Marreese Speights lights it up off bench, Magic pull away in 2nd half to beat Pelicans
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Marreese Speights held his follow-through as he watched his fifth 3-pointer in a six-minute span swish though. The 6-foot-10 forward then turned away with his lips pursed and three fingers extended on each of his hands, which he held down below his hips as he galloped triumphantly toward the other end.
Speights highlighted an 18-point performance by hitting five of his career-high six 3-pointers during a decisive 22-6 run, and the Orlando Magic soundly defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 115-99 on Monday night.
Speights’ second 3 of the game made it 87-83 in the final minute of the third quarter. He drained four more early in the fourth, after which Orlando led 106-89.
Magic coach Frank Vogel called it “a luxury” to have a front-court player like Speights who can score from the perimeter coming off the bench.
During his first six games with Orlando this season, Speights attempted nine 3s, hitting three. He was clearly more confident in his shot in New Orleans, attempting 10 3s, often without hesitation and from a foot or two behind the 3-point line a couple times.
“When you see a guy come in and make every shot, you feel like it’s your night,” Magic small forward Evan Fournier said of Speights’ effect on the game. “So we’re like, `OK, we’re not going to lose this game.'”
Speight’s previous career high for 3s in a game was four. He said he was apprehensive during the early years of his NBA career to shoot from beyond the 3-point line, but starting doing so more about halfway through his second of three seasons with Golden State.
“When I come into the game, I feel like I’m hot, and to be able to have open shots like that, you’ve got to knock them down,” Speights said. “My teammates did great finding me.”
And New Orleans did a poor job of contesting those shots, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said.
“You’ve got to get in the air space and that takes effort,” Gentry said. “He shot too many open shots, if you ask me.”
Nikola Vucevic, Jonathon Simmons and Fournier each scored 20 points for Orlando, which shot 50.6 percent (43 of 85) from the field and 47.1 percent (16 of 34) from 3-point range. Aaron Gordon added 17 points.
Anthony Davis had 39 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, which was coming off a lopsided victory over Cleveland on Saturday, but was unable to threaten the Magic during the final seven minutes. DeMarcus Cousins had 12 points and 12 assists for the Pelicans, and Jrue Holiday scored 11 points.
“They made us pay in the second half with all of the open 3s,” Davis said. “We did not correctly do the things we can control. We just need to come out with more energy on the defensive end.”
Magic: Scored the first eight points of the game and led 33-24 after the first quarter, when Fournier hit three 3s and scored 11 of his points. … Orlando came in averaging 117.2 points and has reached 113 in all seven of its games.
Pelicans: Cousins, who entered the night second in the NBA in turnovers with five per game, had two passes intercepted in the first 3:31 and finished with six turnovers. … The Pelicans were aiming for their first winning record since the last day of the 2014-15 season, which also was the last time they made the playoffs.
Fournier said winning on the second night of back-to-back games is “the hardest thing to do in NBA basketball,” and that the Magic should be proud to have done it twice already this season.
The victory in New Orleans came a night after a loss in Charlotte.
“But we should have the same mindset all the time,” Fournier added. “That’s the way we should play for 82 games.”
The Pelicans made only seven of their 28 3-point attempts, hitting only 3 of 18 from deep in the second half, when they scored just 35 points after leading 64-40 at halftime. They also turned the ball over 20 times, leading to 25 Magic points.
“It just wasn’t our night offensively, so we’ve got to do better the next game,” said Holiday, who had six turnovers. “We’ve got to be better taking care of the ball and I will personally get better.”
Magic: Visit Memphis on Wednesday night for their third game in four nights.
Pelicans: Host Minnesota on Wednesday night.
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