Fri Aug 14 12:19am ET
Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) drives against New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes (10) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) Nikola Vucevic scored 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the floor and the Orlando Magic tuned up for the postseason by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 133-127 on Thursday to snap a five-game skid.
Both teams were missing many of their top players in a regular-season finale that carried no playoff implications.
Orlando was locked into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and will face the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in a first-round series beginning Tuesday. New Orleans already was out of playoff contention, so its season ended Thursday.
''It was good to finish off on a positive note,'' Vucevic said. ''Now we can focus obviously on Milwaukee.''
The Magic built a 22-point lead in the third quarter and hung on to beat a pesky New Orleans team that got some surprising individual performances.
New Orleans' Frank Jackson scored 31 points and Nickeil Alexander-Walker added 29, both career highs. Josh Hart had 23 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. Jaxson Hayes scored 13 points.
''I looked at it as an opportunity for me to develop as a rookie and to (transition) into next season, try to bring positive energy into the offseason for my game'' Alexander-Walker said. ''I'm feeling confident, I know what to work on and the high points.''
D.J. Augustin scored 22 points for Orlando. James Ennis III had 16, Wes Iwundu had 15 and Markelle Fultz had 11. Melvin Frazier Jr. and Vic Law each scored 10 points, career highs for both.
Jackson made a driving layup to cut Orlando's lead to 129-124 with 24.4 seconds left, but Orlando went 4 of 6 on free-throw attempts the rest of the way to seal the win.
''I thought it was a very free-flowing game,'' Magic coach Steve Clifford said. ''The pace was very quick. Obviously our defense will have to be better on Tuesday, but we had good energy.''
Orlando scored 43 points in the second period - a franchise record for second-quarter points - to build a 77-61 halftime lead. Orlando matched its fourth-highest first-half point total in team history, four off the record of 81 that the Magic set in a 149-113 victory over Atlanta on April 5, 2019.
The Magic racked up those points by shooting 76.5% (13 of 18) from 3-point range over the first two periods and tying the franchise record for 3-pointers made in a half. New Orleans trailed by 16 at the intermission despite shooting 64.9% (24 of 38) from the floor in the first half.
''Once again, I think our defense let us down,'' Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said.
Orlando led 93-71 midway through the third quarter before New Orleans crept back into the game. The Pelicans went on a 10-0 run that began late in the third quarter and carried into the final period to cut Orlando's lead to 99-88.
New Orleans stayed close for most of the fourth quarter but couldn't come all the way back.
Orlando was missing Evan Fournier (non-COVID illness), Aaron Gordon (strained left hamstring), Terrence Ross (self-isolating) and Michael Carter-Williams (strained left foot) along with Jonathan Isaac, who won't play again this year after tearing the left anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Aug. 2. The Magic had only 10 available players.
New Orleans rookie phenom Zion Williamson (sore right knee) was listed on the injury report as out along with Jrue Holiday (bruised right elbow) and Brandon Ingram (sore right knee). Lonzo Ball, Derrick Favors, E'Twaun Moore and JJ Redick also didn't play.
Pelicans: Alexander-Walker, a rookie from Virginia Tech, made his first career start. Jackson made his second start of the season.
Magic: Clifford was encouraged to learn the Magic's series with Milwaukee will start on Tuesday rather than Monday because it gives his injury-riddled team more time to recover. ''We have four guys who will be coming back and it gives us an extra day, which will be good for them, and an extra day to prepare,'' Clifford said before Thursday's game. ''The big thing is those four guys can get healthier and can get back on the floor, hopefully.''
New Orleans leaves the bubble and begins its offseason.
Orlando opens its first-round series with Milwaukee on Tuesday. The Bucks beat the Magic in all four of their regular-season matchups.
Denver Nuggets forward Jerami Grant is expected to opt-out of the final year of his contract. He is set to make $9.4 million next season, but is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Grant was one of the best players during the Nuggets playoff run, so it's not surprising to see him testing the open market. After Saturday's loss, Grant did express interest in playing with Denver next season. Grant obviously believes he is worth more money, so we'll see if the Nuggets plan on giving it to him. He has significantly raised his fantasy value this season.
Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins made 100 consecutive free throws at the end of Sunday's practice. He has improved his free throw percentage each season in the NBA. Collins hit 71.5 percent as a rookie, 76.3 percent in his second season, and 80.0 percent in 2019-20. He continues to become a better player each and every season. Collins is a fantasy star in the making and will get plenty of looks in the first round of drafts.
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is expected to accept his player option for next season. The option is worth $34 million, which is much higher than Hayward would receive on the open market. His time in Boston has been disappointing, but injuries have derailed him for most of it. He averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists this season, which is his best season in Boston. He could be someone worth looking at late in drafts next season.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is expected to receive a max contract extension from the organization this offseason. This is a no-brainer for the Celtics after the 22-year-old proved himself to be a superstar this season. He averaged 25.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals and 2.8 triples during the playoffs. It appears the Celtics have a superstar forward for the foreseeable future. Expect Tatum to be someone coming off early in the first round of many fantasy draft boards.
Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine is excited to begin working with new head coach Billy Donovan. I was extremely happy, LaVine said of the hire. He continued by saying if you want to be great then you need to be coached extremely well. Former head coach Jim Boylen failed to get the most of his young core during his time in Chicago. LaVine is one of many young Bulls players who should benefit from the hiring of Donovan. The Bulls have a legitimate shot at the playoffs with Donovan running the show. Some of these young Bulls players could be climbing up draft boards in fantasy leagues pretty quick.
Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is reportedly looking to play elsewhere after the two sides failed to agree on terms for a contract extension. Oladipo reportedly turned down an offer of four years $80 million as he believes that he is worth more than that. Sadly, Oladipo has not looked the same since his quad injury. He averaged 17.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 39 percent shooting during the playoffs. Oladipo still has one year left on his contract. However, the team is likely going to shop him around if Oladipo plans to walk after next season.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green (finger) is listed as probable for Thursday's Game 4 versus the Denver Nuggets. He tweaked his left ring finger on his non-shooting hand. Green is fully expected to suit up for this one. He hasn't put together great fantasy value during the playoffs, but has had his moments. Alex Caruso (wrist) and Rajon Rondo might see more minutes if Green does sit out. Fantasy owners should check back for another update closer to tip-off on Thursday.
New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has decided to sit out the upcoming voluntary workouts in the bubble. He did go through some individual workouts last week, but has chosen to not attend these events. The workouts start on Wednesday, but Robinson won't participate due to personal reasons. It would've been nice to see Robinson get in some extra work with head coach Tom Thibodeau. However, there is plenty of time for that with the season likely not starting until January. Robinson should have promising upside for fantasy leagues next season.
Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield had a fairly rocky season, but did find some success coming off the bench with the second unit. Kings general manager Monte McNair praised Hield and mentioned that he is an important piece to their vision. Hield didn't seem too happy about playing off the bench, so we'll see if that changes going forward. McNair mentioned that he wants head coach Luke Walton to increase the pace next season. Whether he's starting or off the bench, Hield is worth grabbing in the middle rounds of most drafts next season.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso (wrist) is listed as probable for Thursday's Game 4 contest against the Denver Nuggets. Caruso mentioned that his left wrist felt a little stiff after Tuesday's loss. He'll get an MRI on Wednesday, but Caruso is expected to play through the issue. Fantasy owners should check back for another update before tip-off on Thursday. Rajon Rondo would likely see more minutes coming his way if Caruso sits out.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Dion Waiters (groin) is expected to miss Tuesday's Game 3 contest against the Denver Nuggets. Waiters has missed each of the last five games due to a left groin injury. He is currently listed as doubtful for this game, so it's unlikely that he suits up here. His absence won't mean a whole lot for the Lakers rotation. Alex Caruso and Rajon Rondo could see a few extra minutes coming their way.
New Orleans Pelicans guard J.J. Redick mentioned that he'd like to play another four years in the league. "I realized this year I want to keep playing as long as possible. My goal is to play four more years," said Redick. He'll walk away from the game when he turns 40 years old, assuming his body can hold up until then. It's not unrealistic to think that Redick can play four more seasons after averaging 15.3 points this season. He has one year left on his current deal with the Pelicans. Redick usually carries some low-end fantasy value, assuming he continues to play like he did this season.
Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson has shown interest in staying with the organization next season. It sounds like there is mutual interest between both sides, but it's unclear if a deal will happen. Bringing back Thompson wouldn't make much sense if Andre Drummond accepts his player option, which he is expected to do. Thompson might be forced to test his luck on the free agent market. He won't have much value in fantasy hoops if stays in Cleveland alongside Drummond.
Boston Celtics guard Romeo Langford (wrist) is scheduled to undergo surgery on Tuesday and will miss the rest of the postseason. He'll undergo surgery to repair the scapholunate ligament in his right wrist. The Celtics have not given a timetable for the young guards return yet. However, the season isn't expected to start until around December, so Langford should have plenty of time to recover. His absence won't mean much for the Celtics rotation. Hopefully he'll be able to contribute to the team next season.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George and forward Kawhi Leonard are committed to playing alongside each other. Both players have one year left on their deals, but have player options for the following season. Obviously, they didn't get the result they wanted this season, but they'll have another shot at it soon. The Clippers are desperate to make this core work after trading seven first-rounders and a future star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for George. Both players should remain top tier fantasy options in leagues next season.
Denver Nuggets guard/forward Will Barton (knee) is not expected to return to the team at any point of the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The 29-year-old has not appeared in a game since the NBA restart in Orlando as he continues to rehabilitate from a knee injury that he suffered earlier in the season. With the Nuggets two games away from elimination in the Western Conference Finals, Barton's next game action will likely be delayed to the start of the 2020-21 season after averaging 15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.1 steals on 45% shooting from field goal range through 58 games during the 2019-20 season.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Dylan Windler (leg) is ready to participate in 5-on-5 workouts. He was a first round pick by the Cavs in 2019, but didn't play in a single game for the team. Windler suffered a leg injury that resulted in surgery, which cost him the entire season. It sounds like he is making progress and getting ready for next year. However, he'll face an uphill battle for minutes after the emergence of Kevin Porter Jr. towards the end of the regular season. Windler could find some minutes in Cleveland next season, but probably won't play enough to warrant drafting in most formats.
Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans decided to sit out the Orlando bubble in order to preserve his health for free agency. Bertans is an upcoming free agent and the Wizards had a slim chance of making the playoffs. He didn't believe it was worth the risk after not playing basketball for almost two months. Bertans sitting out shouldn't hinder his value whatsoever on the free agent market. He'll be a highly coveted player, but the Wizards are likely going to be aggressive to keep him in Washington.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had a three-hour meeting with co-owner Marc Lasry on Saturday. They reportedly discussed the season and how the Bucks can improve their roster. Lasry confirmed that he is willing to go over the luxury tax this offseason. It sounds like the Bucks are trying everything to keep Antetokounmpo happy in Milwaukee. We'll see what happens during the offseason.
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (ankle) has been ruled out for Tuesday's Game 1 against the Miami Heat. He was listed as doubtful, but it appears Hayward will remain sidelined for this one. Hayward is likely going to need to go through a full practice before being allowed back on the court. The team is hopeful that Hayward will be able to play at some point during this series. It's unclear whether or not he'll be limited when he does return. Fantasy owners should keep an eye out for updates. In the meantime, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart will benefit with increased playing time.