The Orlando Magic beat the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night, 96-93, to improve their record to 10-8 and mark their first four-game win streak since December 19, 2012.
Though its early in the season, both teams are currently locked in a struggle for that much-sought 8th seed. The Magic’s record barely moves them into place, over a Boston Celtics team with the same record. The Timberwolves are in the reverse situation, one spot under an 8th-seeded Phoenix Suns team with an identical record (8-10).
Team ball won the the day, as the Magic had four starters, and six players overall, scoring in the double digits, while only two Timberwolves starters and two bench players did the same. Nikola Vučević made a team-high 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Magic, while the Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins led all scorers with 27. Timberwolves’ starters Ricky Rubio, Kevin Garnett and Karl-Anthony-Towns combined for 13 points on 3 of 24 shooting.
The Timberwolves’ shooting woes continued, as they finished the game with 37 percent field-goal shooting and 21 percent on three-pointers. The Magic, on the other hand, shot 44 percent on field goals and 29 percent on three-pointers, enough to edge out this game.
It’s not like the Timberwolves didn’t have a chance, though. After being down as much as 17 points in the third quarter, the ‘wolves clawed their way back into the game and tied it up at 87 points with four minutes left in the game. But stifling defense from the Magic and poor shooting kept the Timberwolves from clinching the game. And despite his herculean effort, when clutch time came, Andrew Wiggins faltered.
With five seconds left in the game and a chance to tie, Wiggins stepped to the free throw line. He made the first but missed the second, leaving the ‘wolves down 94-93. The ‘wolves fouled Andrew Nicholson (15 points on 6-12 shooting and six rebounds), who scored two quick free throws to give the ‘wolves the ball back, down 96-93. With two seconds left on the clock, Wiggins stepped to the three-point line for the potential buzzer-beating game-saver. But a block by Aaron Gordon spoiled any hopes the ‘wolves had of riding their momentum to an overtime win.
The last time the Magic won four straight they beat the Golden State Warriors, the Charlotte Bobcats, the Timberwolves, and the Washington Wizards in a five-day span. Those were the days when the likes of Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis and Aaron Afflalo were on the Magic’s starting line-up. In fact, of that squad only Vučević and Nicholson are still around, and six of the players on the Magic’s young roster now weren’t even in the NBA then.
This kind of success, the one that comes from hard-fought matches and consistency on the floor, can only bode well for a Magic team looking to get back to its former success and put these rebuilding years behind them.