Orlando, Fla. — The Orlando Magic have only three games left, and before Thursday’s loss to the Nets, they began the unofficial practice of shutting down veterans and getting a look at the youth.
For Orlando, that youth came in the form of recently-signed swingmen Patricio Garino and Marcus Georges-Hunt, who joined the team on Monday. The two youngsters would see 14 and 20 minutes respectively and would make a significant contribution to a Magic team that took the floor without forwards Jeff Green and Evan Fournier.
The Magic took control of this one early and closed it out before the fourth quarter started, as a very hot Jodie Meeks scored 13-straight points and 18 total in the third quarter. Though he would finish with 20, Meeks, who started in place of Fournier, would propel the Magic offense down the stretch when the needed a spark.
Speaking of sparks, Magic coach Frank Vogel called Jodie Meeks “flammable” and adding, “You put a spark near him and he has the ability to get hot and catch fire…He was very pivotal in this victory.”
As for the youth movement in Orlando, the Magic’s original identity as a veteran-heavy team, as well as their pace of play was altered when they swapped veteran big man Serge Ibaka for springy wing Terrence Ross on February 14. That change brought with it youth, explosiveness, and potential.
Tonight, the Magic opened up the benches and gave heavy run to the younger members of the team. In addition to Garino and Georges-Hunt, the Magic played rookie Steven Zimmerman and gave heavy minutes to Mario Hezonja, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon, who look to be key pieces to the future barring organizational changes.
“I feel super overjoyed and happy about the situation,” said Garino. “I’m a little hard on myself, and I always try and be perfect and today my shot didn’t go in but I think I gave the coaching staff a good impression of what I can do defensively.”
With a win and a Philadelphia 76ers loss, the Orlando Magic (28-51) jumped the 6ers in the NBA standings, but the 6ers jumped the Magic for better odds to get the No. 1 overall draft pick.
The NBA season is coming to a close, with three games left in the Magic’s season. Next, they stay home and play the Pacers on Saturday night.