With 1.5 seconds left, Nikola Vucevic hit a fallaway 18-foot jump shot (watch video below) that propelled the Orlando Magic to a 101-99 victory over Los Angeles Lakers in a thrilling game Wednesday night. The Lakers (1-7) endured back-to-back defeats on its road trip to Florida, a night after losing to Miami Heat. Magic improved to a 4-5 record in the wide-open Eastern Conference.
Vucevic, the 7-foot center who started all 223 games he played for the Magic over the last four seasons, came off the bench for the first time after missing three games with a bruised knee. “I didn’t decide I could play until just before the game, so I was OK with not starting,” said Vucevic, who finished with 18 points and 5 rebounds from 26 minutes. “I was just glad the coach (Scott Skiles) had confidence in me to take the last shot. That was a difficult matchup,” added the Swiss star.
The Lakers put their best defender, Roy Hibbert, on Vucevic – who caught the inbound pass, dribbled, leaned back and lofted a prayer just over Hibbert’s outstretched hand as the Amway Center celebrated the thrilling conclusion. “That one might have been more luck than skill,” a humble Vucevic conceded. “If I just turned around and shot it, (Hibbert) probably would have blocked it, but I threw it up as high as I could and it went in.”
Shabazz Napier, the sophomore guard, led Magic with 22 points including five made three-pointers while Evan Frontier added 16. The Magic’s bench was simply outstanding, accounting for 65 of the 101 points.
For the Lakers, six players got into double figures, led by Hibbert’s 15 and rookie D’Angelo Russell’s 14. Russell looked a lot more aggressive than previous outings, attacking the paint and displaying his first step. Lou Williams, who scored 13 points, air-balled his game-winning attempt, giving the Magic 1.5 seconds with the ball. Essentially, this was the second time in the season Williams missed a chance to win the game.
“Obviously we didn’t make the shot and they came down and made it so you’ve got to give the big fella (Vucevic) credit,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said after his team suffered yet another defeat. “We had some defensive breakdowns. We could easily have won three of the four games on this road trip, but the way we played defensively, we could easily be 0-4. Teams are killing us on the offensive glass. Our guys have just got to do a much better job of finishing plays,” added Scott.
The Lakers wrap up their five-game road trip with a visit to Dallas on Friday.