Superb Performances by Vucevic, Ross Not Quite Enough to End Magic’s Losing Streak

Magic come up short against Heat
by Josh Cohen

The Lead

The undermanned Orlando Magic have given themselves a chance to win recent games with their stellar defense. What’s denied them from securing any victories since the All-Star break, however, has been their turnovers. Orlando turned the ball over a season-high 23 times on Sunday against the Miami Heat in a 102-97 loss at Amway Center.

Top Performer

Nikola Vucevic has had several remarkable performances this season. Sunday’s against the Heat may have been his most impressive. He had 38 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and six made 3-pointers, making him the third center in NBA history with 35-plus points, 10-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus threes in a game. The other two who did it were DeMarcus Cousins and Nikola Jokic.

Player Spotlight

Before Sunday, Terrence Ross hadn’t played since the Wednesday before the All-Star break. He missed the last two games with knee soreness. You would have never known that, though, based on how well he shot the ball against the Heat. The 6-foot-6 veteran scored a season-high 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field and 8-of-13 from 3-point range.

Clutch Moments

The biggest shot of the game came with 2:21 remaining in the fourth quarter when Tyler Herro, who scored 22 points, drilled one of his four triples to extend Miami’s lead to four. A couple possessions earlier, Andre Iguodala, not known for his outside shooting, nailed a three of his own. Jimmy Butler, who had 29 points, seven rebounds and nine assists, sealed the win for the Heat with a breakaway layup with 4.3 seconds left following a steal.

Injury Report

Cole Anthony (non-displaced fracture, right rib), James Ennis III (sore right calf), Aaron Gordon (left ankle injury management) and Evan Fournier (strained left groin) were all out. Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz are both out for the season. For the Heat, Gabe Vincent (right knee soreness), Bam Adebayo (left knee tendinitis), Avery Bradley (right calf strain), and Meyers Leonard (league suspension) did not play.

Key Stats

The Magic outplayed the Heat in many areas. They shot it better from the field and 3-point range, took more free throws and hauled down more defensive rebounds. However, Orlando’s turnovers and Miami’s 20 fast break points were problematic. Limiting opponent points in transition has been a weakness for the Magic this season. They rank 24th in opponent fast break points.

Unique Statistical Feat

Vucevic and Ross became the second Magic pair in franchise history to both score 30-plus points and make six-plus 3-pointers in the same game. The only other Orlando duo to do it were D.J. Augustin and Jonathon Simmons. Here’s what makes it even crazier. Augustin and Simmons did it on March 14, 2018, exactly three years ago.

Quote of the Night

“He’s gotten so much better over the years and this is a career-best year. He’s been great for several years and he’s given us nightmares. But this year, it’s even different. It feels like you’re looking at the modern-day Dirk Nowitzki.” – Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra on Vucevic

Up Next

The Magic, who have lost eight straight, will have a few days to practice before flying out to New York to take on the Knicks on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. They last played the Knicks on Feb. 17 at Amway Center. Orlando won that night behind its stifling second-half defense and 30 points from Ross off the bench. New York is currently 20-19 and sits in seventh place in the East.

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