Nikola Vucevic drops 29 points as Magic cruise past visiting Wizards
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Orlando Magic got a big win to sweep the season series against a Southeast Division rival just before leaving for their longest road trip of the season.
Orlando took control for good with a 23-5 run to close the second quarter, punctuated by a dunk by Vucevic in the final seconds, for a 69-52 lead.
“When you get a lead early, and the zone (defense) slows the game down, you can lose your concentration, lose your intensity,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “I thought our guys did a good job.”
The advantage ballooned to 29 points in the early stages of the third quarter.
“Runs happen all the time. Things turn around quickly. In the position we are, we can’t afford to relax against a team like that,” Vucevic added. “We were efficient offensively, and on the defensive end, we got some steals and got some easy baskets that opened the game up.”
The Wizards played with a short bench, as a rash of injuries left them with only nine players available. Bradley Beal, the star guard who averaged 34.3 points in the previous three games against Orlando, sat out for the fourth consecutive game since injuring his right leg against the Magic in Washington on Jan. 1.
Admiral Schofield scored 18 points to lead the Wizards, and Troy Brown, Jr. had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
“That’s two games in a row we played this team a step slow,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “We were dribbling one extra dribble and late on our passes. When you play this team, you’ve got to be on point. (The Magic are) a good team that I think now is starting to play much better.”
Wizards: After playing in 194 consecutive games, Beal has now missed six of Washington’s last seven due to injury. … Washington was also without Rui Hachimura (groin), Thomas Bryant (foot), and Davis Bertans (quadriceps). … Clifford’s reaction to long list of Wizards injuries: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team with that many starters or guys in their rotation be out at the same time like this.”
Magic: F Jonathan Isaac will not need surgery for the knee sprain he suffered on Jan. 1 at Washington. Isaac will be re-evaluated in 8 to 10 weeks. … F Al-Farouq Aminu underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn right meniscus. He will be re-evaluated in approximately 12 weeks, meaning he could be available for the latter stages of the regular season and a potential playoff run.
Vucevic’s 29 points were one shy of his season high. He scored 30 in a 125-121 win against Washington on Nov. 17.
Orlando’s 69 point outburst in the first half was its best output in the first half of any game this season, eclipsing the 68 it scored in a 127-120 win over the Wizards on Dec. 3. The Magic scored 120 or more points in all four of their games against Washington.
“Now I have a little leverage to talk trash to some of my friends back home who are die-hard Wizards fans,” said Magic G Markelle Fultz, a native of Maryland’s D.C. suburbs. “That’s huge.”
Wizards: Host Atlanta on Friday night.
Magic: Begin a six-game road trip at Phoenix on Friday night.
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