Although he entered the night with the mindset that he wouldn’t be available to play in the second game of a back-to-back in Chicago on Wednesday, Isaac realized there was a chance he might have been able to swing it.
So after consulting with Orlando’s training staff and coach Jamahl Mosley, Isaac went for it.
Not only did he appear in both games of a back-to-back for the first time since December 2019, Isaac followed it up with a season-high 18 points to help lift the Magic past the Bulls again on Friday.
“I felt good and I’ve just been trying to do a better job of getting my rest when I need it,” Isaac said after the Magic’s 6-point win at United Center. “I definitely feel like my legs are getting back under me and I’m starting to just run free and jump free out there.”
If Orlando (7-5) wants to slow down the Pacers — who average a league-high 126.5 points — Mosley’s squad will need more of the same from Isaac, especially in the paint, during Sunday’s matchup (Bally Sports Florida, 5) at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
“Defensively, he is so special and the fact that he is finding the right space on the floor to step into his shots — his teammates are trusting and finding him,” Mosley said after Friday’s win in Chicago. “I can’t emphasize it enough and praise him enough for what he does defensively for this team.”
Added veteran guard Gary Harris: “The stuff he does on the court — and it’s limited minutes too — is amazing.”
Isaac, who played in just 11 games last season after 2-plus years off the court due to leg injuries, has continued to grow more comfortable on the court. He’s averaging 6.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steal during 13.8 minutes in 10 games.
He’s recorded at least one blocked shot eight times and two-or-more blocks five times so far.
“He’s our defensive anchor,” Harris said. “And we still have guys out right now so we can be a very scary team defensively, especially when everybody gets healthy.”
The Magic could receive positive player availability news soon, too.
Jalen Suggs, who missed Friday’s game due to a sore left knee, was upgraded Saturday from questionable to probable to face the Pacers.
“He says he feels better,” Mosley told the Sentinel after practice Saturday. “Obviously we’re going to still evaluate him and see where he is [Sunday] with it being an early game.
“But [Saturday] he felt good and he was able to go through everything through our drills.”
As for Markelle Fultz, he’s already been ruled out for the Pacers matchup and his fifth straight game due to left knee tendinitis. The Magic will continue to monitor his comfort level.
“He’s just able to ramp up more and more each day and we just continue to evaluate after the day how he’s feeling,” Mosley said about Fultz.
Whether or not Suggs can play against the Pacers, the Magic know their defense — which ranks second in the league in defensive rating (106.5) — will be pushed to its limit because of Indiana’s efficient offense.
The Pacers (7-4) shoot 50% from the floor, including 38.6% from 3-point range. Both marks rank inside the top four league-wide.
“They’re one of the highest scoring offenses in the league right now, so it’s a great test for our defense, our resolve, our poise and our game-planning,” Mosley said.