Magic fans were cheering as Nikola Vucevic showed All-Star form in another Orlando win over a tough and in form opponent. His third career triple-double guided Orlando past the Golden State Warriors in the Amway.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 120-124 ORLANDO MAGIC
The Magic had a different starting line-up again. Khem Birch got a start along with the returning James Ennis III. They joined Nikola Vucevic, Michael Carter-Williams and Evan Fournier.
That left Chasson Randle, Al-Farouq Aminu, Terrence Ross, Mo Bamba, Chuma Okeke, Gary Clark and Dwayne Bacon to come from the bench.
For the Warriors Draymond Green was available to play. Therefore it was the same Warriors line-up taking to the court that Orlando had faced last week as expected.
THE OPENING QUARTER
James Ennis got Orlando’s scoring going with a wing three. Encouragingly the Magic were scoring early both from the three and getting into the paint. Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier were scoring freely.
Inexplicably Draymond Green fouled Khem Birch shooting a corner free, making 2 of 3 from the free throw line. Bonus points like those are always gratefully received, especially in a game as competitive as this one proved to be..
Orlando’s defence was active and harried the shooters. Active hands got two consecutive steals resulting in fast break points.
The Warriors took advantage of a Magic bench unit that was very unfamiliar to one another. They cut a 15 point lead down to 6. Then Stephen Curry got going to tie the game.
Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross had both been hitting shots through the period to give Orlando a 34-37 lead at the close. The 37 points scored is a season high in a first quarter for Orlando.
INTO THE SECOND QUARTER
A disjointed start to the second quarter saw the officials call multiple fouls against both teams.
Mo Bamba had been very active on defence in his minutes. He also showed his strength and balance on offence claiming a rebound, then muscling the ball home for two points.
As Fournier returned he continued his hot scoring half.
Nikola Vucevic was seeing his full repertoire of shots go, including a highlight drive and slam finish over Draymond Green and Kelly Oubre.
Orlando were moving the ball well. This was a feature of the game, getting team mates good looks for shot opportunities.
At the buzzer Evan Fournier had a 22 point scoring half. With the score 51-64, the Magic led by 13.
In the half the Magic defence had not conceded a single point from fast break. Against a Warriors team that is an incredible stat. Coach Clifford was making full use of the increased availability, having used 11 of 12 active players.
THE THIRD QUARTER
The starting unit returned for Orlando to open the second half.
Vucevic showed All-Star form as he continued his shooting exhibition to extend the lead for Orlando briefly to 17, the largest of the night.
From here the Warriors charged, rapidly cutting the lead on the back of a 12-0 two minute run. James Ennis, Michael Carter-Williams and Terrence Ross all hit big three’s in response as Golden State continued to play in attack mode, scoring freely in the quarter.
The Warriors defence had now engaged at a higher level. An increased focus resulted in turnovers being forced from Magic players, hurting the Orlando rhythm. That is where the Warriors offence thrive, resulting in score after score coming in the paint from the fast break.
With 1:30 of the quarter left the Warriors took a lead on the back of more Kelly Oubre points.
At the close the Warriors had turned the score around to lead 94-93. The Warriors had attained a new season high for them, with 43 points in a quarter.
INTO THE FOURTH
Despite some strong defensive play the Magic dropped further back, being 10 points behind with 3 minutes of the final quarter played.
With a bench unit on the court Terrence Ross had been drawing all the defensive focus, leading to scoring drought through the opening 3:30 of the quarter.
The drought was broken by Evan Fournier returning, hitting a three and being followed up by an MCW three on another Vooch assist.
Chuma Okeke made a big block on Kent Bazemore, the block led to Vooch feeding Chuma the ball to score as Orlando turned defence into attack.
Orlando’s refocused defensive play saw them cut the Warriors double digit lead back to 2 points.
Okeke was seeing minutes late in the game with Fournier, Ross, Vucevic and Carter-Williams. He rewarded Coach Clifford’s faith by another big block, this time on a driving Curry. Okeke followed on by making a deep three. He then harried Green into missing a jumper, taking the rebound. Vooch from the resulting play cut the lead to a single point.
A third Okeke made three saw Orlando take the lead and Vooch get a 10th assist for his first triple double of the season. The night got better as Orlando followed that play with a contested Ross three in traffic for a 5 point lead with 1:48 remaining.
With 20 seconds left Curry had put Golden State just a point down, having hit two successive brilliant three pointers. Free throws by Vooch saw Orlando go 3 up. An outstanding defensive effort by Vooch and MCW saw Curry unable to get a clean shot.
After that defensive effort Ennis secured a 4 point lead as he made 1 of 2 free throws with only 2 seconds remaining.
THE FINAL SCORE – 120-124
ON THE NIGHT THAT VUCEVIC SHOWED ALL-STAR FORM AGAIN
Orlando’s season record is now 12-18, remaining 12th in the East. The East is very tight with Toronto sitting 6th with a 15-15 record.
The team effort was outstanding throughout, despite the scoring conceded in the 3rd quarter. Don’t forget we were facing the leagues leading scorer and a team who are the league’s fifth best defence.
This was a solid team performance.
It can not be ignored the effort and grit that Michael Carter-Williams brought to the game.
Four Magic players again made double figure scoring.
The team was led by Nikola Vucevic for his third career triple-double. Vucevic showed All-Star form as he had 30 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists, along with a steal and a block.
Evan Fournier scored a season high as he hit 28 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals.
Terrence Ross led the bench with a 24 point scoring performance, which included 3 steals.
Chuma Okeke had the best night of his rookie career with 11 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 massively important blocks.
Of the 12 players Orlando had available only Gary Clark failed to see any playing time. Dwayne Bacon’s figures were disappointing being zeros across the board on 16 minutes of play. Khem Birch was also not impacting on the team stats.
Orlando moved the ball, making 30 assists, whilst blocking 8 shots and stealing the ball 7 times.
Up next are the Detroit Pistons, a team in turmoil. Orlando face them twice in the Amway on Sunday and Tuesday nights.
There will likely be no appearance by Blake Griffin as he sits out whilst the Pistons’ seek a trade. However we face the in form Jerami Grant and the impressive rookie Sadiq Bey. Bey is the current Eastern Conference player of the week.
A full game review by Josh Cohen on the Orlando Magic website can be read here.