Beasley scores 29, but Wolves can’t overcome hot-shooting Magic
MINNEAPOLIS — Nikola Vucevic had 28 points and 12 rebounds to lead Orlando past Minnesota 132-118 on Friday night, although the Magic played most of the second half without coach Steve Clifford, who left in the third quarter due to illness.
The Magic tweeted about Clifford’s departure during the fourth quarter, saying the coach was being taken to a hospital for further evaluation.
“We’re awaiting news. Hopefully everything’s OK,” Vucevic said afterward.
Assistant coach Tyrone Corbin took over in Clifford’s absence.
“He just came over and said, ‘You’re going to have to take it,’” Corbin said. “I didn’t really know what it meant until I saw him walk off. It was kind of a shocker, but we’re praying that he’s well.”
The team didn’t release any details on Clifford’s condition after the game. The players said their coach didn’t give any indication on the bench he wasn’t feeling well, until they saw he wasn’t on the court any longer.
“It was really crazy,” Markelle Fultz said. “At first. I thought he was just going to use the bathroom. I seen him kind of walk off, but when I came out they told me he wasn’t feeling well.”
Clifford was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, a team spokesperson said.
“Obviously prayers to coach Clifford,” Wolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “He’s a guy that does not get enough credit in this league for how he coaches and what he does with teams. He’s just a basketball lifer.”
Fultz added 24 points for the Magic, who snapped a three-game skid by shooting a season-best 60.7% from the floor, even with second-leading scorer Evan Fournier on the bench injured.
“Going into this game the mindset is just get everybody involved, be aggressive and we’ve got to pick up what we miss from him,” Fultz said of playing without Fournier.
Malik Beasley led Minnesota with 29 points, including 19 in the third quarter. But the Wolves couldn’t stop Orlando’s more-balanced attack and saw their two-game winning streak ended.
“I felt like after two wins, we got to come out, play harder and this is where you have to dig harder to get that third win,” Beasley said.
Vucevic had his 34th double-double and scored at least 20 points for the 30th time this season. D.J. Augustin scored 18 points, while Michael Carter-Williams had 17 and Terrence Ross 16.
After spending much of the first half trading baskets with the Wolves, Orlando started pulling ahead with a 14-4 run to close the second quarter. Then, the Magic opened the second half outscoring Minnesota 24-11 to take control of the game.
Beasley was Minnesota’s lone bright spot, hitting 9 of 11 shots in the third quarter. The rest of the Wolves, though, went a combined 3 of 14 and the Wolves trailed by as many as 23. He didn’t play in the fourth, though.
“He had a great third quarter. It got to a point when they’re up a certain number, they’re up big like that and Malik’s been on the bench for however many minutes, you want to do right by him too and you don’t want to put him in a situation where he’s cold going out there,” Saunders said.
Magic: Fournier missed shootaround and is day-to-day with a hyper-extended right elbow after getting hurt diving for a loose ball during Wednesday night’s loss in Miami. He’s averaging 18.8 points. Wes Iwundu started in his place, and finished with eight points.
Timberwolves: Beasley’s 14 made field goals was a career-high. … C Karl-Anthony Towns (wrist) missed his 10th game; the team said he would be re-evaluated in two weeks. Asked if there’s a possibility he could return this season, Saunders said “That’s the collective goal, but as I said we’re looking for continued healing and we’ve seen that so far.” … F Kelan Martin left in the second quarter with a sprained left ankle.
Magic: At Houston on Sunday.
Timberwolves: Complete their homestand Sunday against New Orleans.