One bad quarter can ruin three good ones. That’s exactly what the young Orlando Magic learned Sunday in Los Angeles. They went from up three at halftime to down 23 going into the fourth in a 106-94 loss to the Lakers in the finale of their five-game, 11-day road trip.
The Magic finished the third quarter with just 10 points, two more than their franchise low for that period. The two field goals they made in the quarter came nearly 10 minutes apart. The Lakers, on the other hand, were red-hot during those 12 minutes, shooting 65 percent from the field.
Franz Wagner is first in the NBA among rookies in points, second in steals, fifth in assists and sixth in rebounds. There are so many impressive aspects to his game, including his footwork, body control, playmaking, and defense. Adding a pull-up jumper to his arsenal will help take his game to the next level. Most of his buckets come on drives, cuts, or spot-ups from 3-point range.
Live-ball turnovers continue to be the Magic’s Achilles’ heel. Many of the ones they had Sunday led to easy Laker points. L.A. totaled 20 fast break points, while Orlando had just two of them.
Mo Bamba sprained his right ankle early in the third quarter and didn’t return. Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain), and Jalen Suggs (fractured right thumb) were out. For L.A., Anthony Davis (sore left knee), Trevor Ariza (right ankle), Chaundee Brown Jr. (G League – Two Way), Jay Huff (G League – Two Way), and Kendrick Nunn (bone bruise; right knee) were unavailable.
This Lakers squad is similar in many ways to the one in 2012-13 that featured a collection of aging stars, including Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard, although in fairness Howard was only in his late 20s at the time. Ironically, that team started their season 14-14, just one game worse than this year’s group. It’s remarkable that the about-to-turn 37-year-old LeBron James is still producing at such a high level. But for L.A. to seriously contend for a title, Davis is going to have to be healthy and play like he did in the Disney bubble when the Lakers won the title.
This Day in History
Sunday’s game in L.A. was the third time the Magic have played at Staples Center on a Dec. 12. In 2004, they lost to the Lakers despite getting 27 points, seven rebounds and 13 assists from Steve Francis. In 2010 against the Clippers, Howard led five Orlando players in double figures with 22 points and Jameer Nelson tallied 17 points and nine assists in a Magic victory.
Quote of the Night
“With the style of play that we play…where I’m handling the ball and the guards are doing a lot of motions, it just gave me an opportunity to showcase my passing ability. I’ve always kind of had that ever since I was a kid. With this style of play, I’m able to showcase that a little more. I have a great group of guys around me – Franz, Cole (Anthony), T-Ross, Gary (Harris). They all know when to backdoor cut, and it’s just my job to find them. That’s a new role for me. I’m just getting comfortable with it now. And I want to improve on it over the course of the year and get better at it.” – Wendell Carter Jr. on his playmaking
The Magic return home to play the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday at 7 p.m. This will be the second of four meetings this season between the Southeast Division rivals. The last time they met, which was on Nov. 15 in Atlanta, Trae Young and John Collins each scored 23 points and Clint Capela posted 20 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Hawks to the win. Anthony led the Magic with 29 points, while Wagner and Terrence Ross each scored 19.