The Orlando Magic defeated the Atlanta Hawks by a score of 101-91 Sunday night at Amway Center in the latest divisional matchup between the two teams.
Magic center Nikola Vucevic’s strong first-half performance helped give the Magic a 10-point lead at halftime. Vucevic scored 17 of the Magic’s 28 first-quarter points. He finished the game with a double-double, scoring 27 points and grabbing 20 rebounds.
Orlando head coach Steve Clifford said he feels that with Vucevic on the floor, the Magic have two point guards running the offense.
“I think the thing that [Vucevic] does that separates him in my opinion from most other centers is when he has the ball, we are organized because of his decision-making and his understanding of who he’s on the floor with and what they can do,” Clifford said.
The Hawks cut the Magic’s lead to five late in the fourth quarter, but a big three-point shot from Magic guard Evan Fournier and Orlando’s ability to make free throws down the stretch helped protect and extend the lead.
The Hawks only shot 22.9 percent from the three-point line, and the Magic finished the game with 12 steals. Clifford said he was pleased with the team’s defense, despite the Hawks having played two days in a row.
“Even though it was two days in a row for them, if you look at the offensive numbers they’ve been putting up, I think our defense was very good,” he said.
The Magic also received big contributions from starting forward Aaron Gordon, who scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and forward Wes Iwundu, who scored 14 points coming off the bench.
Vucevic has averaged 24 points and 13 rebounds against the Hawks this year. Atlanta head coach Lloyd Pierce said his team has to find a way to slow him down the next time the two teams face each other.
“I mean, 27 [points] and 20 [rebounds] is a handful and we’ve got to find a way to slow him down the next time we play in two weeks,” Pierce said. “...He has been tough for us all year.”
The Magic are currently in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings and are only one game behind the Miami Heat for the final spot in the playoff hunt.
The Magic will take on the New Orleans Pelicans at home Wednesday night at Amway Center. Tipoff at 7 p.m.