Postgame Report: Magic at Hawks
By Josh Cohen
Dec. 9, 2017
ATLANTA – Short-handed because of injuries to several key players and fatigued from having to travel the same day as the game due to inclement weather, the Orlando Magic relied on the team’s current longest-tenured player.
Already making history earlier in the night when he passed Scott Skiles for ninth on the Magic’s all-time minutes played list, Nikola Vucevic delivered what was arguably his greatest all-around performance of his career.
In his sixth season with the Magic and seventh in the NBA, Vucevic logged his first career triple-double with 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He’s the first Magic center to record a triple-double with assists. Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard each accomplished it with blocks.
Vucevic’s historic night and a spectacular effort from Jonathon Simmons, who also stuffed the stat sheet with 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists, wasn’t enough however as the Magic fell, 117-110, on Saturday at Philips Arena.
Missing their two leading scorers, Evan Fournier (ankle) and Aaron Gordon (concussion), and a pair of their more impactful reserves, Terrence Ross (knee) and Jonathan Isaac (ankle), was too much to overcome down the stretch.
Turnovers in the final minute proved costly as well. Kent Bazemore had two steals leading to breakaway dunks, the first putting Atlanta up two with 36 seconds remaining.
Vucevic shot 13-of-18 from the field and 4-of-6 from 3-point range. It was his excellent playmaking and facilitating, though, that made his night extra special.
“We had some guys down and I wanted to try to carry this team any way I can,” Vucevic said. “For me personally, if I try to force things, if I try to just take a lot of shots and other guys out, it will go the other way for me. I like to play within the flow of the offense. I feel like the way we play, I will get a lot of looks as the game goes on. Just trying to make the right play.”
While disappointed about the loss and the late-game turnovers, Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was happy about his team’s effort under tough circumstances and their unselfishness. Orlando accumulated a season-best 39 assists.
“We played hard and gave ourselves a chance to win,” he said. “Proud of our fight, just fell short.”
Ersan Ilyasova, who played with the Magic for a portion of the 2015-16 season, shot a perfect 9-for-9 from the floor and 5-of-5 from 3-point distance. He finished with 26 points.
In his first start of the season, Mario Hezonja posted seven points and six rebounds. The Magic outscored the Hawks by eight when he was on the floor. Backup point guards D.J. Augustin and Shelvin Mack also had solid nights, combining for 17 points and 16 assists.