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Nikola Vucevic Scores 43; Magic Beat Bulls

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

The Lead

NBA All-Star fan voting is open until Feb. 16 at 11:59 p.m. You can submit one full ballot each day until then via the NBA App and NBA.com, as well as vote for up to 10 unique players per day on Twitter (Click here for full details). One player that should certainly be on your radar if you are still deciding on who to vote for is Nikola Vucevic. In case you needed a reminder as to why, he showed you on Friday night. Orlando’s 7-footer erupted for a career-best 43 points and he buried a pair of game-sealing free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining to lift the Magic to a 123-119 victory over the Chicago Bulls at Amway Center.

Top Performer

Vucevic scored 13 of the Magic’s first 15 points and had 24 of his 43 before halftime. It was the big man's second 40-plus-point performance in his NBA career. The other time he did it was on Oct. 20, 2017 at Brooklyn when he scored 41. The last Magic player to score at least 40 was Aaron Gordon on Nov. 29, 2017 against Oklahoma City. Vucevic also collected a season-high 19 rebounds and with four 3-pointers on Friday he has now made 62 of them this year, the most among all centers. He’s now one of just four players in Magic history to record 40-plus points and 15-plus rebounds in a game. The others are Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard and Gordon.

Clutch Moments

After Coby White tied the game with a 3-pointer with just over two minutes left, Vucevic spun into the lane and connected on a short baby hook to give the Magic the lead back. Then, following a pair of Zach LaVine tying free throws, Fournier buried a baseline jumper with 1:21 remaining to once again break the tie. Cole Anthony knocked down a pair of free throws with 16.4 ticks left and Vucevic made his two in the final seconds to seal Orlando’s ninth win of the season.

Player Spotlight

Evan Fournier is mostly known for his offensive talents. He’s one of the craftiest, most versatile shooting guards in the NBA. This year, he’s also elevated his play on the defensive side of the ball, which was conspicuous on Friday against the Bulls, as he helped limit LaVine to a rough shooting night for his standards. Many of LaVine’s 12 missed shots came when the 6-foot-7 Fournier was his primary defender. Dwayne Bacon also did a solid job guarding Chicago’s high-flyer when he was matched up against him.

Magic Debut

Frank Mason III was on the floor for 16 minutes and posted four points and four assists in his first game with the Magic. His one field goal came with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter when he dropped in a 3-pointer. The 5-foot-11 University of Kansas alum signed a two-way contract with Orlando earlier in the week. This is Mason’s second two-way deal in the NBA. Last year, he was with the Bucks and earned G League MVP honors for his stellar play while with the Wisconsin Herd.

Rookie Watch

It’s still relatively early in the season, but the Rookie of the Year Award is within reach for Anthony. Not to suggest that’s a concern of his as he’s all about the team and winning. But, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard has been among the top rookies this season. One of his better performances came on Friday with 17 points, a season-high nine assists and four rebounds. Chicago has an impressive rookie themselves in Patrick Williams, who scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Quote of the Night

“I just want to say, congrats to Vooch (for) his career high. To all the Orlando people, just vote for him. He deserves to be an All-Star. He’s showing it every night. He’s showing it against every team. He can’t be stopped right now. So, got to keep the momentum. Keep playing off of him. (He’s) very unselfish. Just ride with him. He’s going to continue to do what he does.” – James Ennis III on Vucevic

Up Next

The Magic and Bulls will square off again at Amway Center on Saturday at 7 p.m. This will be the third time this season the Magic will be playing the same opponent consecutively in their building and second time on back-to-back nights. Lauri Markkanen left Friday’s game with a sprained right shoulder. His status for Saturday’s rematch is unknown at this time.