Cole Anthony, back following a one-game absence, tallied 25 points off the bench and Paolo Banchero notched his first NBA double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds, but the Orlando Magic were unable to ward off the Atlanta Hawks and their dynamic backcourt of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray in Friday’s 108-98 loss.
Franz Wagner has a knack for finding the seams in the defense, and that’s precisely what led to him flushing home a thunderous one-handed slam early in the first quarter.
The Hawks, who trailed most of the game going into the fourth quarter, seized momentum behind an 18-6 run down the stretch. Justin Holiday started the flurry with a 3-pointer with 6:11 left; Clint Capela and John Collins threw down alley-oop dunks delivered to them by Young on two of the next three Hawks possessions; and then Murray and Young made Atlanta’s subsequent three shots to help the Hawks pull away.
The Hawks shot 41.9 percent from 3-point range, while the Magic knocked down just 23.5 percent of their attempts from long distance. Also, Atlanta scored 26 fast break points; Orlando had just eight.
Magic second-year guard Jalen Suggs left Friday’s game with a sprained right ankle. The injury occurred early in the third quarter as he got fouled on a drive to the basket. He stayed in the game just to shoot the free throws before being assisted back to the locker room for further evaluation. Markelle Fultz (toe), Moe Wagner (sprained right midfoot), Gary Harris (left knee rehabilitation), and Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation) were unavailable for the Magic. Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) was out for the Hawks.
Quote of the Day
“Very impressive. I really liked his poise, how he didn’t just play for himself but really got everybody involved, communicated with everybody, got everybody engaged – I think that was most impressive to me for his first game.” – Franz Wagner on Banchero’s regular season debut on Wednesday in Detroit
This Day in History
Before Friday, the Magic had played just once on Oct. 21 and that was in 2017 when they cruised past the Cleveland Cavaliers, who ultimately advanced to their fourth-straight NBA Finals that season. Nikola Vucevic led Orlando that night with 23 points, while Jonathon Simmons scored 19 points and Evan Fournier scored 13. LeBron James led Cleveland with 22 points and Iman Shumpert had 21.
Are the Hawks legitimate championship contenders? Few have them in the same tier as the Celtics, Bucks, and Sixers in the East. Most rank the Nets, Heat, Cavs, and Raptors above them as well. Let’s not forget, however, that just two seasons ago they were in the Eastern Conference Finals. While they took a step (maybe a few steps) back last year, adding Murray over the summer in a trade with the Spurs could sling them back toward the top. Most important is what they do on the defensive end, though. They ranked 26th in defensive efficiency last year.
The Magic will play their regular-season home opener on Saturday at 7 p.m. against the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics. It’s the first time in history that the Magic will play the Celtics in their first home game of a season. Boston won all three meetings last year, including an overtime thriller on Jan. 2. Jaylen Brown scored 50 points in that contest for the C’s, while Terrence Ross led the Magic with 33 points.