Postgame Report: Magic vs. Pelicans

By John Denton
Dec. 22, 2017

ORLANDO – Obviously angry over losing players and losing games, the Orlando Magic’s collective frustration bubbled over on yet another forgettable Friday night.

In some ways it was refreshing to see some ire, disgust and venom come from the reeling Magic over how they were being treated by both the referees and the New Orleans Pelicans.

The injury-ravaged Magic were beaten 111-97 on Friday by Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and the Pelicans, but at least they didn’t go quietly this time around. Orlando’s seventh straight loss came as it was whistled for four technical fouls – a sure sign of the team’s frustration over how its season has unraveled as numerous players have gone down to injuries.

``We had breakdowns, but they outplayed us,’’ frustrated Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``Holiday got going. You spend so much time focusing on Cousins and Davis and you realize they have two all-star level points in the starting lineup. … It was just wasn’t good enough.’’

When the Magic (11-22) last saw the Pelicans (16-16), they were 5-2 on Oct. 30 after winning in New Orleans. Orlando would eventually get its record to 8-4 and seemingly steady itself, however it has since dropped 18 of the past 21 games.

And that wasn’t even the worst news to emerge from Friday night.

Painfully, the Magic never led on Friday – the product of another poor start and a thin bench because of the injuries. Remarkably, it’s the third straight game in which the injury-ravaged Magic have failed to hold the lead. Orlando last led 13-12 with 4:34 left in the first quarter a week ago against the Portland Trail Blazers – a span of 15 consecutive quarters and 184 minutes, 34 seconds in which it has been behind Portland, Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans.

The reason for that, of course, is the manner in which injuries have decimated the Magic. Evan Fournier (ankle sprain) and Aaron Gordon (calf strain), Orlando’s top two scorers on the season at 18.3 points per game, were out again. In addition to not having Terrence Ross (knee sprain), prized rookie Jonathan Isaac sat out after re-injuring his troublesome right ankle.

``It’s frustrating. Obviously, (the injuries are) not helping us but I think that tonight our defense wasn’t there,’’ said Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who had 21 points and eight rebounds. ``Obviously, I think if we were able to make some shots, it would’ve helped us. It hurts when you have a lot of guys that are your shooters out. It’s a different look for some guys. Hopefully we get out of it soon.’’

Vogel, power forward Marreese Speights, point guard Elfrid Payton and center Bismack Biyombo were hit with technical fouls in a frustration-filled first half. Vogel was upset that there was no whistle after Magic center Nikola Vucevic was hit in the mouth by a Davis elbow, while Speights retaliated after being hit by Davis. Biyombo was disgusted for being called for a foul after landing on a Pelicans player following a dunk, while Payton protested a no-call that resulted in a turnover.

Vogel used his 13th different starting lineup of the season on Friday when he inserted veterans D.J. Augustin and Marreese Speights for 3-point shooting. Vogel’s thought process seemed sound as Speights had burned the Pelicans for seven 3-pointers in New Orleans in late October. However, on this night, neither Speights (two of eight, two of six on 3-poiinters and seven points) nor Augustin (zero for three, zero for two, two points) had much of an impact on the game.

Jonathon Simmons (22 points) and Elfrid Payton (18 points) did their best to keep the Magic close for 2½ quarters by relentlessly attacking the rim.

Mario Hezonja, two games removed from scoring a career-best 28 points and drilling eight 3-pointers, scored 11 points off the bench. A starter the four games prior to Friday, Hezonja was moved back to the bench because of the matchup at power forward.

Jrue Holiday scored 24 points and drilled three 3-pointers for New Orleans, who avenged Orlando’s win in the Crescent City on Oct. 30. Davis scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Cousins had 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

``We just weren’t good enough,’’ said Vucevic, frustrated by his team’s defense. ``They were able to make threes, get in the paint, and they scored a lot on us in different ways; driving and kicking and stuff like that. There just has to be a better effort and better focus on that end.’’

The Pelicans, who led by as much as 27 points, shot 50 percent and connected on 10 3-point shots. Conversely, the Magic hit just 42.4 percent from the floor and made only four of 20 3-pointers.

``It’s a compound effect when you’re not shooting the ball well,’’ Vogel said. ``You have to force it into traffic. We can shoot better and we got decent looks. The rhythm of the offense was pretty good most of the night, save for a few possessions. We just don’t have a lot of shooting in the lineup and our shooters have to have a good night and they didn’t. We’ve got to hope that they do (on Saturday).’’

Orlando will be back in action on Saturday night, this time playing the Wizards in Washington, D.C. The Magic have had loads of trouble slowing down all-stars John Wall and Bradley Beal for years, but they managed to split the four-game series last year.

The Magic will once again be severely shorthanded as Vogel said before the game that Gordon, Fournier and Isaac would be ``doubtful to play.’’

Down 10 at the half, the Magic briefly narrowed the game to 63-56 in the third quarter before things went south once again. Led by Cousins and Davis, the Pelicans did as they pleased the rest of the period and took a commanding 88-72 lead into the final period.

For a third straight game, Orlando fell into a big hole with a rocky start. Down 15-5 and 12-0 in their last two games, the Magic trailed 9-0 on Friday before hitting their first basket.

Vogel said the Magic have to stay strong until they can get some of their top players back from injuries. Find a way to win Saturday in Washington would go a long way toward lifting the team’s sagging morale.

``We can’t feel sorry for ourselves It’s that simple,’’ Vogel said. ``We’re playing a game (Saturday) night and we’ve got a chance to win a basketball game. That’s what we’re going to get on a plane and go to do.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.