ORLANDO – In their most recent win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Orlando Magic laid out the blueprint for their path to success.
Even with moments of their youth and inexperience popping up throughout the game, the Magic remained locked in on their principles at both ends of the floor and stuck to their game plan. That resulted in Orlando going on a 20-3 run that carried into the fourth quarter, setting the tone for a final frame where the Magic would outscore the opposition by a 24-point margin on their way to a 115-97 road triumph.
Now, Orlando (2-6) will attempt to duplicate that effort when they host the Boston Celtics (2-5) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET at Amway Center.
“It gives the example of continuing to show that you just have to stay with the process,” said Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley. “We talk about guys getting better, and we’ve gotten better every game for them understanding exactly what we need to do to keep developing and keep growing. And they feel that; they feel that experience. Once you feel that on the court, then you understand exactly the things you need to do.”
For the Magic, that plan reverts back to the tenets that their head coach laid out upon his arrival. Play with pace, space and the pass offensively and bring energy and focus defensively.
It also helps that two of the Magic’s youngsters are playing at an extremely high level.
Franz Wagner is coming off a performance where he was sensational on both ends. Defensively, he led Orlando with a contest-best six deflections. Offensively, he played within the system and still managed to erupt for a career-high 28 points while going 10-for-18 from the floor and 5-for-9 from distance.
“It just tells you a lot about Franz. He just really knows how to play,” said Cole Anthony, who scored a season-high 31 points, of Wagner. “I wish I was doing that (as a rookie). Franz can really hoop, man. He just really understands the game (and) he has a great feel. He’s a heck of a basketball player. It’s awesome because I think he can get a heck of a lot better. Super excited to see his development.”
Anthony was phenomenal as well. In fact, the duo orchestrated the offense down the stretch, combining for 24 of their 59 points and knocking down six of their 11 triples in the final 12 minutes of the contest.
“It was a great team effort,” said Jalen Suggs, who posted 15 points in front of his hometown crowd. “Franz and Cole put on a show. They made it easy for a lot of us.”
The Magic as a whole have been hot from beyond the arc.
In its victory at Minnesota, Orlando made a season-high-tying 17 3-pointers. Over the last four games, the Magic have knocked down 15-plus 3-pointers in each contest, which is the first time they’ve done that in franchise history.
During that stretch, Orlando is shooting 43 percent from deep, led by Anthony and Wagner, who are each shooting a team-best 57.1 percent from 3-point range over that span.
“We’re getting more and more comfortable,” said Wagner. “For everybody it’s a learning experience and a process of getting to know how (each other plays). New system with a new coach, and I think we’re figuring it out as we go. Definitely, I think we’re making steps in the right direction. That’s really encouraging for all of us.”
KEY STAT: Anthony and Wagner became the second set of Magic teammates 21-or-younger to both score 25-plus in the same game. It was also accomplished on March 23, 2001 at Milwaukee by Tracy McGrady (33) and Mike Miller (28), per Sportradar.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “You don’t really realize what you’re doing in that kind of moment. I just tried to jump as high as possible and finish the play. Obviously, I was really excited that I made the dunk and looking at the bench and seeing all my teammates’ reactions. That’s probably the coolest part about this game (is) to see how people are happy for you. Obviously, I was really happy when everything worked out.” – Wagner on his viral, posterizing dunk against the Timberwolves
IN AND OUT: For Orlando, Gary Harris (left ankle sprain) is questionable, while Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), and E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain) all remain out.
For Boston, Payton Pritchard (nasal fracture; face mask) is available, while Sam Hauser (G League – Two-Way) and Brodric Thomas (G League – Two-Way) are out.
Magic Go Cold in Second Half in Loss to Celtics
The way the Orlando Magic played in the first half of Wednesday’s contest against the Boston Celtics at Amway Center was similar to their fourth-quarter performance in Minnesota. They were locked in defensively, played with great energy and were sharp on the offensive end. That wasn’t the case all night, however. The Magic got stagnant after halftime, leading to a 92-79 defeat.
One of four Magic players to score in double figures was Wendell Carter Jr., who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds. There was a degree of uncertainty how he would perform playing alongside another big man in the starting lineup. But he’s handled the adjustment well. His versatility has really stood out in the early portion of the season. Also, he’s an improved 3-point shooter. He’s already made 12 triples. He made 15 of them all last season.
The Magic were held scoreless from the 3:43 mark of the second quarter to the 5:59 mark of the third. In that span, the Celtics scored 21 points. Marcus Smart started the run with a 3-pointer. Orlando made just two floor shots in the third.
Going into Wednesday’s game, the Magic had made at least 12 3-pointers in their last seven games. Against the Celtics, they drilled just nine of them. Cole Anthony and Franz Wagner, both scorching hot coming into the night, combined to shoot 3-of-18 from beyond the arc.
Out for Orlando were Gary Harris (left ankle sprain), Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), Markelle Fultz (left knee) and E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain). Boston was at full strength.
The last several years, the Celtics had Rajon Rondo, Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker at point guard. While all different, they brought stability to Boston’s offensive attack. This year, without a floor general the likes of any of those four, the Celtics have struggled getting into a rhythm. Entering Wednesday’s action, they ranked 19th in offense and 23rd in field goal percentage. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are electric scorers. But for Boston to make a deep playoff run, the supporting cast is going to have to step up and make major contributions.
Quote of the Night
“I think it’s going to be great for us to be home to continue to build on some habits, get back to the foundation of things we are doing. Defensively and offensively. I think it will be good for us to be home.” – Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley on the team having some practice time in their own gym over the next several days
The Magic’s five-game homestand continues Friday when the San Antonio Spurs come to town. The Spurs were in Orlando during the preseason and these squads faced off on opening night, with the Spurs prevailing in their home building. Going into their Wednesday matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio had lost five of their last six games, including on Monday against the Indiana Pacers. Eight Spurs scored in double figures in that contest, including Dejounte Murray who scored 16 points and Devin Vassell, a Florida State alum, who finished with 15.