Postgame Report: Magic vs. Nuggets

by Josh Cohen

LAS VEGAS - The Orlando Magic, who advanced to the playoffs in 2019 for the first time in seven years after winning 17 more games than the prior year, reeled off 10 victories throughout the season when trailing after three quarters.

The only team who had more wins when behind after three was the Detroit Pistons, who did it 12 times. The Houston Rockets, like the Magic, rallied back 10 times when trailing going into the fourth.

The poise the Magic showed, especially down the stretch of the season when they won 22 of their final 31 games, may be carrying over to the team’s summer league squad, who made two separate furious late-game rallies before falling short in an 84-79 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas.

A nine-point deficit with just over nine minutes left in the final frame was eventually trimmed to two with 4:29 remaining when Jeremiah Hill, a former Division II college player who played for the Magic’s G League affiliate in Lakeland last season, buried one of his two 3-pointers.

While that comeback attempt wasn’t potent enough, as Denver subsequently went on a 12-0 run to increase its lead to 14, the Magic remained resilient.

Orlando finished the game on a 10-1 run, and it was the fight and spirit they displayed down the stretch that encouraged Magic Summer League Coach Pat Delany and one of its more experienced players, Amile Jefferson.

“They came out with a lot of energy, really physical and it kind of knocked us back,” said Jefferson, one of the Magic’s two-way players last season. “I like the fight we had. At the end we gave ourselves a chance to win. If a couple more things had gone our way, we would have had an even better chance. I thought towards the end of the game guys showed a lot of poise and a lot of courage, and that’s what you look for in a team, a team that’s going to fight all the way through."

Still, a loss is a loss, and the 23 turnovers they committed and 50 percent shooting by the Nuggets was a big reason the Magic (1-1) trailed the entire game.

“Overall, their ball pressure, their intensity, they were us on the first night,” Delany said. “They took our lunch, one through five. We’re going to have to be a lot better to give ourselves a chance.”

Erik McCree, known for his ability to create his own shot, led the Magic with 17 points, although it came on an inefficient 6-of-14 shooting. Jefferson and DaQuan Jeffries each scored 13 points, while Devin Davis chipped in with nine and Hill had eight. Mo Bamba, who played well on Friday in his first action since being sidelined with a left leg injury, did not play in this contest for precautionary reasons.

Jeffries, a Swiss Army Knife type player, is hoping to prove he belongs in the NBA after not hearing his name called on draft night.

“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I feel like that’s how everybody should play. I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder my whole career. Not just draft night, my whole career.”

With his measurables being what they are – he’s 6-foot-5 with a near 7-foot wingspan -- and with him being as athletic and instinctual as he is, there are many who feel he has the tools to make an NBA roster.

“I like where he’s at,” Delany said. “He’s picking things up. He pays attention. He’s very coachable. I like when he is aggressive, not only to score, I just think it puts our team in a better place. I think it helps his individual game.”

The Magic will return to action on Tuesday when they face off against the Miami Heat at 4 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

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