As the NBA world watched, the Orlando Magic put a damper on newly traded star forward Jimmy Butler’s debut with his new team the Philadelphia 76ers by pulling out a 111-106 win at the Amway Center tonight.
The Magic managed to surprise in this game by keeping pace and even taking the lead from Philly as they tried to work in their new superstar. They pretty much went shot fo shot in the first half, but suffered their usual lag in the third quarter.
Nicola Vucevic scored a season high 30 points as the Magic stayed tough and remained resilient through the game against the stacked Sixers lineup.
The Magic culture in the past has been to come out stale in the third quarter of games and to not know how to finish when the have leads late in the game.
It felt like a bit of the same old same old when the Sixers managed to take a 16 point lead in the fourth quarter. But this Magic squad was full of fight, and refused to give up. The talk abut this game in basketball circles won’t be about Butler’s debut, but how the Magic managed to score 21 straight points, including a key 3-point play to secure the game in the late minutes.
“Any time a big trade like that happens in the league it creates a lot of attention and it’s good to kind of spoil that and keep us going and make sure we’re on the right track,’’ said Ross, who incredibly has made 12 of 18 3-pointers in the last three games. “It was a good feeling for all of us.’’
Orlando won for a fifth time in the past seven games – none of them bigger that beating a Sixers team that is expected to contend for the Eastern Conference title after acquiring Butler from Minnesota. They held the Sixers without a field goal over the game’s last 3:33 with gritty defense.
“Oh, they fought,’’ Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “Even at the end of the third (quarter) when (the Magic) came to the bench, you could tell guys were positive and upbeat with each other. Then, we played 12 hard, smart minutes and it was good to see.’’
Get ready Sportscenter. Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, who made his return from an ankle injury and had one of the plays of the night by stuffing a dunk attempt by Joel Embiid during the game-turning 21-0 run: “I want us to grow to the place where we expect that, and we expect to beat the best teams in this league. We will be one of the best teams in this league when we continue to put it together and play as a team. Tonight is an example of what can take place this entire season.’’
Added Gordon, talked about Isaac’s block: “That was pretty much the play of the game. … Just the challenge alone, it takes a lot of courage to go up there and block somebody (like Embiid) coming down the lane like that. So, that was a big-time play for us.’’
`Obviously, we didn’t win and get the outcome, but we’ve got a lot more of these (games),’’ Butler said. “I think we will all be better – myself included. I shot the ball when I was open and passed it to the open guy when they were open. I think I just played basketball the right way, but we just came up a little bit short.’’
Butler managed a solid night with 14 points on 6 of 12 shooting with 4 rebounds. His defense was solid and will definitely make the Sixers stronger in the long run as he gets more familiar with their system.
The showdown against the Sixers wrapped up a stretch where the Magic played eight times in 13 nights. Now, Orlando will get two days to rest and recover before facing LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night at the Amway Center.