Magic Rally Late, But Still Come Up Short Against Pacers

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

For the Orlando Magic to finish their season on a high note, they are going to have to give 110 percent on the defensive end each night they take the court. For most of Friday’s contest against the Indiana Pacers they did that, which kept them within striking distance down the stretch. However, a few defensive breakdowns and an inability to muster up enough offense led to a 111-106 loss.

Top Performer

The Magic’s No. 1 scoring option now is Terrence Ross, who scored 24 points for the second straight game. The 6-foot-6 veteran shot 10-of-15 from the field and 2-of-5 from 3-point range. He scored eight of his points in the final five minutes to give Orlando a chance, but he did miss a baseline jumper with 20 seconds left with his team down four.

Magic Debut

Although he struggled with his shot, going 2-of-10 from the field, Gary Harris showed why he is widely considered one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. He and Michael Carter-Williams, another exceptional defender, were the only two Magic players with a positive plus/minus. Harris, who prior to Friday had played in just one game since Feb. 1 because of a thigh injury, came to Orlando along with R.J. Hampton from Denver in the Aaron Gordon trade.

Key Stretch

The Pacers used a 13-4 run early in the fourth to extend their lead to double digits before the Magic rallied late. During that span, Doug McDermott scored four of his 19 points, Aaron Holiday buried a 3-pointer and Jeremy Lamb and T.J. McConnell each knocked down mid-range jumpers. The Magic had cut a 13-point halftime deficit to three toward the end of the third.

Rookie Watch

In the several weeks prior to him getting traded to the Nuggets, Gordon took on a point forward role, which allowed him to showcase his playmaking skills. It’s a job that Chuma Okeke, as he continues to get more comfortable, could also thrive in down the road. Versatile and adaptable, Okeke displayed his passing abilities on Friday with seven assists to go along with eight points and six rebounds.

Player Spotlight

The Magic waiving Khem Birch will now open up even more opportunity for Mo Bamba, who had another solid outing on Friday with 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks. The length he possesses makes it so difficult for opponents to get clean looks at the basket inside. That was certainly conspicuous against the Pacers, as things got stuffy in the paint whenever Indy’s guards drove into the lane or their bigs tried getting low-post position.

Quote of the Night

“It’s just confidence. You really just need that time when you’re a young guy coming up in this league. Everybody goes at their own pace and the more time you have and the more you can get out there and play and have that experience, it helps. It’s the only way you can really grow. He’s doing a good job of it. When he was younger, you can see he was trying to figure out where he was going to get his shots and where he was going to fit in. But now he’s doing a much better job of being decisive about what he’s good at, what he wants to do.” – Ross on Bamba’s development

Up Next

The Magic’s four-game homestand continues on Sunday when they welcome the Milwaukee Bucks to town. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. Healthy most of the year, the Bucks are now dealing with an assortment of injuries. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are all recovering from sore knees and Brook Lopez has back pain. All four didn’t play in Milwaukee’s game against Charlotte on Friday.

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