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Beede’s Breakdown: How shorthanded Magic fought back to defeat Wizards

Trailing by 21 points on the second night of a back-to-back on the road in Game 63 of the regular season while missing three key rotational pieces, the Magic could have easily thrown in the towel Wednesday night at Washington.

Unfortunately for the 9-win Wizards, who entered the contest as losers of 15 straight, that’s just not part of the DNA of a Jamahl Mosley-coached squad.

Instead of folding, the Magic thrived after the break and limited Washington (9-53) to 44 points after a 65-point first half en route to a 119-109 victory at Capital One Arena behind a team-high 28 from Franz Wagner.

It marked the largest comeback of the season and tied the sixth largest in franchise history as No. 4 Orlando captured its fifth straight win and 10th in its last 12 games.

The Magic (37-26) wrap up their three-game trip on Friday at Madison Square Garden with a critical contest against the fifth-seeded Knicks (36-26), who sit a half-game behind Orlando.

Pace Of Play

The Wizards entered Wednesday’s game with the fastest pace league-wide averaging 103.54 possessions per 48 minutes and they leaned on that up-tempo style early against the Magic.

Orlando failed to keep up in the first half and turned the ball seven times that became 12 points for Washington, who ended the opening quarter on a 17-5 run.

The Magic played deliberate basketball in the third frame, utilized a more patient pace to find their shots from the floor and regained control of the game by erasing a 12-point halftime deficit.

It was then when Paolo Banchero scored 13 of his 25 points by attacking the basket (3 of 4 in the paint) and sinking a 3-pointer from the right side.

As Orlando found its footing on offense, it prevented Washington from its picking up the tempo again late in the game.

Defensive Clinic

After the Wizards shot 43.5% from 3-point range with 10 made triples in the first half, the Magic limited them to just two made 3s on 13.3% shooting from distance after the break.

The Magic made it difficult for Washington to score in the second half by limiting transition opportunities and sticking to its zone defense.

Only Jordan Poole (10 points) scored in double figures in the second half for Washington.

Orlando limited the Wizards to 35% shooting during a stretch from the third into the fourth quarters while outrebounding them 22-14.

Missing Bodies

The Magic did all of this without forward Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury maintenance), guard Gary Harris (right calf injury maintenance) and center Wendell Carter Jr. (sore right knee) on the second night of a back-to-back.

In their place, Mosley inserted rookie guard Anthony Black and reserve center Goga Bitadze into Orlando’s starting lineup alongside guard Jalen Suggs plus forwards Wagner and Banchero while utilizing a 9-man rotation throughout most of the night.

Bitadze grabbed a team-high 8 rebounds to go with 6 points, a steal and a block in 25 minutes, the most he’s played in a game since Jan. 15 at New York.

Second-year pro Caleb Houstan was the 10th man on the floor for Orlando but he was ineffective in 4 minutes of action, posting a plus-minus rating of minus-8.

Big man Moe Wagner led the bench in scoring with 16 points, 14 of which came in 11 fourth-quarter minutes. He went 5 of 5 from the flour in the final frame.

Rookie Watch

No. 6 overall pick Black remained accurate from beyond the arc for a second straight night.

After shooting 3 of 4 from 3 against the Hornets on Tuesday, Black went 2 of 3 from distance against the Wizards. He later added a dunk with less than a minute remaining to total 8 points.

On the floor to help defend, Black recorded a steal to go with 2 assists in 22 minutes. Back in Orlando’s rotation, he’s averaged 19 minutes in the last nine games.

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