Nikola Vucevic notches 50th double-double of season in Magic’s tough loss to Wizards
Apparently, it helped.
Bryant shook off those memories to score 21 points and grab 10 rebounds Wednesday night, and the Wizards made up a little ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a 100-90 win over the Orlando Magic.
“I was putting too much stress on myself,” said Bryant, limited to two points and one rebound in 14 minutes during Monday’s victory over Sacramento. “He just told me to relax and play the game. You’re going to go through funks sometimes, so don’t let it get you down.”
Bradley Beal scored 23 points and Jabari Parker added 19 to help the 11th-place Wizards move within 1 1/2 games of ninth-place Orlando and Charlotte. The Magic and Hornets are two back of eighth-place Miami, which blew out Detroit.
Washington improved to 2-0 on its five-game homestand.
Bryant and Parker each started on the bench but both went 9 of 12 from the field, and they combined for 18 points in the fourth quarter. Bryant has made 43 starts this season but was dropped from Brooks’ first five in late February following some inconsistent performances.
It was another such effort that led to Bryant seeking out his coach’s counsel.
“The thing I loved about it is we met yesterday and he was frustrated,” Brooks said. “I like guys that care and are bothered by it when they play bad. I don’t want it to just roll off your back and not (be) a big deal.”
Nikola Vucevic had 20 points and 14 rebounds for Orlando, which has lost four of five heading into its own five-game homestand. D.J. Augustin added 16 points for the Magic, who scored only 37 after halftime.
“We’re just not playing like a team that wants to go to the playoffs, period,” said guard Evan Fournier, who finished with eight points. “This time of the year it’s going to get harder. Teams are trying to get in and you’ve got to elevate your intensity, your focus, and we’re just not doing that.”
After the Magic opened the second half on an 8-0 run to tie it at 61, neither team led by more than six until Parker scored the final six points of an 11-2 spurt to put Washington up 91-82.
A few possessions later, Beal’s 3-pointer in transition stretched it to 94-84 with 3:48 left. The Wizards led by at least four the rest of the way, pushing it back to 10 on Bryant’s dunk with 52 seconds to play.
“TB came in and gave us great energy and we needed every ounce of energy he had tonight,” Brooks said. “We fought. We didn’t have everything going for us offensively, but I thought in that fourth quarter we did a good job.”
Magic: Vucevic recorded his 50th double-double before the end of the third quarter. . Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon each finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. . Gordon played despite bruised ribs sustained in Sunday’s loss at Memphis.
Wizards: Committed only one first-half turnover. . Beal hit a pull-up jumper at the third-quarter buzzer to give Washington a 76-74 lead. … Bryant posted his ninth double-double. . F Sam Dekker sat out with lower back soreness.
VERDICT ON THE BENCH
The Wizards won largely on the strength of their reserves, who outscored the Magic’s second unit 59-20.
“Look at that box score,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford said. “It’s more than effort. I mean, they crushed us. We were like minus-25. You’re not going to win any game if you get outscored like that from your bench. You’ve got no shot.”
Washington needed it, because Beal was its only starter to score in double figures.
Magic: Begin their homestand Thursday against Cleveland.
Wizards: Host the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.
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