The Orlando Magic continued their strong, late season play on Sunday with a 119-107 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at the Amway Center. Orlando won for the fourth time in five games and all four wins have come by double-digit margins.
Three of those wins have come against teams fighting for playoff positions. They seem to have come together as a team. While they will not be make the playoffs this year, there is something to build upon for the 2016-17 season.
“We’ve had some energetic games recently, there’s no doubt about that,” said Magic Coach Scott Skiles. “Offensively we’ve scored the ball at a much better rate; we had 19 assists and four turnovers at halftime (on Sunday), so the ball is moving well and guys are making shots.”
Nikola Vucevic had another outstanding outing since his return after missing 13 games with a groin injury. Coming off the bench, Vucevic put up a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Evan Fournier and Victor Oladipo had 22 each.
Although he scored only seven points, Elfrid Payton is playing exceptionally well at point guard. On Sunday he had 11 assists and only one turnover. Nine of those assists came in the first half when the Magic raced out to a 67-56 lead.
The Grizzlies led 30-29 after the first quarter, but the Magic opened the second half on an 18-6 run to take a 47-36 lead. Xavier Muntford’s three-pointer brought Memphis back within 55-53 with 2:42 left until halftime, but Orlando closed the half on a 12-3 to push the lead back to double digits.
Two Aaron Gordon free throws gave the Magic their biggest lead at 86-66 with 7:06 remaining in the third period. It was 97-85 after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, both teams shot poorly, but a late surge by Memphis, capped by a long three-pointer by Daytona Beach native Vince Carter. Carter’s bomb cut the lead to 109-99, but his team would get no closer.
The Grizzlies had seven players score in double figures led by Matt Barnes with 24, including five of 10 from three point range. Zach Randolph had 15 and Carter scored 13 off the bench.
Memphis, who has endured multiple injuries, suffered their sixth consecutive loss. They fell to 41-36 in the Western Conference, but still hold the sixth playoff spot with five games remaining. Two of those games are against the 68-8 Golden State Warriors.
Orlando improved to 33-44, including a 21-17 mark at the Amway Center. The Magic have a chance to again play spoiler when the Detroit Pistons come to town on Wednesday. Detroit currently holds the seventh playoff spot in the East.