The Orlando Magic are still far from whole, but they got a lot closer to resembling their full selves vs. the Atlanta Hawks.
With the returns of Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony Wednesday at Amway Center, the Magic not only had 12 players available after having nine in Monday’s road loss to the Brooklyn Nets, but they got back two of their more prominent guards.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for the Magic to end their losing streak, falling to the Hawks 125-108 for their sixth consecutive loss, dropping to 5-17 on the season.
Fultz made his season debut as a starter alongside Gary Harris, Franz Wagner (22 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists), Paolo Banchero (20 points, 5 rebounds) and Bol Bol (6 points, 5 rebounds).
Harris exited the game because of right hamstring tightness, not scoring in 17 first-half minutes.
Fultz missed the first 21 games after fracturing his big left toe late in the offseason in September, which also forced him to be sidelined for training camp and the preseason.
“I’m always so happy to see him back on the floor,” coach Jamahl Mosley said of Fultz. “Every time he walks in the gym, you get to see his level of excitement and joy for the game.”
Anthony missed the last 16 games after exiting the Oct. 26 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers with a torn right internal oblique.
He averaged 15.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in four games (30.5 minutes) before his injury.
“He’s a guy who can create offense on his own and certainly play off the ball,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said pregame, “and gives them another weapon coming off the bench.”
Mosley said Fultz was on a minutes restriction of about 15 minutes while Anthony’s minutes restriction was around 20.
Fultz had 8 points (3-of-8 shooting, 2 of 2 on FTs) and 4 assists in 17 minutes while Anthony fouled out with 4:07 remaining, recording 11 points (3-of-7 shooting), 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 24 minutes.
Trae Young (30 points, 14 assists) and Dejounte Murray (27 points, 6 assists) led a Hawks offense that scored 62 points in the paint, had 14 offensive rebounds for 20 second-chance points and scored 22 points off the Magic’s 18 turnovers.
The improved player availability will be helpful for a Magic team that has dealt with health issues all season. They’ve had at least five players sidelined each game and had 121 total player games missed to injury/illness — the most in the league.
The Magic have been especially thin at guard, with Anthony, Fultz, Harris and Jalen Suggs missing a combined 62 games.
Harris missed the season’s first 15 games while he recovered from a procedure on his left knee in late August after tearing cartilage, which also forced him to miss training camp.
Suggs, who was sidelined for five games earlier in the season because of a sprained right ankle, sat for the third consecutive game because of right ankle soreness.
Wendell Carter Jr. (strained right plantar fascia strain), Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury recovery), Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness) and Mo Bamba (back spasms) also sat.
“It’s great to have guards back on the floor,” Mosley said. “A lot of it is going to be a rhythm for these guys. Because they’re back in the lineup, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to fall back into the puzzle piece right away. They’ve got to develop a chemistry, how they play with the guys in the lineup — we’re going to have to keep looking at that.”