Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 127, Washington Wizards 120

The Orlando Magic lost a big lead and built it back up again, holding off the offensive-minded Washington Wizards for a road win.


Washington Wizards


Orlando Magic


The Orlando Magic had become the latest victim of the Washington Wizards’ offensive barrage.

Their 18-point lead built in the first half with meticulous defense, ball movement and cutting on offense and a controlled pace, quickly disappeared. The Wizards’ 3-point shooting is devastating. They take advantage of any lapses and any mistakes. Washington can erase deficits quickly.

And so there it went. With each Davis Bertans 3-pointer and Bradley Beal attack and each turnover, the Magic went into their shell and the Wizards burst through that door. Coach Steve Clifford would say after the game Orlando did not come out of the locker room truly ready to play.

Orlando was not going to let that rest. Evan Fournier was going to continue his tear through the league. Markelle Fultz was not going to let his homecoming go to waste. And on down the list.

The Magic may not have gotten their defense back under control. But the team showed enough of it and enough offensive determination to outlast the Wizards.

Washington would make its runs. But after taking a one-point lead midway through the third quarter, the Wizards would never lead again. The Magic would find the matchup, would crash the interior and make sure it never happened in a 127-120 win at Capital One Arena.

Orlando set season highs for several players offensively. The team scored a season-high 127 points. D.J. Augustin scored a season-high 24 points, hitting from the outside after a cold start to the season. Markelle Fultz tallied his career-high, making a living getting into the lane and posting up the smaller Isaiah Thomas all night.

And, of course, Evan Fournier continued his scoring binge with 31 points for back-to-back 30-point games.

Orlando shot 51.1 percent overall as the second half devolved into a scoring fest. Somehow the Magic, struggling offensively all year, were able to keep pace and take back control after giving up the lead. And then build their own lead.

The Wizards are not a good defensive team — at all — and the Magic were finally able to take advantage. Once one shot went in, it felt like all of them were going in. And that was certainly much-needed for a team that has struggled on that end.

And a much-needed road win to boost the team during a difficult time for the team.

What is there left to say about Evan Fournier at this point? The guard has stepped up his game so much since Nikola Vucevic went out with an injury. Except for a few instances, he has been able to get wherever he wants on the court and is getting into his shot with ease. He is on rhythm right now and the Magic are finding him at every turn.

Fournier scored 31 points, following his career-high-tying game Sunday against the Golden State Warriors, making 11 of his 18 shots and six of his eight 3-pointers. Fournier was doing a good job cutting to the basket. But more than that, he is doing a much better job shooting off the dribble. He found that part of his game and is able to create space for his shot.

Fournier is not chucking, as evidenced by his efficiency. He might have some of that tunnel vision that some complained about before this season, but he is getting to his spots and shooting good shots. Fournier does enough spot-up shooting too as he gets feeds from drivers. Teammates are looking for him and Fournier is delivering.

Markelle Fultz hit a major landmark in Tuesday’s win. He played his 20th game. A small thing for most players, but after two years of dealing with injuries, it was a big thing. Fultz has played a career-high 20 games this season. He has done that without any interruptions in his play. That is enough to celebrate, especially returning to his home in Washington, D.C.

Then he dropped a career-high 20 points with six assists. Fultz was able to get into the lane whenever he felt like it seemed. He worked to get his mid-range jumper going and posted up Isaiah Thomas at every turn. The Magic gave him the ball and let him work.

Fultz is still getting his consistency down. He is a rookie making some mistakes. He had four turnovers in the game. That was the biggest weakness for the team — 13 for 21 Washington Wizards points. But those mistakes are somewhat expected at this point. The scoring and confidence he is displaying feel much more important.

Aaron Gordon is slowly getting himself back into rhythm. Very slowly. He had a pair of 2-for-11 performances over the weekend in his first games back from a sprained right ankle. Aaron Gordon had his legs under him defensively, but his offensive game was searching.

He found it Tuesday night in a lot of ways. He finished with 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He was active especially on the offensive glass and did a good job helping defend the interior. But offensively he made shots. He did not force his offense or his shooting too much. He just took what the defense gave him and found a rhythm.

That is really the big thing with Gordon. It is clear when his offense is out of whack. When he has to do too much searching for his offense it takes everyone out of their game. Gordon did a good job staying within himself and made it work.

D.J. Augustin has had a tough season so far. Defensively, he has struggled to keep his man in front of him and his shooting has not made up for it. A lot of his struggles can trace back to that. The new lineups he has played with in the second unit have struggled to get much going for him and he has struggled to get much going for them.

Maybe it was Michael Carter-Williams‘ return to the lineup that helped loosen some things up. Having a second ball-handler to set him up might have actually helped. Augustin finally broke through for a much-needed scoring performance. He had 24 points on 7-for-9 shooting, making four of his five 3-pointers.

Augustin did not tally any assists, that is a rarity for him. He did not have the ball in his hands as much. But he got his shots, took them and made them. That is a big thing for him. His play and impact is really dependent on his ability to make shots like that. He finally did.

Bradley Beal deserves a whole lot more for the effort he has put in. And the Washington Wizards have become a really dangerous team to play because of their ability to hit from the outside. Beal scored 42 points and all 12 of Washington’s 3-point makes seemed to feel big. It felt like a rush was coming.

The Wizards can score. But their defense is just so porous. They played undermanned with Thomas Bryant and Moritz Wagner out. The Wizards had really no interior presence to deflect any attention from the rim or the paint. When the Magic got there they parked there.

Washington’s inability to defend is the biggest thing holding the team back. It is not so much a lack of effort. But the skill level and teamwork are not there. The Wizards are a dominant offensive team. But the defense is so bad, it does not really matter. As I said, Beal deserves a whole lot more for his efforts.

Next: Orlando Magic happy to have Michael Carter-Williams back

The Orlando Magic return home Wednesday to face the Phoenix Suns at the Amway Center.

Published at Wed, 04 Dec 2019 04:28:12 +0000
Source: https://orlandomagicdaily.com/2019/12/03/orlando-magic-grades-orlando-magic-127-washington-wizards-120/

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