Franz Wagner’s performance in the Orlando Magic’s 113-109 Friday home win over the Toronto Raptors showcased two things: Wagner’s individual scoring versatility and an ideal version of the team’s offense.
Wagner shined individually, scoring a season-high 34 points, including the go-ahead putback layup. He was efficient and decisive, shooting 12-of-15 from the field — including 9 of 10 inside the paint — and made all 8 of his free throws.
He balanced out his scoring through the first three quarters (10, 8 and 14) before scoring the game-deciding bucket.
“I had a couple of drives off the second and third action when the defense had to move a little bit,” Wagner said when asked what he saw from Toronto’s defense that allowed him to have his season-best performance. “I saw the ball go in and had a couple of free throws early.
“After that, a couple came in transition and pick and roll through the flow of the game where it’s hard for defenses to key in on one player. That’s something I continue to do: play within the flow of the offense and not chase shots.”
Playing within the offense’s flow was a theme for the Magic throughout Friday, not just Wagner.
Although it wasn’t reflected in most numbers in a traditional box score (24 assists on 42 field goals, 19 of 21 on free throws, 50 points in the paint and 10 of 16 on 3s), the Magic accomplished what coach Jamahl Mosley wants: move the ball and prioritize getting into the paint.
They executed the gameplan as well as they have at any point this season and were rewarded with 59.2% shooting from the field and an offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) of 116.5 — their best since their Nov. 11 win over the Phoenix Suns.
“This game shows it works what the coaches are telling us,” Wagner said. “They’re telling us to get to the paint and make decisions from there. Toronto’s really good at collapsing to the paint and defending the rim. That second and third action is when you get baskets at the rim most of the time. It’s a credit to how we moved the basketball around and let everybody touch it throughout a possession.”
Forty-two of the Magic’s 71 field goal attempts came after the ball handler got into the paint, including 14 of the first 19 during the first quarter when the Magic shot 66.7% from the field (14 of 21) and 60% on 3s (60%).
This doesn’t take into account their paint touches that proceeded a non-and-1 shooting foul.
The Magic moved the ball side to side well and attacked the paint quickly off player and ball movement — a strength of the team that was further highlighted by Orlando shooting 72.2% on drives and 84% at the rim.
“It makes it a lot easier when you have guys who know how to make when to make what decision,” Wagner said. “We have so many guys who can handle the ball and make decisions. That’s when we can reach our potential, when all those guys can make decisions.”
The Magic have had more ball handlers the last few games after the returns of Fultz and Cole Anthony — giving the Magic more options to create offense.
“We continue to learn each other,” Fultz said. “Guys are starting to realize that’s the way our team can play. We’re young, athletic and we want to make everybody a threat. We’ve been doing it over the last few games, I just think [Friday] you’ve seen results of making shots and getting the shots we wanted. Something we got to continue to build on. We still had a few too many turnovers but it’s all about getting a little better each and every day.”
The Magic (7-20) and Raptors (13-13) will play each again Sunday at Amway Center to wrap up a “baseball-style” series — when two teams play consecutive games at the same venue with no travel in between.
It’ll be the third matchup between the two teams in nine days.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.