Searching for its first win of the new year, the Orlando Magic have been in the midst of one of club’s toughest stretches during Frank Vogel’s time as head coach. Tuesday night, however, provided a brief reprieve from the Magic’s losing ways when they faced the Minnesota Timberwolves, whom are currently fourth in the NBA’s Western Conference standings.
Though Orlando hasn’t been able to win many games at all this season, Tuesday provided a glimpse of what could be when the Magic are primarily healthy. Orlando forward Evan Fournier scored a game-high 32 points and led the Magic to an impressive 108-102 win over the Timberwolves at the Amway Center. The Magic snapped the Timeberwolves’ five-game winning streak and improved to 13-31 on the season. Minnesota falls to 29-17.
Orlando rookie Khem Birch was a spark off the bench for the Magic and scored 12 points and collected 10 rebounds on the night. Birch teamed up with center Bismack Biyambo to notch 26 rebounds combined against the Timberwolves’ front court.
”It’s hard to take out a player who plays hard, so that’s what I did,” Birch said. ”When you play limited minutes, you’ve got to go as hard as you can. You don’t want to mess up the opportunity.”
The Magic haven’t been especially great on the glass this season, but were able to out rebound the Timberwolves 51-37. Orlando overcame a big night from Minnesota shooting guard Jimmy Butler, who scored a team-high 28 points. Where the Magic did a good job at was shutting down small forward Andrew Wiggins, who was held to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field.
”Biyombo is a very hard-playing guy and Birch hurt us, so the rebounding was problematic,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”I thought we were in position to win but if you don’t rebound the ball, you’re putting yourself in a big hole.”