The Orlando Magic are hoping the return of their beginning large man will result in higher defensive performances.
Saturday’s 126-114 extra time win over the Miami Heat at Amway Center was a step in the proper path.
Wendell Carter Jr. was again within the lineup after lacking the earlier three video games — losses to the Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz — due to hip ache.
“He does so many little things,” coach Jamahl Mosley mentioned pregame. “Like his means to when to roll and the place to roll in pick-and-rolls. It’s why he and Franz [Wagner] have such an incredible connection within the pick-and-roll.
“Defensively, that early talk, that early help with the guards; helping them navigate through screens and being in the right position if something breaks down — those are the things that you don’t really pick up on because he’s covering it so fast.”
The Magic’s defensive effectivity tanked with out Carter within the earlier three video games.
They recorded a mixed defensive ranking (factors allowed per 100 possessions) of 125.8 within the aforementioned losses. Orlando had a defensive ranking of 119.6 or worse in every of these video games — equal to the San Antonio Spurs’ league-worst protection.
“I think we’re 11th at preventing shots at the rim,” Mosley mentioned. “He does a great job of communicating early. That’s what we’ve continued to talk to our guys about: it’s the early help, it’s the early communication that stops teams from wanting to get there more than anything.”
Carter’s defensive presence was felt and helped the Magic have their finest defensive efficiency in every week — albeit towards a Heat group that’s struggled this season offensively.
The Magic compelled 13 turnovers and held the Heat to 38.5% capturing by way of the primary three quarters, serving to Orlando to take a 101-86 lead with 6:03 within the fourth.
Orlando’s lead rapidly diminished, although, with Jimmy Butler scoring 15 of his game-high 38 factors within the remaining six minutes of the fourth quarter.
He knocked down an off-balance 3 on the finish of regulation to tie the sport at 108 to pressure extra time.
The Magic (28-40) didn’t waste the second probability to shut out the sport, opening the additional interval on a 10-2 run and outscoring the Heat (36-33) 18-6 in extra time.
“We were in the exact same scenario the last time we played them,” Mosley mentioned. “There were no heads hanging. Our guys had a level of resiliency about them. They were decisive in their decisions. They communicated with one another. They sat down and guarded. Our guys did a great job of showing the growth from one game to the next.”
Carter provides worth offensively, too, even with issues that don’t seem within the field rating.
They did towards the Heat, with Carter main the Magic with a 27-point, 11-rebound double-double. He scored 7 factors in extra time.
“Screening is the big thing,” Wagner mentioned of what Carter does offensively which will go unnoticed. “Getting guys open and creating the advantage for us that way. Offensive rebounds, creating extra shots for us. Wendell’s just a smart player [who’s] easy to play off of and easy to plug in.”
Seven Orlando gamers scored in double figures, together with Paolo Banchero (17 factors, 10 rebounds and 9 assists), Cole Anthony (16 factors, 6 rebounds and three assists) and Jalen Suggs (16 factors, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals).
Wagner left the sport within the fourth due to a sprained proper ankle, ending with 17 factors on 7-of-10 capturing, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in 29 minutes. X-rays on Wagner’s proper ankle had been unfavorable, the Magic mentioned, earlier than including the analysis was a sprain.
Heat guard Kyle Lowry (12 factors and 4 assists in 36 minutes off the bench) was again within the Heat’s lineup after lacking the earlier 15 video games due to left knee soreness.
Miami was taking part in on the second night time of a back-to-back after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami-Dade Arena Friday.
“That veteran leadership and toughness,” Mosley mentioned of what Lowry, a 17-year veteran and six-time All-Star, brings to the Heat. “Obviously, defensively he crawls into the ball. His ability to make big-time plays and big-time shots.”
Saturday closed out a four-game homestand, with the Magic kicking off a four-game western journey Tuesday in San Antonio.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or comply with him on Twitter at @khobi_price.