Considering many of their normal rotation players were unavailable, either because of positive COVID tests or injuries, both the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks had to figure things out on the fly during Wednesday’s contest. Just as he did Saturday in Brooklyn, Robin Lopez used his vast NBA experience to keep the Magic organized and poised in their 104-98 victory.
Recording double-doubles is nothing unusual for Lopez. Collecting 10-plus points and 10-plus rebounds is something he’s accomplished 82 times in his NBA career. For the first time ever, he now has a double-double with assists, amassing a career-high 11 of them to go along with 10 points during Wednesday’s win. One of the beneficiaries of a few of those assists was Franz Wagner, who finished with 25 points. All four call-ups from Lakeland made a big impact, including B.J. Johnson, who tallied a career-high 14 points on 6-of-7 overall shooting and 2-of-2 from 3-point distance.
Lopez wasn’t the only one dishing out dimes. The Magic had 27 of them as a team, their third highest total this season. Hassani Gravett, making his first start of his NBA career, handed out five assists. Gary Harris had four of them. Also with four was Tim Frazier, signed to a 10-day contract Tuesday via hardship exception by the NBA.
Quote of the Night
“The connection and relationship between Lakeland and Orlando makes it easier. When we come up here, there may be a few different wrinkles, but for the most part our sets are the same as theirs, our defensive coverages are the same as theirs. Just that relationship between the two clubs definitely makes it easier for us.” – Johnson
In the NBA’s health and safety protocols for the Magic were R.J. Hampton, Terrence Ross, Moe Wagner, Mo Bamba, Mychal Mulder and Ignas Brazdeikis. Trae Young, Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, Kevin Huerter and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot were in the same situation for the Hawks. On the injury front, Wendell Carter Jr. (right lower leg muscle strain), Cole Anthony (sprained right ankle), 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 Orlando. De’Andre Hunter (wrist) and Solomon Hill (right hamstring tear) were out for Atlanta.
This Day in History
One of the best aspects of the NBA during the 90s were the showdowns at the center position. There were a bunch of elite big men back then. Shaquille O’Neal and Patrick Ewing were two of them, and on Dec. 22, 1995, O’Neal got the best of his Knicks counterpart, posting 28 points in Orlando’s victory over New York. Ewing had an off night, finishing with just 13 points. Derek Harper, who a few seasons later played for the Magic, led the Knicks with 21 points.
Obviously, it’s silly to assess any team right now with all the absences around the league due to the virus, but the Hawks just haven’t taken that next step following their stunning run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. It’s a little surprising considering they brought back essentially the same roster. Their flaws are on the defensive end, where they rank 25th. Protecting the paint has been a weakness, and they’ve had a hard time slowing opponents down in transition.
Away-home back-to-backs are rare for the Magic, but that’s precisely what’s on tap ahead of the short Christmas break. The Magic will host the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday at 7 p.m. Although they are going to be without Zion Williamson for a while longer, the Pelicans have made some strides of late. They are riding a three-game winning streak, most recently defeating the Portland Trail Blazers behind 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from Brandon Ingram.