After offense erupts, road momentum sought
Magic head to Utah to face Jazz team with a similar makeup
SALT LAKE CITY – After his team gathers a defensive rebound and begins to head up the floor, you can often hear Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford calling out, “Pace!”
Clifford wants his team to quickly get into its halfcourt set. From there, ball movement begins and good shots usually follow.
Increased pace and ball movement were on display in Sunday’s 130-119 win at the Pelicans as the Magic posted season-highs for points and 3-pointers (17).
They also recorded 32 assists and put eight players in double figures, tying the franchise mark.
The team’s 3-point shooting, for the most part, came from the flow of offense. Orlando was 11 of 17 from behind the arc in the second half.
“They got good shots and they made them,” Clifford told reporters on Monday after the team practiced at the University of Utah. “Obviously when you shoot the ball like that, it makes everything else easier.”
They could use a similar shooting performance on Tuesday night when they face the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. It’s the second of a four-game road trip for Orlando.
The game tips off at 9 p.m. and will air on Fox Sports Florida. And as they did Sunday in New Orleans, the Magic will wear their City Edition uniforms.
The Jazz are 10-3 at home but
have slipped lately, losing two of their past four games. Still, the Jazz are a formidable opponent. With big man Derrick Favors now in New Orleans, the Jazz feature more shooters around center Rudy Gobert. They can spread teams out more, creating more driving opportunities for shooting guard and leading scorer Donovan Mitchell (25.0 ppg). He averages 16.2 drives into the paint per game.
More space also benefits Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic, who seems to save his best for the Magic.
In 15 career games against Orlando, Bogdanovic has averaged 18.7 points while shooting 53.1% from the field — both his top marks against any opponent. He also shoots 43.9% from the 3-point line against Orlando.
Bogdanovic, who signed with the Jazz as a free agent during the offseason, is averaging a career-best 20.8 points per game and shooting 45.6% from behind the arc with a team-best 83 3-pointers. He’s actually shooting better on his 3-point attempts than on his 2-point attempts.
Utah point guard Mike Conley, also a threat to drive the ball into the paint, has missed five straight games with a hamstring injury. Conley has been tackling his rehab with an aggressive approach and could return for Tuesday’s game, according to Eric Walden of the Salt Lake City Tribune.
Tuesday’s game will be the first meeting between the Magic and the Jazz this season but it won’t be long before they wrap up their season series. They are scheduled to play again Jan. 4 in Orlando.
Bamba delivers early energy plays: It didn’t take long for Mo Bamba to make an impact during Sunday’s win in New Orleans.
The 7-foot center replaced Nikola Vucevic at the 3:39 mark of the first quarter and 4 seconds later he grabbed the rebound after Terrence Ross missed a 15-foot jumper. Bamba was off with his follow-up jump hook but he grabbed that miss and converted it into a basket from 2 feet away.
Early in the second quarter, Bamba was on the offensive glass again. This time he grabbed a miss by Aaron Gordon and turned it into a layup. Bamba’s hustle turned into a three-point play when he was fouled by the Pelicans’ Favors and made the ensuing free throw.
“That’s what Coach harps on me about, just getting out there and just adding a spark. I think those two plays were definitely in the right direction,” Bamba said.
Bamba’s play also made it a little easier to limit the minutes for Vucevic, who was playing in his first game since Nov. 20 after recovering from an ankle injury. In just 17 minutes, Bamba scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including a 2-of-3 effort from the 3-point line, and grabbed six rebounds.
Bamba knocked down a 3 and a 12-foot baseline jumper to help key a fourth-quarter spurt that built a 25-point lead for the Magic.
Over his past 12 games, with 11 of those coming while Vucevic was out with an ankle injury, Bamba has averaged 8.3 points, shooting 52.7% from the field and 50.0% from the 3-point line.
Bamba said he’s in a good place with his game and is playing more freely.
“Just getting out there and letting loose and shooting the ball with confidence,” he said.
Terrence Ross and the Magic put up a season-high 130 points on Sunday against the Pelicans. Orlando will continue its four-game road trip against Western Conference foes Tuesday night in Utah.