Magic Lose Heartbreaker to Hawks to Finish Out First Half of Season

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

So many times throughout Wednesday’s game, it appeared the Orlando Magic were on the verge of running away with a lopsided victory. They led by as many as 19 at one point and had a double-digit lead for a big portion of the night. However, a total opposite from what they were able to do for 3 ½ quarters, the Magic were unable to get stops down the stretch, as the Atlanta Hawks rallied for a 115-112 win at Amway Center.

Clutch Moments

After a pair of Dwayne Bacon free throws gave the Magic a five-point edge with 2:22 left in the fourth, Trae Young and Tony Snell buried back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Hawks their first lead of the night. A few possessions later, Orlando went back in front when Nikola Vucevic scored on a putback with 18 ticks remaining. Young, subsequently, hit a pair of go-ahead free throws with eight seconds left.

Top Performers

Limited with options because of injuries, head coach Steve Clifford inserted Terrence Ross into the starting lineup on Wednesday. It was the second time this year he started, something he hadn’t done prior to this season since November of 2017. The 6-foot-6 sharpshooter, a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate through the first half of the season, recorded 28 points, five rebounds and four assists. He wasn’t able to convert on a floater in the lane in the final seconds that would have put Orlando back in front, however. Days away from playing in his second NBA All-Star Game and participating in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Vucevic posted 29 points and nine rebounds.

Player Spotlight

Not many players in the whole league are better defensively than Michael Carter-Williams, known around the NBA for his supreme length, high energy and relentless determination. When he delivers on the offensive end as well, like he did against the Hawks on Wednesday, the impact he makes skyrockets. The 6-foot-6, 190-pounder, in addition to playing terrific defense most of the night, posted 20 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Injury Report

The Magic were without Cole Anthony (non-displaced fracture, right rib), Evan Fournier (strained left groin), Aaron Gordon (left ankle sprain), Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee), James Ennis III (sore left calf), and Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation). Karim Mane (G League/two-way) is not with the team. For the Hawks, Clint Capela (sore foot), Kris Dunn (right ankle surgery), De’Andre Hunter (right knee surgery), and Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) did not play.

Key Stats

The Hawks made nine of their 13 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter. For the game, they shot 21-of-45 (46.7 percent) from long distance. Meanwhile, the Magic made history by making all 27 of their free throw attempts. Previously, the most foul shots made by the Magic without a miss was 22. The NBA record for most free throws made without a miss is 39, per Stathead. The Jazz went 39-of-39 from the stripe against the Blazers on Dec. 7, 1982 as did the Fort Wayne Pistons against the Rochester Royals on Nov. 22, 1953. Earlier this season, the Clippers shot 25-of-25 from the line against the Warriors.

Quote of the Night

“We had some lapses defensively in the second half. Definitely made some mistakes that we can control. Gave up threes that hurt us. They got hot too. We weren’t in our rotations and we didn’t get a lot of threes in the fourth quarter.” – Carter-Williams

Up Next

The Magic, except for Vucevic who will be in Atlanta for Sunday’s All-Star festivities, will get some much-needed rest before starting their second half of the season on Thursday, March 11 in Miami. The Magic and Heat last played in the season opener. That night, Fournier scored 25 points and Gordon, whom the Magic hope to get back in the lineup soon, had 20 in an Orlando victory.

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