ORLANDO – Interesting stat: With tonight’s game of 22 points and 13 rebounds, Nikola Vucevic notched his 301st career double-double. Of those 301 double-doubles, 299 of them have come in a Magic uniform since 2007, when he joined.
The Magic have played six games in nine nights and tonight they were on the second of a back to back facing off against a well-rested Utah Jazz team.
Coach Clifford spoke on the effect playing that many games in a short span saying, “It’s definitely part of it, I think with the shooting. It’s the same thing that happened last weekend. When you play two, whatever you want to call them – elite. You go Philly, Milwaukee last weekend and then Miami, Utah this weekend, those are four teams that could easily be top four in the East and the West.”
Utah’s Donovan Mitchell had a significant impact putting up 32 points on 14-21 shooting.
“Trying to be aggressive from jump. Just being able to find my spots and being engaged early”, said Mitchell on his big night.
The Magic stumbled out of the gate in a sluggish fashion only connecting on 3 of their 16 three-point attempts in the first half. Orlando finished the night going 11-37 from three-point range (29.7%)
Coach Clifford on Orlando’s play, “So we were sluggish to start, and they jumped us. After about five and half minutes into the first quarter, until all the way to the beginning of the fourth, we played well. We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we played well.”
Terrence Ross once again placed his scoring prowess on display with 24 points on 9-16 shooting off the bench.
Coach Clifford on Terrence Ross’ play these last few games, “He’s playing great, I mean he’s playing like he played last year. Last night, tonight again in the first half and then they blitz him. He’s good – he moves the ball, we get open shots off when they double-teamed him. So his decision making was good.”
Aaron Gordon showed signs of life tonight after saying he ran out of gas last night against Miami. Gordon posted a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Towards the end of the 3rd quarter, Ross hit back to back threes with the second three resulting in a 4-point play opportunity. Ross completed the 4-point play with a made free throw and the period ended with Utah leading 76-75.
Heading into the fourth, Orlando had chance to take control of the game after trailing Utah for much of the 2nd half. “We definitely had a chance to take the lead and expand it a little bit, but they got hot and they made shots”, said Terrence Ross.
Aaron Gordon on Utah opening the 4th quarter with five three-point baskets, “We just didn’t close to our shooters. They’re the best three-point shooting team percentage-wise in the league and they did what they do. To win that game, we had to take them away from their strength and we didn’t do that in the fourth quarter.
Utah outscored Orlando in the fourth quarter 33-21.
It should be noted, that Orlando only had three players in double figures, while Utah had five players in double figures.
For Utah, Rudy Gobert was a monster on the glass, grabbing 17 rebounds, 7 of which were offensive. Gobert also chipped in 8 points and 4 assists. He didn’t record a block, but all night ensured that Orlando was uncomfortable driving to the rim as he continuously altered shots.
Gobert on his 17 rebound night, “I just try come out every night and do that because I know that is what my team needs me to do.”
Georges Niang was crucial for Utah off the bench scoring 15 points on 5-8 shooting from range in less than 17 minutes of action. “It is fun. He has been working very hard and to watch that translate to the game is great. That stretch was huge for us”, Gobert on Niang’s night.
Orlando gets a night off, but then it’s back to work when the Brooklyn Nets arrive at the Amway Center on Monday.