Culture of Hoops

John Wall’s big night propels Washington Wizards past Orlando Magic

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Playing their second of four in a row on the road, the Orlando Magic made a pit stop in the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Wizards. The division rivals were meeting for the second of four times this season, with the Wizards winning the first meeting handily in December. Tuesday night was much of the same, with Washington controlling the game from the tip, cruising to a nine-point victory, 115-106.

Behind former Magic big man Marcin Gortat and All-Star point guard John Wall, the Wizards were able to get going early and often offensively. While the Magic were able to answer many of Washington’s early buckets, they were unable to string together consecutive stops. When the buzzer sounded, the Wizards found themselves with a four-point lead, up 35-31 heading into the second quarter.

Behind a bench unit led by veterans Andre Miller and Al Harrington, Washington was able to slowly grow their lead, pushing it to 14 at times. However, the Magic continued to fight and claw, keeping the game within striking distance going into the halftime break. Thanks in large part to 30 combined points from Wall and Gortat, the Wizards found themselves leading 62-53 during the break.

Out of the halftime break, the foes went back and forth, swapping buckets for much of the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Magic, Washington was able to finish the frame strong, outscoring Orlando 7-0 in the final 2:10 of the quarter. That late run helped Washington push their lead back up to 93-80 going into the fourth and final quarter of action.

From the start of the fourth, it was clear Washington was not going to sputter in their attempt to secure the victory. The Wizards scorching shooting continued, as they controlled the game and cruised to the victory. Orlando played the foul game late, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington emerged with the 115-106 victory.

With the recent loss of big man Nene, the Wizards were forced to look elsewhere for scoring. While their bench disappointed, contributing a mere 21 points, four of their five starters did not. The electrifying dunk contest champion Wall led all scorers, finishing with 27 points and seven assists. Trevor Ariza kept up his solid play, pouring in 22 points, including making all five of his attempts from deep. Sharpshooter Bradley Beal and the man in the middle Gortat contributed 21 points, while Gortat grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.

Even though they were playing without leading scorer Arron Afflalo for the second straight game, the Magic had no trouble scoring. Dynamic young guard Victor Oladipo led the way, scoring a team-high 26 points. The long, lanky, athletic Maurice Harkless had one of his best showings offensively, pouring in 22 points. Center Nikola Vucevic notched yet another double-double, finishing with 19 points and a game high 14 rebounds. Tobias Harris and Kyle O’Quinn rounded out the Magic men in double figures, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Magic Game Notes

Harkless’ Strong Performance

Dribble drives, finishing at the rim, looking calm and poised out there. Those are all things that Maurice Harkless did on Tuesday night, in one of his best games of the season. The lanky forward has had some issues this season finishing around the rim, but that was not an issue as he was able to get to the rim and finish with ease against the soft Washington defense. It’s a step in the right direction for Harkless, who has shown he has the makings to be a very good defender in this league. The next step in his development is consistency offensively, and Tuesday night will hopefully be the start of that for the second-year man.

Oladipo Impresses

This seems like a trend with the rookie from Indiana. His first half was less than spectacular, shooting a woeful 3-of-10 from the field, yet his second half was much stronger. He was able to make adjustments to the defense and knock down 7-of-10 from the field in the final 24 minutes. Diving deeper into the numbers, Oladipo is shooting 39.9 percent in the first half of games this season, compared to 42.8 percent in the second. He’s making adjustments and he’s getting better with the ball in his hands while initiating the offense. It’s only a matter of time before he’s doing it all on a consistent half-to-half basis.

10-Day Contract Signees

On Tuesday, the team formally announced it had signed big man Dewayne Dedmon and guard/forward Adonis Thomas to 10-day deals. The moves push the team back over the mandatory 13-player roster, as they now sit with 14 guys. While neither of them were able to get into the game against the Wizards, they’ve got some time to show the coaching staff and general manager Rob Hennigan what they can do. It’s unclear if either of them will get any playing time, but both could bring good energy to the team and help them potentially win more games.

Stat of the Night

Orlando outscored Washington by 10 points in the paint and 10 in second chance points. However, the Wizards won the fast break battle 13-0.

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