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Orlando Magic suffer another playoff-push blow, fall 100-90 to Washington Wizards

Once again the Orlando Magic had a chance to win a crucial game to keep pace in the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoff chase, and once again they failed.

The Washington Wizards squashed a late Orlando rally, scoring the final six points of Wednesday’s game and shutting out the Magic in the last three minutes as the Wizards sent the Magic to their fourth loss in the last five games, 100-90.

The loss dropped the Magic to 31-38 overall and once again they failed to make any ground in the East standings. The late collapse led swingman Evan Fournier to question whether his team was even ready to make a playoff run.

“We didn’t play like a team that wants to go to the playoffs. The intensity wasn’t there. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t playoff-like. We just didn’t deserve to win,” said Fournier. “They played harder. They outworked us, being more active, being more physical.

“I don’t know. … Maybe it’s too late, but it’s very disappointing, for sure.”

D.J. Augustin and Fournier hit a pair of 3-pointers just before the Magic drought and it looked like the Magic had something rolling, down by four points with just under three minutes remaining at Capital One Arena.

“Yeah, but we shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. We had a good run in the third quarter and we didn’t capitalize on that,” Fournier said. “That’s another game we should have won.”

Jabari Parker and Thomas Bryant answered the Magic’s pair of 3-pointers with six straight points, and Bryant’s driving dunk in the lane sealed the victory with 52 seconds left. Bryant’s 21 points and Parker’s 19 were a big reason why the Wizards bench outscored the Magic’s 58-20. The Magic only scored 37 points in the second half.

“This isn’t hard without watching the film. Their bench was great. ... Bryant, Parker, [Troy] Brown, [Chasson] Randle had great games,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “And then I thought the other half too was, and we’ve struggled with this … they are quick and athletic and they get up and into the ball, up and into the passing lanes. We had trouble with that just getting through that. You’ve gotta have great offensive force and be able to play through stuff, and we didn’t do a good job with that.

“But the difference was the bench.”

Washington’s Bradley Beal had a game-high 23 points. Orlando was led by Nikola Vucevic’s 20 points and 14 rebounds.

The Magic took their first lead of the second half when Jonathan Isaac hit a pair of 3-pointers, sandwiching a Jerian Grant field goal late in the third quarter, and Orlando was up 74-71. Isaac also took a charge by Washington’s Bobby Portis to help the Magic momentum, but it was short-lived as Randle hit a 3 and Beal also scored to give Washington a 76-74 lead heading to the final quarter.

Orlando flip-flopped leads 10 times with the Wizards in the first quarter, but Washington rattled off nine straight points after a Khem Birch free throw to start the second quarter and built a 12-point lead en route to a 61-53 halftime edge.

The Magic have been in a bit of a downward spiral since knocking off Golden State on Feb. 28 in a playoff-like atmosphere at Amway Center. Since that triumph and a victory at Indiana, they have lost four of five games, leaving nearly every member of the team shaking his head.

Aaron Gordon, who had 13 points against the Wizards, was as disappointed as Fournier in Wednesday’s outcome and in the team’s performances the past five games. Orlando also did not exactly play very well in a victory over Dallas.

Given the momentum the Magic had after the win over the Warriors, Gordon said he’s very surprised by the team’s response.

“Yeah. Definitely surprised to see that, but it’s OK. We still have several games left to be played and we’ve gotta come back and get a win at home,” said Gordon of the Magic’s next game, which is a quick turnaround Thursday night at Amway against lowly Cleveland, the same team that defeated the Magic last week.

“We just gotta have a lot of communication on the court with each other and continue to play as hard as we can,” Gordon said.

The Magic have 13 games left in the regular season, and the next five games are at home against Cleveland, Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis and Philadelphia. They then hit a tough 4-game road swing at Miami, Detroit, Indiana and Toronto that could decide the team’s playoff fate. First, however, they must take care of home court over the next five games, or that road trip won’t matter much.

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