What a night for the Orlando Magic. They once again gave up a double digit lead against an opponent, this time a top tier opponent. Once again, they surprised everyone and pulled out an improbable win.
They Magic beat the ‘gold standard’ in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, 103-96, with a pure cloth 4th quarter performance.
Sure, they’ll say that Kevin Durant didn’t play (held out for rest), or Andre Igoudala sat out (illness), but with the loaded Warriors, the get no excuses.
They still had Stef Curry, Klay Thompson, Boogie Cousins, and Draymond Green on the floor. No excuses.
The Magic, winners of 8 of their least 11 games, are coming off of a 1-2 road trip. The boys in blue did take care of business in Toronto by taking out the Raptors 113-98, but that was sandwiched in between losses to the Chicago Bulls (110-109) and the New York Knicks (108-103). Fans didn’t know what to expect.
Orlando came out on the court, with a sellout crowd full of blue and gold Stef Curry jerseys, and showed that a they definitely were not the cupcake opponent that they used to be.
Orlando shot 57% in the first quarter against the road weary Warriors and took the first quarter 28-22. The Magic’s scoring was spread across the starters, but thus far, Stef Curry seemed to be the only Warrior that showed up to work, caring Golden state with 15 points.
The Magic kept the party going in the second quarter, continuing to hold the lead and taking the game to a 59-51 half time score. Curry cooled down a bit with 4 points in the second quarter for 19 points in the first half, But Thompson and Cousins had worked their way into double digits (11 and 15 respectively).
Everything changed in the third quarter, as it often does for Orlando. Golden State came out and went on a 30-11 run on the Magic. Orlando made just five of 23 shots and turned the ball over four times in the third.
Curry worked his way up to 30 points total, much of it by attacking the Orlando interior with quick drives and layups, plus Cousins added another ten with solid inside work by battling the Magic’s all-star, Nikola Vucevic.
At the end of the third quarter, the Magic were down 81-70, and 40% of the air had been sucked out of the arena, (as 60% fo the fans were routing for Golden State).
Then it happened. Orlando really showed what they were made of. The Magic went on a 33-15 rush in the fourth quarter, and showed that they would not be underestimated any longer.
Clutch three point shots by Aaron Gordon (22 points), DJ Augustin (14 points), and Vucevic (22 points), as well as a resurgence of key reserve Terrance Ross, who scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, gave Orlando the win.
Add to that tough defense by Vucevic, who proved to be no pushover to Cousins, Iwundu and Khem Birch in the final period, plus DJ Agustin, who blocked two of Curry 3-point attempts and the Magic had a winning formula for the night.
That win ended an Orlando 11-game losing streak to Golden State that stretched back to Dec. 14, 2012. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Warriors had won 53 games in a row in which they opened the fourth quarter with a double-digit lead – a streak that ended on Thursday.
“These are kind of like mini lessons for when we get to the playoffs,’’ said shooting guard Terrence Ross, whose Magic have won 9 of their last 12 games and moved into a tie for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference with Thursday’s victory. “That’s what (the Warriors) do; they do that to everybody (in the third quarter). … Having that resiliency helped and it kind of gave us life in the fourth. No matter how much we’re down or how much the other team is on a run, we stay in the fight.’’
The Magic next head on a 3-game road trip to face the Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Philadelphia 76ers before returning to Amway to Face the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, May 8.