Late-charging Magic bring perfect record to OKC

NBA Basketball

The Orlando Magic are saving the best for last during their 3-0 start to the season.

Going into their Tuesday road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Magic are averaging 38.3 points in the fourth quarter.

Markelle Fultz has been a big reason for Orlando’s late-game success.

The guard scored a combined 16 points in the last two fourth quarters, both road wins at Washington.

He scored more than 20 points in each of those games after reaching the 20-point mark just six times in his first 105 career games.

“He makes big plays late in the game,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “He wants the ball and he plays with a lot of courage late in the game.”

While Fultz has played a big part late, the Magic’s success goes far beyond him.

Orlando features one of the most balanced offenses in the league, with four players averaging at least 17.3 points per game and none averaging more than 23.3.

In the Magic’s most recent game, a 120-113 triumph over the Wizards on Sunday, Orlando outscored Washington 43-19 in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.

The Magic have outscored their opponents by 14.3 points per game in the fourth quarter, twice coming back from a deficit to start the quarter and once extending what was a one-point lead going into the fourth into a double-digit win.

The Magic have won their first three games for the first time since 2009 and just the fourth time in the 32-year history of the franchise. The Magic have never started a season 4-0. They will try to break through that barrier at a place where they’ve had little success in recent years.

Orlando is just 2-10 against the Thunder in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder are coming off a 110-109 home loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday night. Oklahoma City led by 12 points in the second quarter and by nine in the fourth quarter before a Donovan Mitchell-led comeback guided the Jazz to the win.

Mitchell hit the go-ahead hoop with seven seconds to play.

Oklahoma City, which overhauled its roster in the offseason to get younger — and cheaper — as part of a rebuild, has at least been competitive early, starting the season with a pair of games that have come down to the wire.

Both times, first-year coach Mark Daigneault put the ball in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s hands with a chance to win it on the final possession.

Gilgeous-Alexander hit the game-winner on Saturday in Charlotte in the season opener but missed a chance for an encore Monday when his layup attempt was unsuccessful just before the buzzer.

Daigneault believes playing tight games can only benefit his young team.

“Really valuable,” the coach said. “This is the reality of a competitive league (and) we competed all the way through.”

Oklahoma City will be without guard Ty Jerome on Tuesday for the third consecutive game. Jerome, who is sidelined due to an ankle injury, will be back in the “not-too-distant future,” Daigneault said Monday.

The Magic are expected to be without James Ennis (hamstring) and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) again. Neither has played this season.

–Field Level Media

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