What will go down as one of the most improbable victories in Orlando Magic history, rookie Cole Anthony raced down the court after grabbing a rebound off a missed free throw by the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jarred Vanderbilt, then pulled up from the right wing and drilled a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Magic to a 97-96 victory on Wednesday night. Evan Fournier returned following a nine-game absence and scored 24 points for Orlando, which trailed by as many as 20 in the third quarter, while Nikola Vucevic had 28 points and Anthony finished with 13.
Anthony’s three at the buzzer wasn’t the Magic’s only big shot, or the only one he himself had. Fournier sank one of his two triples with 2:09 left in the game, Aaron Gordon buried one from downtown on Orlando’s next possession and Anthony hit a three to pull the Magic within two with 34 seconds left.
Where exactly does Anthony’s remarkable shot rank among the greatest game-winning shots in franchise history? Let’s exclude all the playoff ones, as those obviously were more significant. But among regular season winning shots, it’s definitely high up on the list. Darrell Armstrong’s steal and breakaway layup against the Sixers just before time expired in 1999, Dwight Howard’s winning alley-oop dunk against the Spurs in 2007, Penny Hardaway’s breakaway slam right before the buzzer against the Bulls in 1995, Tobias Harris’ jam at the buzzer against the Thunder in 2014 and a couple of Hedo Turkoglu’s game winners, including one against the Celtics in 2008, are some of the most memorable ones from the past.
What this game-winning shot does for Anthony remains to be seen. No matter what, game after game we are seeing the 20-year-old get increasingly comfortable in his role. It was assumed that it would take time for Anthony, the 15th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft out of UNC, to get into a rhythm considering rookies this year are at a major disadvantage not having a summer league or full training camp precede their first year. The potential is there, nonetheless, for the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder to transform into a Rookie of the Year candidate by the time the season is complete.
Having Fournier back in the lineup made a huge difference. Even though the Magic still didn’t shoot the ball well overall as a team, the 6-foot-7, 205-pound veteran showed why he is one of the best shooting guards in this league. Most players would be extremely rusty in their first game back after missing nine games with back spasms, but Fournier is so incredibly crafty and versatile on the offensive end that he finds ways to produce. In 28 minutes on Wednesday, Fournier scored 24 points on 9-of-21 shooting from the field.
Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford was upset with his team’s lack of discipline in their loss to the Knicks on Monday. Normally, the Magic are one of the NBA’s best at avoiding silly fouls, which they uncharacteristically were guilty of doing too much of during that game. As expected, the Magic made sure that wasn’t about to become a habit. The Timberwolves only attempted 14 free throws during the Magic’s victory on Wednesday, none in the third quarter.
Quote of the Night
“I just seen the ball come to me. I wasn’t really expecting (it) to get (to) me. I was going to try to do whatever I can to help the team win. I seen the ball come, I’m like alright, grabbed the ball, dribbled up the court, I’m like, alright well I probably won’t be able to get to the rim, but I can shoot this three. It felt good. I really didn’t even see the shot after I shot it until I seen it go through the net. That was about it.” – Anthony on his game-winning shot
The 7-8 Magic will wrap up their road trip on Friday when they travel to Indianapolis for a showdown against the Pacers at 7 p.m. Despite excellent performances from Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon, two potential Eastern Conference All-Stars this year, Indiana lost to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night. It was the Pacers’ second straight loss, which dropped them to 8-6.