Magic fend off pesky Pelicans
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — After giving up a 12-point halftime lead, the Orlando Magic recovered with enough baskets and key stops down the stretch to grind out a big win.
Serge Ibaka scored 16 points and Nikola Vucevic broke out of his shooting slump with 10 points and 14 rebounds to help lift the Magic to an 89-82 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
After Terrence Jones’ basket pulled New Orleans to 84-82, Vucevic made back-to-back shots in the waning moments for the win.
"We are going to keep fighting, keep trying to find a way," said Vucevic, who finished 10 points and 14 rebounds. "We’re not playing really good basketball right now, it’s not easy to get stuff going and get into the flow but we just have to find ways to get wins until we figure that out."
At times in the second half it appeared the Magic were headed to a second straight defeat as their offense tanked and they couldn’t get stops against Pelicans’ team that found out late that Anthony Davis wouldn’t be available because of a thigh injury.
Jones, who replaced Davis in the starting lineup, scored a game-high 26 points for the Pelicans.
Jones had 12 points in the third quarter to help the Pelicans comeback from a 12-point first-half deficit to pull within one point late in the period. The Magic held on to a 65-63 lead at the end of the third.
New Orleans completed its comeback with 9:23 in the game when Buddy Hield knocked down a baseline jumper to put his team up briefly 70-69. But Augustin and Rudez countered with a combined 10 points during a stretch to put the Magic back ahead, 79-73.
The Magic shot just 39 percent from the field with all of the starters struggling to hit shots consistently. But without Davis in the lineup, the Pelicans offense was stagnant at times, too, and finished shooting 37 percent. Serge Ibaka and Evan Fournier led the way with 16 points each.
"We talked the whole night that nothing is easy in the NBA," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "It’s just one of those things where one guy goes down and everybody else has an opportunity. You are going to work and earn everything."
After a sluggish start, the Magic got going in the second quarter. They came up with stops and Ibaka and Fournier both hit big shots to build Orlando’s lead to 15 before heading into halftime with a 52-40 advantage.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was pleased to see his team fight the way it did in Davis’ absence but he still felt they let a winnable game slip away.
"I thought our defense was fantastic, played the whole game," said Gentry, whose team slipped to 2-10. "You just have to find a way offensively to get a few baskets."
Pelicans: Langston Galloway, a free agent signee last summer, followed up his breakout game against Boston on Monday with 15 points off the bench against the Magic. He scored 21 points against the Celtics. … The Pelicans came in having lost two of three.
Magic: Vucevic came in shooting 5 for 32 from field in the Magic’s last three games and had not attempted a free throw in any of the three games. … Jeff Green has struggled since being inserted into the starting lineup for Aaron Gordon. Green went 0 for 9 from the field for zero points on Wednesday night.
ANOTHER JONES DOUBLE-DOUBLE (ALMOST)
After not getting 10 rebounds in any of his 50 games with Houston last season, Jones came one rebound short of his second straight double-double. Jones had 15 and 10 off the bench Monday in a win over Boston.
The Magic came into the game as the NBA’s lowest-scoring (92.6) and worst-shooting (.410) team, and missed their first five shots while the Pelicans were missing their first eight. Orlando shot .386 for the game to New Orleans’ .370.
Pelicans: Host Portland on Friday night.
Magic: Host Dallas on Saturday night. The Magic have lost nine of the last 10 at home to the Mavericks.