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Magic Have Become One of NBA’s Most Potent Fourth-Quarter Offensive Teams

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

PORTLAND - As the old saying goes, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish – although, in sports, every possession matters to at least some degree, regardless of time and score. 

But, sticking to the theme, that axiom applies favorably to the Orlando Magic. 

In the fourth quarter this season, they are averaging 28.1 points, fourth-most in the NBA. That’s quite significant, and maybe even surprising considering they rank 22th in scoring in the first quarter, 27th in the second quarter, and 28th in the third quarter. 

Even last season, Orlando was a decent fourth-quarter scoring team, ranking 12th

But this year, the Magic’s poise and execution in the final frame has risen to another level. They have the league’s second-best fourth-quarter offensive rating, behind only the Indiana Pacers. 

One of their most reliable fourth-quarter players all season has been second-year forward Franz Wagner.

That was again on display on Tuesday in the Magic’s thrilling win over the Portland Trail Blazers. He scored 15 of his 29 points in the last period, making six of his eight shot attempts, including two of his three 3-point tries.

Wagner, just 21 years old, has accumulated the fifth-most fourth-quarter points in the association so far this season with 259. The only players with more are Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James, and Donovan Mitchell. 

Most interesting about Wagner’s fourth-quarter play is just how much better he shoots the long-ball in that period compared to the rest of the game. In the first three quarters, he’s shooting 31.2 percent from beyond the arc on 125 attempts, while in the fourth, he’s shooting 45.6 percent on 57 attempts. 

Among players who have taken at least 55 threes in the fourth this season, that’s the second-best mark. Only Buddy Hield has shot it better at 47.6 percent.

“I think that’s why you play basketball – those important plays, important moments,” Wagner said. “But I think to win a game like this (against Blazers), it’s not just scoring the ball. I think you have to do a lot – a lot of small, little things as a group. It’s really cool that we did those tonight.”

One of the reasons the Magic perform so well in the fourth is because they have so many dependable free throw shooters. In that last frame, Orlando ranks 10th in free throw attempts and is second in free throw percentage at 82.7 percent. 

Although he’s only shooting 69 percent from the stripe this season, Markelle Fultz stepped up to the line with 22 seconds left and calmly sank both free throws in the win over Portland. That extended the Magic’s lead to three. The Blazers would go on to miss three potential game-tying 3-pointers on their final possession, including one just before the buzzer by Anfernee Simons. 

“Kelle is a guy we can rely on on both ends of the court,” Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. said. “He leaves his heart out there on the court. That’s something I can appreciate. That’s the type of player that I am. It’s just great after being with him for almost three years now, finally being able to share the court with him for an extended period of time. I’m excited for what he can do for this team, and what the future holds for us.”

Making Tuesday’s victory even more impressive was the fact that it was the second night of a back-to-back, and they had just gotten blown out by the Sacramento Kings. 

“Being able to bounce back – that’s what I am most proud (about),” Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley said. “You talk about a tough one last night, but being able to bounce right back and come after this one.”

Blazers Postgame: Franz Wagner