NBA: Magic demolish Hawks, lock in on playoffs

(File photo) – Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic dunks in the first half while playing the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena on March 28, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/AFP.

By Melissa Potes
EBC Florida Bureau

ORLANDO, Florida (Eagle News) — Playing to a frenzied sell-out crowd, the Orlando Magic were on fire and in total control from start to finish, winning 149 to 113 against the Atlanta Hawks. Not only did they have a season high in points scored but also set a franchise record for the most points in a first half with 81.

“Everybody just got hot as they got into the game.  It was a great offensive half for us, but it started with our defense,” said center Nikola Vucevic. “We fed off that as well. We had a lot of fast break points.  That first quarter especially helped us control the game from the beginning.”

In the momentous first half, Orlando shot 66% from the floor with 40 points in the paint.  Everyone contributed in a major way with four players scoring double digits by the end of the half.

“Playing from ahead is always easier. So, getting off to a good start, being ready, is critical for any team,” said Orlando’s Head Coach Steve Clifford.

Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and Terrence Ross each had 25 points while forward Jonathan Isaac was a defensive standout and added 18 points.  Everyone seemed to be locked-in and aggressive.

In regards to being focused, Isaac added “our entire team, it was different guys in different moments, just making plays and playing well.  I think for me personally when something didn’t go my way, another guy did something that just brought everybody back up.  It was just a great night.”

Despite the huge lead, Coach Clifford went against popular opinion and chose to play the starters well into the 4th quarter.

“When people say, ‘What if they get hurt?’ they can get hurt every day in practice.  I don’t go for that at all,” said Clifford.  “When you have a chance to win a game this time of year, I’m not messing with that game.”

The most important take away from this huge win is that the team is gelling just before the playoffs.  They are proving that they can be dangerous if they play their style of ball.

“We’re a good team.  We can play with anybody in this league and we’ve proven that this year,” said Isaac.  “When we’re locked in and we’re right, and when we’re playing the brand of basketball that’s gotten us to where we are at this point, I think we can play with anybody.  We just got to keep that mindset.”

With two games remaining in the regular season, the Magic look to continue to solidify their playoff position.

“We’ve got the ball in our court right now.  We’ve just got to take advantage of it,” said Ross.  “We’ve got to make sure that we go out there and stay focused, play for 48, and try to capitalize on these last two games.”

(Eagle News Service)