Wendell Carter Jr. Shines Against Former Team as Magic Roll Past Bulls

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

On the Chicago Bulls’ first possession, Nikola Vucevic drilled a 3-pointer, one of five threes he made in the game. On the Orlando Magic’s first possession, Wendell Carter Jr. slammed in a dunk, one of his eight baskets. The two centers, traded for one another at the deadline, each came out determined to play well, which they both did, as Vucevic scored 29 points and Carter had 19 points and 12 rebounds. In the end, though, it was Carter’s Magic that was the sharper and hungrier team, as they held off the Bulls for a 115-106 victory on Wednesday night in the Windy City.

Clutch Moments

With the Magic up just six with three minutes and change left in the fourth quarter after leading by as many as 23 earlier in the second half, Carter followed up a Gary Harris miss with a layup. On Chicago’s ensuing possession, Michael Carter-Williams, playing on a sprained ankle, intercepted a pass and raced the other way for a breakaway dunk. James Ennis III, with 1:49 remaining, buried one of his five 3-pointers with defenders draped all over him to extend Orlando’s lead to 10.

Top Performer

Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford has stated numerous times that he sees great potential in Carter, a multiskilled, physical center. The 6-foot-10, 270-pounder, who turns just 22 this Friday, has the right attitude as well, which Clifford has also raved about. With another terrific game under his belt since the trade, Carter’s confidence is growing. Sometimes a young player just needs a fresh start where he can maximize his abilities, and it appears that’s the case for the former Duke standout, who filled up the stat sheet against his former team with 19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block.

Key Stretch

The Magic went from up one in the early moments of the third to leading by 21 when the period expired. Ennis III scored nine of his 22 season-high points in that frame. In the fourth, after the Bulls pulled within as close as six with just under four minutes left, Orlando reclaimed momentum with a 7-3 run.

Magic Debut

Signed to a 10-day contract just before the Magic boarded their flight to Chicago on Tuesday, Donta Hall was impressive in his first action with his new squad. A standout in the G League earlier this year, with both the Ignite and Raptors 905, the 6-foot-10, 230-pounder posted seven points, nine rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal. Best known for his defense, both on the perimeter in pick-and-roll switches and inside protecting the basket, as well as his mobility and rim-running, Hall’s energy was a huge factor in Wednesday’s victory.

Key Stat

Disappointing about their recent homestand was the lack of effort on the defensive end. That was certainly not the case on Wednesday, as the Magic played with the energy and hustle necessary to be competitive. They had 48 deflections, Clifford noted after the game, to go along with 10 blocks and eight steals. Their ball movement was excellent as well. Orlando totaled 29 assists, tied for their third most in a game this season.

Quote of the Night

“I feel like just being in Orlando is an opportunity for me to showcase my game, opportunity for me to show that I impact winning. It’s a huge opportunity for me coming to Orlando and I’m going to do everything I can to flourish in that opportunity just to prove myself and also help my teammates. This group of guys, they are all about winning. Even though we are young, we want to win and I feel like I don’t have all the answers, but bits and pieces from each of my teammates is really helpful. Everybody is about the team. I feel like tonight was a great step forward for us. I’m excited to be here and I’m just excited to grow with this team.” - Carter

Up Next

The Magic will look to build on this victory when they travel to Tampa to take on the Toronto Raptors on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Raptors, who had been struggling the last few weeks, recorded a big win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. OG Anunoby led with 22 points, Pascal Siakam scored 20 and former Magic player Khem Birch had 14 points. Toronto is now just one game behind Chicago for 10th in the East. Teams positioned seven through 10 in the standings in each conference will compete in a play-in tournament to determine the final two East and West seeds in the playoffs.

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