Before the Orlando Magic’s 113-108 Saturday road win over the Los Angeles Clippers, coach Jamahl Mosley addressed the “small pieces” of Markelle Fultz’s game that “go unnoticed”.
“His level of communication with his teammates, getting guys in the right position. Constantly playing with a sense of joy for the game. Those are the little things he provides this team.
“The pace in which we’re playing has changed because of how he pushes the basketball.”
Fultz (career-high 28 points to go with 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals) displayed this throughout Saturday when it was needed it, helping the Magic complete the fourth-quarter comeback to give them the first win of their road trip.
His 4 first-quarter steals set the tone defensively and helped the Magic score easy points in transition. The Magic finished with a season-high 14 steals.
But when he subbed in at 4:44 remaining with the Magic having a 93-91 lead after trailing 82-74, Fultz took his play to a different level.
The sixth-year guard scored 12 of his 28 points in the game’s final 4:36.
Fultz put pressure on the rim late, converting layups, getting to the free throw line or assisting his teammates for scoring opportunities like his alley-oop to Wendell Carter Jr. to give the Magic a 104-99 late lead.
“I’m so proud of this young man,” Mosley said. “He never walks in the building without a smile on his face. You see there’s such a level of joy in his heart for playing the game of basketball. That’s what shows up.
“You can take the number out, and just the way he plays the game. The way he has passion for his teammates. No matter what it takes to get a win, he’s going to try to do. That’s what so special about him and how his teammates feel about him.”
Carter finished with 27 points (11-of-19 shooting, 4-of-8 on 3-pointers), 12 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks.
Carter blocked Russell Westbrook at the rim with 1:34 remaining, which led to Fultz grabbing the defensive rebound, pushing the ball in transition before converting the layup to give the Magic a 106-99 lead.
“Down the stretch, being able to get a big stop when it counted and make shots and gets baskets when they count,” Mosley said. “Our guys did a great job of that. They withstood the run.”
Paul George (game-high 30 points) scored 5 consecutive points to cut into the Magic’s lead.
But Franz Wagner hit a stepback 3 over Robert Covington to give the Magic a 109-104 advantage with 40.7 seconds remaining. Fultz sealed the victory with a pair of free throws with 17.5 seconds remaining.
“It was huge,” Mosley said of Wagner’s 3-pointer. “The great part about Franz is his teammates trust him to step into that moment and make the big shots. That’s how these guys have played all year when it comes to the trust factor of one another.”
Cole Anthony had 18 points (7-of-14 shooting) and 8 rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench, giving the Magic a boost early in the fourth so they could retake the lead before the late plays from Carter, Fultz and Wagner sealed the win.
Second-year guard Jalen Suggs wasn’t available because of a concussion.
The Magic (29-42) will play the Lakers (34-37) Sunday evening in Los Angeles on the second day of a back-to-back to close out their four-game trip.