Magic Stage Furious Fourth-Quarter Rally Before Coming Up Short in Loss to Rockets

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

‘Never surrender’ might as well be the Orlando Magic’s motto this season. Time after time, they have battled back from double-digit deficits. Usually, those big deficits are early in the game, and they gradually crawl back in it. On Friday in Houston, they fell behind by 13 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter before rallying to tie it in the final minute. However, in the end, it was Eric Gordon, one of the seasoned veterans on the court, who hit a go-ahead floater with 1.6 seconds remaining to propel the Rockets to a 118-116 victory.

Top Performers

Many NBA enthusiasts circled Friday’s Magic at Rockets game on their calendars when the schedule was released over the summer with the assumption it would be the first time Jalen Suggs would go head-to-head against fellow top five 2021 NBA Draft pick Jalen Green as professionals. Unfortunately, because of injuries to both, that didn’t happen. However, there were plenty of other talented young players active on both sides, including 21-year-old Cole Anthony, who finished with 26 points, and 20-year-old Franz Wagner, who filled up the stat sheet with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. Terrence Ross also had a strong performance with 18 points.

Clutch Moments

Gordon’s floater with 1.6 ticks left was one of two clutch shots he made in the last minute. The other came with 31.4 seconds remaining. Between Gordon’s buckets was a Mo Bamba tying dunk off a dish from Wagner. Anthony buried four shots in the final four minutes, including a step-back jumper with 47 seconds left that tied the game at 114. His 3-point attempt to win it at the buzzer came up short, however.

Injury Report

Suggs (right thumb), Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle; health and safety protocols), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), and E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain) were out for Orlando. For Houston, Kevin Porter Jr. only played in the first half because of a left thigh contusion. Usman Garuba (right thigh contusion) and Green (left hamstring strain) were unavailable.

This Day in History

Not too often do players from both teams in the same game record triple-doubles. But that is what happened on Dec. 3, 2013, when the Magic’s Victor Oladipo and Carter-Williams, then playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, both did it as rookies. Oladipo had 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, while MCW finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Philly pulled out the win in double overtime. Arron Afflalo, who was in his first of two stints with Orlando at the time, exploded for 43 points that night.

Rivals Report

Much like the Magic, the Rockets are building for the future. They have a nice collection of young talent, including Porter Jr., Jae’Sean Tate, Christian Wood, Alperen Sengun and Green. Interesting about them is that their style of play isn’t much different than when Mike D’Antoni was at the helm and James Harden was their star player. They play fast. They take the first best shot available to them. They get to the free throw line. They attack the paint. Most important for them, though, is getting Porter Jr. and Green to jell. If they develop good chemistry with one another, the Rockets will shoot up the standings in the coming years.

Quote of the Night

“We as a group seem to lose focus a lot and seem to get carried away in terms of not staying locked into the game plan. That’s something we have to do a better job of, including myself. Knowing personnel, knowing certain things throughout the game. We just have to do a better job of that. We got ourselves into the game in the fourth quarter, but at the same time, in my opinion we shouldn’t have even been in that situation.” – Wendell Carter Jr.

Up Next

San Francisco is the next stop on this five-game, 11-day road trip. There, the Magic will clash with the 18-3 Golden State Warriors on Monday at 10 p.m. ET. Obviously the first player that pops into our minds when we think of the Warriors is Steph Curry, who is the early-season favorite for his third MVP award. First in defense and third in offense, Golden State has looked a lot like the team that won three championships in four years. Soon, Klay Thompson will return, which will provide them with even more firepower and championship experience.

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