Jonathan Isaac Makes Return, Plays Well in Magic’s Scrimmage Win Over Nuggets
Jonathan Isaac making his highly anticipated return on Monday was big news in and of itself. The way he played, which was quite impressive considering he hadn’t been on the court in an official game since New Year’s Day when he injured his left knee, made the night even more special. The third-year forward showed no rust or hesitation despite missing the Magic’s final 31 games before the hiatus, as he recorded 13 points, seven rebounds and two steals in just seven minutes during his team’s 114-110 scrimmage victory over the Denver Nuggets. Also back in action was Markelle Fultz, who tallied five points and two assists in just under nine minutes in the Magic’s last tune-up contest before playing the Brooklyn Nets on July 31 in their first seeding game.
The Top Performer
Even if it was just a scrimmage game, Isaac being on the court and playing well was extremely encouraging. Right after Steve Clifford inserted him into the game at the 3:27 mark of the first quarter, the 22-year-old made a big impact on both ends of the floor. His first bucket was a putback layup as he got fouled. On the Magic’s very next possession, he drilled a corner 3-pointer. Then early in the second quarter, the former Florida State star banked in a mid-range jumper and followed that with another 3-pointer, which he turned into a four-point play as he was fouled by Michael Porter Jr. while in the act of shooting.
Other Top Performers
Acquiring James Ennis III at the trade deadline from the Philadelphia 76ers has turned out to be a great move for the Magic, who won eight of 12 with the recently-turned 30-year-old in the lineup before the shutdown. He was terrific during Monday’s scrimmage as well, finishing with 15 points. The top play of the night featured Ennis when he stole a pass and darted down the other way for a thunderous dunk during the third quarter. Another player Orlando picked up mid-season was Gary Clark, who buried four of his eight 3-point attempts as part of his 17-point performance against the Nuggets. The 25-year-old, who joined the club in January shortly after he was waived by the Houston Rockets, started in place of Aaron Gordon (rest).
The Clutch Moment
Denver’s Tyler Cook had a chance to cut into a four-point deficit with 25 seconds remaining when he attacked the basket. However, he was met there by Khem Birch, who blocked the 6-foot-8 Cook’s shot to help seal Orlando’s win.
The Key Stretch
After the Nuggets trimmed a 21-point Magic first-half lead to four early in the third quarter, Orlando responded with a 10-2 run. D.J. Augustin connected on a driving layup and a 3-pointer before Ennis capitalized on a Nikola Jokic turnover with a fast break layup. Clark completed the run with a corner triple.
The Key Stat
The Magic knocked down 18 of their 37 3-point attempts (48.6 percent) – a significant improvement from Saturday against the Lakers when they hit just 17.9 percent of them. Clark drilled four threes, Terrence Ross and Augustin each made three of them and Isaac sank both of his tries.
Quote of the Night
“It felt really good. It’s really fun to be back out there. I think one of the biggest parts about just getting back out there was just being with my teammates and being able to put my jersey on and kind of just having it come full circle with all the work that’s been put in. Just the day in and day out. So to be back on the floor feels good. Glad I played well. My teammates were rooting me on.” – Isaac on his return
The Magic will play their first seeding game on Friday, July 31 against the Brooklyn Nets, the team they are hoping to leapfrog for the seventh seed in the East. The Nets are very short-handed at Disney. Players not with the team include Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, Taurean Prince and DeAndre Jordan. Orlando is currently just a half-game back of Brooklyn for seventh.