter Jr.’s dunk off a feed from Fultz then evened it up at 25-25.
The Magic closed the quarter on a 14-0 run to take a 31-25 after the first, with Carter Jr. posting 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
The Magic offense was non-existent in the second quarter, shooting 5-for-21 and turning the ball over six times. Carter Jr. went scoreless after attempting just one shot in over six minutes during the second as the Magic frustratingly went away from what was working inside duringduring the first. The Thunder didn’t fare much better offensively in the second, allowing the Magic to take a 45-43 lead into the half.
Carter Jr. was perfect from the field in the third, scoring inside, out of the post and on a pull-up jumper to tally seven points in the quarter. His teammates, however, shot just 3-for-12 in the third during what was another hard-to-watch quarter for both teams. The Thunder closed the quarter on a 9-1 run, taking the lead on a Vit Krejci three with 32.2 seconds left that sent OKC into the fourth up 64-62.
The Thunder went up six when a Gary Harris turnover led to a pull-up three in transition by Lindy Waters III to make it 70-64.
Moe Wagner then took matters into his own hands, starting with this emphatic dunk...
It was the first of seven straight Orlando points for Moe. With the Magic back within three, it was Carter Jr. who took over, scoring 10 of Orlando’s next 12 points.
He hit a three to tie the game at 76-76 with 5:12 remaining and then threw down an alley-oop off a lob from Franz Wagner to put the Magic back on top at 78-76.
He followed with a pair of free throws to cap an 11-0 Orlando run that pushed the lead to four. After OKC went back up by one, Franz Wagner’s putback gave Orlando an 82-81 lead with 2:21 left. Carter Jr. reached the 30-point milestone to set a new career high with a putback that increased the Magic lead to 85-81 with 1:08 left as the Magic went on to win.
Carter Jr., who topped his previous high of 28 points, also finished with 16 rebounds. In nine games since the All-Star break, he is averaging 20.2 points per game on 60.2 percent shooting.
WCJ was about the only efficient player on Sunday for the Magic, who managed to win despite shooting only 38.6 percent overall, and going 7-for-31 from three (22.6 percent) and committing 21 turnovers. Orlando had just three players in double figures, with Franz Wagner finishing with 11 points and Moe Wagner adding 10 off the bench.
But that was enough to get it done while facing a Thunder team that was without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, shot 32.6 percent from the field and clearly had no desire to win the game.
The Magic improved to 19-53 and, in the bottom-three draft lottery standings, sit a half game “ahead” of the 19-52 Pistons and 1.5 games “ahead” of the now 20-51 Thunder.
The Magic have gone 2-3 on their six-game homestead, which concludes Tuesday when they host the Golden State Warriors. They then face the Thunder again on Wednesday in a Tankathon rematch.