Whether by design or necessity, or a little bit of both, the Magic are looking to find the right combination.
Jamahl Mosley continued to experiment with the Magic lineup as he said he would down the home stretch of the season, with his hand somewhat forced on Saturday night with the Magic down two starters in Wendell Carter Jr. (illness) and Jalen Suggs (sprained ankle).
That absence of Suggs gave R.J. Hampton, who had been getting more playing time in Mosley’s three-guard sets, the third start of his career, and kept Chuma Okeke in the starting lineup for the second straight game.
Completing a road back-to-back following a victory in Toronto on Friday, the shorthanded/new-look Magic were no match in a 124-96 loss to a Memphis Grizzlies team that now sits second in the Western Conference.
Ja Morant used one of the more unheralded aspects of his game to help the Grizzlies take an early lead, hitting his first three three-point shots to give Memphis a 19-10 lead.
Cole Anthony played the entire first quarter, with Fultz replacing Hampton in the backcourt midway through the quarter. Fultz, who returned after being given the night off on Friday to for load management purposes, has spent the bulk of his comeback playing alongside teammates he had some familiarity with from last season. That continued to gradually change Saturday as he led the second unit.
Fultz helped the Magic close the gap against Memphis, going coast to coast and spinning into the lane for the left-handed finish high off the glass to even the score at 22-22.
Markelle Fultz.— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 6, 2022
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Terrence Ross returned after getting a DNP on Friday, checking in with just under four minutes left in the half. Mosley elected to give Ross’ fellow vet Gary Harris the night off on Saturday, opening more minutes for experimentation with the team’s younger players.
Moe Wagner also made his return after missing nine games, scoring seven points over the final four minutes of the first, including a three that gave Orlando a 29-28 lead in the final minute.
Orlando shot over 57 percent in the quarter, going 5 of 10 from deep. The Grizzlies topped that by going 6-for-11 from three in the quarter, including a make by Tyus Jones just before the buzzer for a 32-29 lead.
An explosion to the basket by Hampton for the easy layup cut the Magic deficit to 39-33 and led to a Memphis timeout. The Grizzlies responded, with Jaren Jackson Jr. hitting a turnaround that pushed the lead to double figures for the first time at 46-35.
Memphis then continued to do what they do best in forcing turnovers to help take a sizable lead, scoring nine of their 34 fast break points in the second quarter.
Ziaire Williams hit a three to cap a 13-0 run by Memphis to open a 60-40 lead as the Magic were held without a point over a 3:30 stretch. The Magic’s fourth turnover of the quarter led to a dunk by De’Anthony Melton that sent the Grizzlies into the half with a 68-45 lead.
The Magic shot just 7-for-23 in the second, while the Grizzlies efficient shooting continued, shooting 50 percent from the field and 11-for-20 from three in the half.
It was an uneventful second half for the Magic, with two-way players Ignas Brazdeikis and Admiral Schofield getting some extended playing time in the rout.
Morant finished with 25 points and seven assists and Desmond Bane added 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting. Memphis finished 14 of 34 from three (41.2 percent).
Anthony had a team-high 19 points to go along with four assists. Moe Wagner finished with a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes. Franz Wagner scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half and added six assists and five rebounds.
Franz got dimes tho— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 6, 2022
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Brazdeikis added 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting in 22 minutes.
Hampton (1-for-7 FG, 0-for-3 3PT), and Okeke (2-for-10 FG, 0-for-7 3PT) both struggled from the field in their starts and had four points each.
Fultz finished with six points on 2-for-8 shooting, with three assists and two rebounds in 19 minutes.
The Magic shot 43 percent from the field, going 11 of 35 from deep, and finished with 12 turnovers.
The Magic now return to Orlando with seven of their next eight games at home. It begins on Tuesday with the league’s top team, the 51-12 Phoenix Suns.