Nikola Vucevic doubles up again, Magic drop home opener to Wizards
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The thing that gnawed at Washington coach Randy Wittman most about his team’s season-opening loss at Miami was its lack of defensive intensity.
The Wizards took notice in their second outing of the season.
John Wall had 30 points and 12 assists, and Washington held off a late surge to beat the Orlando Magic 105-98 on Thursday night.
Marcin Gortat added 20 points and 12 rebounds. All five starters scored in double figures as Washington earned its fifth straight victory over its division rival.
"I like the way we responded," Wittman said. "We created more offense with our defense tonight than we have in eight preseason games and last night."
The Magic trailed by three at the half, only to be outscored 28-15 in the third quarter. Orlando recovered in the fourth and rallied to trim what had been a 17-point Washington lead to two with less than a minute to play. But Wall got free for a driving layup to help preserve the victory.
"I’m basically the head of the snake on the offensive and defensive end, so (against Miami) we didn’t have the same kind of intensity," Wall said. "I knew we couldn’t go into the season 0-2, so I’m going to come out with more energy and play better on the defensive end."
Nik Vucevic led the Magic with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Ben Gordon added 22 points off the bench, and Evan Fournier was solid with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
Orlando shot 51 percent but had 18 more turnovers, matching its total from its season opener.
"I thought we played pretty well, but those turnovers are just too much," Vucevic said. "We’re not good enough to allow those."
The Wizards played short-handed in their loss to Miami on Wednesday, but got instant help inside Thursday thanks to the return of big man Nene. He was back from a one-game suspension for exiting the bench area during a preseason skirmish between Paul Pierce and Chicago’s Joakim Noah.
After logging 30-plus minutes Wednesday, Pierce started a little sluggish in the first half, going just 2 for 5 from the field. He recovered to finish with 16 points.
He got support from the rest of the Wizards starters, who all reached double figures by halftime. The Magic sizzled from the field, shooting 57 percent in the opening 24 minutes, but had 11 early turnovers.
Orlando forward Channing Frye, who signed a four-year deal this offseason, made his first appearance in a Magic uniform after missing the entire preseason with a sprained left medial collateral ligament.
His timing was off at times, though, as he managed just two points in 25 minutes.
Wizards: F Bradley Beal (fractured left wrist) and Martell Webster (back surgery) remained sidelined.
Magic: G Victor Oladipo (facial fracture) and F Kyle O’Quinn (sprained left ankle) also both sat out.
Wall’s double-double was his second straight and continues the standard he set last season, when he posted a career-high 29 double-doubles. Gortat’s double-double is his first of the new season. He had 37 last season.
Magic rookie Aaron Gordon debuted prior to the game as the host of the second season of "Year One," a SiriusXM NBA radio show aimed at giving listeners an inside look at the life of an NBA rookie. Last year’s inaugural season of "Year One" featured Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum.
Washington: Hosts Milwaukee in its home opener on Saturday.
Orlando: Hosts Toronto on Saturday.