Wendell Carter return fuels Magic’s overtime win over Heat – The Mercury News


The Orlando Magic will be hoping the return of their starting center will lead to better defensive performances.

Saturday’s 126-114 overtime win over the Miami Heat at the Amway Center was a step in the right direction.

Wendell Carter Jr. was back in the lineup after missing the previous three games – losses to the Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz – because of hip pain.

“He does so many little things,” coach Jamahl Mosley said before the game. “Like his ability to roll when and where to roll in pick-and-rolls. That’s why he and Franz [Wagner] has such a good connection in the pick-and-roll.

“Defensively, that initial conversation, that early help with the guards; helping them navigate the screens and being in the right position if something breaks – these are the things you don’t really notice because he’s covering everything so quickly.

The Magic’s defensive efficiency has plummeted without Carter in the previous three games.

They posted a combined defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 125.8 in the aforementioned losses. Orlando had a defensive rating of 119.6 or worse in each of those games – equivalent to the San Antonio Spurs’ worst defense in the league.

“I think we’re 11th in pitch prevention at the rim,” Mosley said. “He does a great job of communicating early on. That’s what we keep talking to our people about: It’s the initial help, it’s the initial communication that stops teams from wanting to get there more than anything.”

Carter’s defensive presence was felt and helped the Magic to their best defensive performance in a week – albeit against a Heat team that has struggled offensively this season.

The Magic forced 13 turnovers and held the Heat to 38.5% shooting through the first three quarters, helping Orlando take a 101-86 lead with 6:03 in the quarter.

Orlando’s lead quickly dwindled, however, as Jimmy Butler scored 15 of his game-high 38 points in the last six minutes of the fourth quarter.

He knocked down a lopsided 3 late in regulation to tie the game at 108 to force overtime.

The Magic (28-40) did not waste the second chance to close the game, opening overtime at 10-2 and overcoming the Heat (36-33) by 18-6 in overtime.

“We were in the exact same scenario as the last time we played them,” Mosley said. “There were no hanging heads. Our guys had a level of resilience about them. They were decisive in their decisions. They communicated with each other. They sat and watched. Our guys did a great job of showing the growth from one game to the next.”

Carter adds value offensively too, even with things that don’t show up on the scoreboard.

They did against the Heat, with Carter leading the Magic with a double-double of 27 points and 11 rebounds. He scored 7 points in overtime.

“The triage is the big thing,” Wagner said of what Carter does offensively that might go unnoticed. “Opening up the guys and creating an advantage for us that way. Offensive rebounds, creating extra shots for us. Wendell is just a smart player [who’s] easy to play and easy to connect.”

Seven Orlando players scored in double figures, including Paolo Banchero (17 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists), Cole Anthony (16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists) and Jalen Suggs (16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals ball) .

Wagner left the game in the fourth with a sprained right ankle, finishing with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in 29 minutes. X-rays on Wagner’s right ankle were negative, the Magic said, before adding that the diagnosis was a sprain.

Heat guard Kyle Lowry (12 points and 4 assists in 36 minutes off the bench) was back in the Heat’s lineup after missing the previous 15 games with sore left knee.

Miami was playing for a second consecutive night after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami-Dade Arena on Friday.

“That veteran leadership and toughness,” Mosley said of what Lowry, a 17-year veteran and six-time All-Star, brings to the Heat. “Obviously defensively he crawls for the ball. His ability to make big plays and big shots.”

Saturday capped off a four-game homestand, as the Magic began a four-game westbound road trip on Tuesday in San Antonio.

This article first appeared in OrlandoSentinel.com. Khobi price by email at khprice@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.


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