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Beede’s Breakdown: How Magic overcame double-digit deficit to defeat T-Wolves

The Magic trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half but rallied for a 2-point win at Minnesota on Friday night.

Facing the No. 1 seed in the West, Orlando saw its starters combine for 85 in the 108-106 victory over the Timberwolves at Target Center.

The Magic (26-23) pieced together a strong fourth quarter defensively to limit the Timberwolves (34-15) to 18 points in the final frame and hand them just their fifth home loss of the season.

Winner of two in a row, Orlando continues its five-game trip at Detroit for a Sunday matinee (Bally Sports Florida, 3).

Starting 5

For just the ninth time this season, Orlando’s opening night starting lineup — guards Markelle Fultz and Jalen Suggs plus forwards Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero along with center Wendell Carter Jr. — began the game for coach Jamahl Mosley.

The group started slowly by missing 7 of its first 9 attempts from the floor while Minnesota shot 72% in running up 38 points in the first quarter. The Timberwolves, however, wouldn’t crack 30 points in a single quarter again the rest of the night.

All five Orlando starters finished in double figures, led by Banchero’s 23 points.

The second-year pro, who was named an NBA All-Star on Thursday, attempted just 2 free throws the entire night despite 13 of his 20 attempts coming in the paint where he battled defenders for space all night.

Banchero finished 6 of 9 within four feet of the basket but struggled in the midrange, where he shot 1 of 6. He sank his lone 3-pointer from the top of the right wing in the second quarter.

He, Fultz and Wagner combined for 16 of Orlando’s 24 assists.

Although Wagner missed all 5 shots from beyond the arc, he went 5 of 6 at the charity stripe. The Magic forward was perfect deep inside the paint, going 4 of 4 within four feet of the basket.

Fultz wasn’t on the floor in the fourth quarter but made an impact on both ends in the first three. In addition to his 10 points, he recorded 2 steals and a block.

Asked to help defend Minnesota star Anthony Edwards at times with Wagner, Suggs scored just 4 points before the break. He rallied in the third quarter with three 3-pointers to end with 15 points. Similar to Fultz, he added 2 steals and a block.

Carter recorded his third double-double of the season with 18 points and a team-high 12 rebounds, 3 of which came on the offensive glass. He went 4 of 6 inside the arc and added two triples.

Second Unit

Gary Harris made his return to the court after missing 14 games due to a right calf strain.

Harris came off the bench alongside guard Cole Anthony along with big men Joe Ingles, Jonathan Isaac and Moe Wagner.

It doesn’t happen often, but Orlando’s bench was outscored 29-23 by Minnesota’s second unit. Although the Magic’s reserves failed to find their footing on offense, the group provided a critical stretch of defense to start the fourth quarter.

That included Isaac, who played the entire fourth to see 20 minutes of action. The Magic forward grabbed 8 rebounds to go with 2 blocks and a steal.

Although he finished with just 3 points, all of his scoring came in the final 1:16, including a clutch offensive put-back that gave Orlando a 4-point lead late. He went 1 of 2 from the free throw line with four seconds left in the game.

Moe Wagner led the bench in scoring with 8 points (4 of 4 FTs) while Ingles added 6 (2 of 4 from 3). Anthony (4 points) recorded 2 steals with 2 assists in 12 minutes.

In his first game back, Harris saw 18 minutes on the court but didn’t attempt a 3-pointer to total just 2 points with 1 rebound and an assist.

Free Points

Time and time again, free throws have either cost the Magic games or made them closer than they had to be for Orlando. That wasn’t the case Friday night.

The group not only shot 80.8% from the charity stripe (which is above their 75.7% season-average) but it also went 15 of 17 on free throw attempts in the fourth quarter alone to finish 21 of 26.

In a 2-point win, where their opponent shot 90% (18 of 20) on free throws, Orlando’s performance at the line ended up helping instead of hurting them.

Rookie Watch

With Harris back in the rotation, Anthony Black didn’t play at Minnesota.

The No. 6 overall pick is averaging 19.4 minutes during his rookie campaign but his time on the court could be limited with Orlando back at full strength.

Defensive matchups could allow him to see time moving forward as Mosley continues to tinker with his rotations on a game-by-game basis.

Email Jason Beede at jbeede@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on X, known as Twitter, at @therealBeede.