After making the playoffs for the first time since 2012 last season, the Orlando Magic got off to a bit of a disappointing start this season. Slowly but surely, however, they’ve been working their way back to .500, and that continued with a dramatic 114-112 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.
If it wasn’t for the heroics of Aaron Gordon, though, it could have very easily been another frustrating loss. After taking control at the end of the first quarter, the Magic grew their lead to as much as 17 points, and seemed to be cruising to victory until the Kings turned things up a notch in the fourth quarter. But with 1:17 to play, the Magic pushed their lead back out to seven points at 111-104, and seemed to have weathered the storm.
The Kings had other ideas. Nemanja Bjelica drained a 3, then De’Aaron Fox punished the Magic for two straight turnovers by driving inside for layups after each of them, converting an and-one on the latter. Suddenly the Kings were on an 8-0 run, and were in front, 112-111, with 15 seconds to play.
That’s when Aaron Gordon stepped up. Even Fournier dribbled around for much of the remaining time, but couldn’t find a shot he liked so he dropped the ball off to Gordon in a bit of a panic. The forward kept his composure, took the contact from Cory Joseph and dropped the little flip shot through the rim for an and-one of his own.
The Kings had 1.1 seconds left to look for a miracle, but their attempt fell short, and the Magic escaped with a win to improve to 19-21 on the season.
With how things are shaking out in the Eastern Conference, the Magic are looking in good shape to get back to the playoffs, and a win like this will only help their case. Despite still being a few games under .500, they’re in seventh place, and 4.5 games up on the 9th-place Charlotte Hornets.
To really lock up their spot, though, they’ll need more games like this from Gordon, who finished with 19 points and nine rebounds on 8-of-16 shooting. A solid game like this should be the norm for a player with Gordon’s skills and physical abilities, but instead it was a standout performance in a disappointing season.
He’s averaging just 13.2 points on 41.3 percent shooting from the field and 27.3 percent from 3, all of which are much worse than last season. If he can get back on track, that would go a long way towards helping the Magic secure a second straight postseason berth.