Magic Fall to Pistons on Night Nikola Vucevic is Named NBA All-Star
Magic big man will make his second NBA All-Star Game appearance
The evening started with outstanding news, as Nikola Vucevic, the Orlando Magic’s leading scorer and rebounder this season, was named an NBA All-Star for the second time in his career. The rest of Tuesday night, however, didn’t go Orlando's way. The Magic shot just 37.5 percent from the field, with their starters going a combined 19-for-52, in a 105-93 loss to the Detroit Pistons at Amway Center.
If you’ve been able to routinely tune in to Magic games this season, you knew before the NBA announced the All-Star reserves that Vucevic deserved to hear his name called. The league’s coaches, obviously, saw it the same way, with Orlando’s big man now set to play in the midseason classic in Atlanta on March 7. Before Tuesday’s game, in which he scored a team-high 20 points, Vucevic averaged 24.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists while shooting over 40 percent from 3-point range. He is now the sixth player to be named an All-Star multiple times while wearing a Magic uniform, joining Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway, Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill and Dwight Howard.
After a James Ennis III layup tied the game early in the third quarter, the Pistons went on a 13-2 run to take a double-digit lead. The Magic were ice cold during that stretch, missing 11 of their 12 shots. The Pistons, meanwhile, got hot, with Jerami Grant scoring six of his 17 points in that time.
Protecting the paint had been a strength of the Magic’s over the past several games. They, in fact, ranked No. 2 in this category since Feb. 9, not including Tuesday’s loss, when the Pistons scored 56 points in the paint. Detroit, with 16 fast break points, also did an excellent job in transition.
Many of the things that made Chuma Okeke such a tantalizing prospect coming out of Auburn over a year ago he has shown flashes of during his rookie campaign. The physical tools, high basketball IQ and composure in high pressure moments have all been on display. A key for him as he continues to gain more experience is becoming a reliable 3-point shooter. On Tuesday, he knocked down two threes and has now made 14 of them this season.
The Magic have now played the same opponent in the same city twice in a row five times this season. They are 7-3 in those games combined. Players have said they like this schedule feature, as it reduces travel, which in effect gives them a little more rest. It’s one of the many things the NBA has done this year to try and limit the spread of COVID-19.
Quote of the Night
“It was one of the best feelings ever. Just a huge honor. Something that I’m very proud (to) be able to do in my career, make an All-Star team twice now, especially this year I think with all the guys in the East that could have made it. It was very close I think…Just very humbled, huge honor like I said and hopefully not the last one. I have to thank my teammates and the coaches for putting me in a position to be able to do this from the beginning of the year and pushing me…Without them I wouldn’t have been in position to do it, so big thanks to them and just huge honor for me.” – Vucevic
The Magic will travel up north for a Thursday night battle with the high-powered Brooklyn Nets, winners of six straight entering Tuesday’s action. James Harden has brought his array of skills to the Nets, with whom he leads the NBA in assists and, along with backcourt teammate Kyrie Irving, has helped carry the scoring load, especially with Kevin Durant out nursing a strained left hamstring. Orlando and Brooklyn met at Barclays Center on Jan. 16 in what was Harden’s first game as a Net. He had a 32-point triple-double in a Brooklyn victory, while Vucevic, for the Magic, scored 34 points that night.