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Wizards start strong, hold on to beat Magic

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The Orlando Magic worked hard and made some key plays in the middle portion of the game on Friday night, but the Washington Wizards did them one better. After jumping out to a 19-point lead, Washington was able to hand on and hand the Magic a 94-91 loss at the Amway Center.

Nine minutes into the game, Orlando was down 26-7 and risked being run out of their own building. The Wizards, who had not played since Monday, were imposing their will on both ends of the court.

By halftime, the Magic had the lead down to 10 and displayed a greater sense of urgency. Coach Frank Vogel was critical of his team’s early effort, singling out point guard Elfrid Payton for “walking the ball up the court.” In the first half.

Vogel indicated Payton responded to the “coaching” he received, as did the rest of the team. A strong start to the second half sent the Magic into the fourth quarter trailing only 72-68.

Orlando made it all the way back and actually led 80-76 with 6:22 remaining. However, Wizards’ all-star guard John Wall made some big plays in the final two minutes that helped his team pull out the victory.

“He’s an elite offensive player,” said Vogel. “It is tough to keep him out of the lane and he can find people in the corner for open threes.”

Wall had 26 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, while Otto Porter added 19 and former Florida Gator Bradley Beal had 14.

Perhaps the energy needed to come back from such a deficit left the Magic low on fuel coming down the stretch. While D.J. Augustin made two key shots in the closing minutes, his teammates were mostly off the mark.

“We can’t get down early in the game by not doing what we’ve been preaching and not doing what we’re supposed to do,” said Vogel. “That’s what the first quarter looked like and I’m disappointed in our guys for that; it got us down. To their credit, we battled back and gave us a chance.”

He punctuated his disappointment with a concluding “We can’t get down 19.”

Nikola Vucevic had a huge game for Orlando with 17 points and 17 rebounds. Unfortunately, he did not touch the ball very often down the stretch. After a rough patch, it was Vucevic’s second straight strong game.

Serge Ibaka had 19 points, eight rebounds and four blocks while Payton had 15. The Magic shot it better than they have in recent games, finishing at 44 percent.

The good shooting was partially offset by 19 turnovers.

The victory was Washington’s first on the road this season after five straight losses. They are now 5-9 on the season.

Orlando suffered its third straight loss and slipped to 6-10 on the season. They will try to get back on the winnings side on Sunday night when they host the Milwaukee Bucks, who beat the Magic 93-89 in Milwaukee on Monday.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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