Magic Fall to Pelicans in Zion Williamson’s First Visit to Amway Center

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

The only team prior to Thursday that Zion Williamson hadn’t played against in his young NBA career was the Orlando Magic. He didn’t play in any of the two meetings between the Pelicans and Magic during his rookie campaign and then was unavailable earlier this year when Orlando was in Louisiana. Nearly two years since New Orleans made him the first overall pick in the draft, the 6-foot-7, 284-pound All-Star can now say he’s played against every opponent, as his 23 points and seven rebounds helped the Pelicans beat the Magic, 135-100, at Amway Center.

Key Stretch

For the second straight game, the second quarter is when things got away from the Magic. They led 32-31 early in the period after Chuma Okeke buried a pair of free throws before the Pelicans went on a 21-5 run to claim full control. In the second quarter alone, New Orleans scored 26 points in the paint. Williamson, nearly unstoppable when he’s near the hoop, scored 16 of his points in the second quarter.

Top Performer

Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford said after the game that the only player who showed up with the right attitude and gave the effort that’s necessary to make strides was Chasson Randle, who scored 10 points and dished out four assists. Since signing a two-way contract with the Magic on Feb. 15, the 6-foot-2 guard has always been prepared and coaches and teammates trust him when he’s on the floor.

Rookie Watch

Cole Anthony scored in double figures for the sixth straight game and seventh time in the eight games he’s appeared in since returning from his rib injury. He finished Thursday’s loss with 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 from 3-point range. Fellow rookie Devin Cannady, recently signed to a second 10-day contract, scored a career-best 17 points. He was the G League Finals MVP in March after leading the Lakeland Magic to the title at Disney.

Player Spotlight

R.J. Hampton, acquired from Denver as part of the Aaron Gordon trade at the deadline, has excelled when he gets out in transition with a head of steam. A blur in the open floor, the 6-foot-4, 175-pounder is very comfortable playing in a fast-paced offense. He scored 10 points on Thursday, his first double-digit scoring performance since April 12 and sixth since joining the Magic.

Injury Report

For Orlando, Wendell Carter Jr. (sore right ankle), Michael Carter-Williams (sprained left ankle), James Ennis III (sore right calf), Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot pain), and Terrence Ross (back spasms) were out. Unavailable for New Orleans were James Johnson (right adductor strain), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (left high ankle sprain) and Josh Hart (right thumb surgery).

Quote of the Night

“It’s got to be every day. We got to do it through communicating. That’s in practice, in the locker room. Reiterating the coach’s message, knowing the game plan and spreading that throughout the locker room. It’s got to be like a machine. Repetition, repetition, repetition with our talk, with our communication and with our execution in practice and it will translate to the court.” – Randle

Up Next

The Magic are back in action on Sunday when they host the Indiana Pacers at 8 p.m. It was just a couple weeks ago when the Pacers were last in Orlando. That night, when Indiana pulled out a 111-106 win, Aaron Holiday scored 20 points off the bench and Domantas Sabonis posted 16 points, 15 rebounds and six assists. Ross led the Magic with 24 points.

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