After ending a recent four-game losing streak with a big win over the Toronto Raptors and a narrow escape over the Detroit Pistons, both analysts and fans of the Orlando Magic gave significant credit to strong play from point guard D.J. Augustin.
While Nikola Vucevic had a monster game against the Raptors and Evan Fournier tossed in a buzzer-beater to thwart the Pistons, Augustin was clearly the straw that stirred the drink on those two occasions. As the Magic embarked on a 6-game, coast-to-coast road trip, Augustin was forced to miss the first game in Charlotte and the Magic were humiliated 125-100.
There were far more problems than a missing Augustin in Charlotte, who beat Orlando for the 13th consecutive time, but it is safe to say his presence was sorely missed. He returned for Wednesday night’s game in Chicago and the Magic put on another sterling performance in a 112-84 rout of the Bulls.
Augustin did not fill up the stat sheet as he did against Detroit and Toronto by scoring 10 points and dishing out 6 assists in 25 minutes, but he ran the offense while others were making shots. He committed only two turnovers.
Backup point guard Jerian Grant committed zero turnovers in his 19 minutes against a Bulls defense known for an attacking style that creates them. With only two turnovers in 44 minutes, the Magic point guards did an outstanding job of getting the ball to teammates who were shooting well as they hit 58 percent of their shots.
Coach Steve Clifford has preached intensity and organization both in practice and on the sideline. He got a lot of that on Wednesday and in the two previous wins, but it was sorely lacking in Charlotte.
After Wednesday’s morning shootaround, Clifford thought something good was coming.
“When we walked out, I told a couple of the coaches ‘I don’t know if we’re going to win, but we’re going to play well,” he said in postgame remarks. “We were very focused in the shootaround and could tell we were going to have great energy.”
As the road trip continues, the Magic are dinged up a bit. forward Jonathan Simmons is still out with a sprained ankle and Augustin is likely not 100 percent from the sprain he suffered against Detroit. Vucevic had a sore calf but played through it enough to record a solid double-double on Wednesday.
The road trip stops Friday in Minneapolis against the Minnesota Timberwolves. If the strong guard play continues, Orlando has a real chance to make it four wins in five tries.