Magic Fall to Jazz Despite Another Superb Night From Nikola Vucevic

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

Not many teams have been able to puncture the Utah Jazz’s defense or quell their offense this season, which is why they have the league’s best record. In the first half of Saturday’s contest, the Orlando Magic had some success doing both. But after halftime, the Jazz, as they’ve done all year, tightened up their defense and rediscovered their offensive flow to defeat the Magic, 124-109, at Amway Center.

Top Performer

It’s a recurring theme, but one that always deserves attention. Nikola Vucevic had another brilliant night with 34 points. A tad off from beyond the arc the last several games, he regained his rhythm from deep by knocking down five of his seven tries. It was the eighth time this season the two-time NBA All-Star has scored at least 30 points and the eighth time he has buried four or more threes.

Rivals Report

Assuming everyone’s healthy among the Western Conference’s elite teams come playoff time, do the Jazz have enough as currently constructed to reach the Finals? The way they move the ball on offense and their effectiveness defending both the interior and perimeter certainly makes them a threat to either the Lakers or Clippers, the two adversaries most had as the favorites to come out of the West before the season began.

Key Stat

Normally, the Magic prevent their opponents from collecting many offensive rebounds and, in effect, score many second chance points. In fact, coming into Saturday’s action, Orlando ranked No. 1 in the NBA in opponent second chance points. That was not the case against the Jazz, however, as Utah hauled down 10 offensive boards and amassed 24 second chance points.

Player Spotlight

Mo Bamba played 13 minutes on Saturday, tied for his second highest total this season, and he made the most of that time with 11 points and four rebounds. Most of his scoring came from beyond the arc, where he drilled all three of his attempts. Defensively, using his incredible 7-foot-10 wingspan, he altered a few shots and blocked one.

The Sidebar

The Magic recognized and honored the many accomplishments and contributions of African Americans in the Central Florida community as part of its Black History Month celebration during Saturday’s game. Included in the festivities was spotlighting one of Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford’s Social Justice Game Changers, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

Quote of the Night

“We fought. Most of the time we fight. You know, there are games where you are kind of flat, energy wise. But, we fight hard. The Jazz are a really good team and like I said, we were in the game. Beginning of the fourth quarter and the rebounding game really killed us, but we fought hard for sure.” – Evan Fournier, who scored 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out four assists.

Up Next

The Magic are back in action on Monday when they take on the Dallas Mavericks at 7 p.m. Out of sync early in the year, the Mavs have played much better the last few weeks. Going into their contest at Brooklyn on Saturday, they had won seven of their prior 10 games. Luka Doncic currently ranks eighth in the NBA in scoring (28.5) and fourth in assists (9.0).

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