ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Orlando Magic opened up their 30th season in an exciting way on Wednesday night. Led by Aaron Gordon’s 26 points and 16 rebounds, the Magic won in front of the 9th largest crowd in team history by the score of 104-101.
Gordon showed off all of his growing offensive game Wednesday. He went 9 for 18 from the floor, hit 4 of his 5 attempts from the 3-point line and was even more impressive on the glass. His 16 rebounds tied a career-high and he also added two assists in the team high 38 minutes played.
Orlando missed three free throws in the final 12.3 seconds and it gave Miami one last chance to steal a game on the road, but Jonathan Isaac forced Josh Richardson to step out of bounds with 3.5 seconds left, allowing the Magic to start the season with a victory.
The Magic started off the game slow and it allowed the Heat to get off to big lead. The Heat led by as many as 14 points in the opening quarter, but the Magic used defense to chip away the deficit. After Miami went up 28-14, they proceeded to miss 15 of their next 18 shots and it allowed the Magic to tie the game with 6:32 left in the second quarter.
“It feels good, man. It’s always good to win on opening night. It’s always good to beat Miami. We were down 14 [points] at [one] point. It shows that we are fighters. That’s what we’re going to be about this year. We’re going to fight. I thought the second unit did a great job for us, honestly. Mo [Mohamed Bamba], Simms (Jonathon Simmons), T-Ross [Terrance Ross], JG [Jerian Grant], and everyone; they all stepped up and that’s a big reason why we had a W tonight.”- Magic guard Evan Fournier on winning on opening night
Over the next quarter-and-a-half, both teams went back and forth with the lead, with neither leading by more than seven points. Then the defensive efforts of reserves Terrance Ross and rookie Mohamed Bamba took over. Both players combined to block 4 of their 6 total blocks in a six-minute period early in the fourth quarter as the Magic built an 11-point lead.
“No question, no question. It started with them, you know so much of it is having the chance to control the ball. They drive the ball, they cut when they drive and the ball is constantly going in the paint. You’re not going to prevent them from doing it, like I said, they were top five last year and I think fifth in drives into the paint, I think sixth in paint touches, but we did better as the game went on, which is a good sign. They’re not an easy team to play against.”- Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford on the impact of Terrance Ross and Mohamed Bamba
Wednesday night marked the third straight year that the two sunshine state teams opened up the season against each other. On Friday night, the Magic will take on Steve Clifford’s former team the Charlotte Hornets at Amway Center at 7pm while the Heat will travel to Washington on Thursday night to play the Wizards.
Danny Thompson is a sports contributor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org