Jonathan Isaac rounds into offensive form as Magic top Pelicans, draw closer to postseason

ORLANDO, Fla. — Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is known for his elite defense.

He’s recorded at least one block 33 times and two or more 16 times, as well as at least one steal 25 times and two or more nine times.

There’s a reason his nickname is the “Minister of Defense” and can change how Orlando (42-28) defends against some of the league’s best such as Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and DallasLuka Doncic.

But as Isaac has grown more comfortable after playing in just 11 games last season after two-plus years off the court because of leg injuries. His offense that has grown throughout his 48 games played — the second-most in his career.

“Just finding that rhythm in the time that he’s on the floor, that’s a big portion of it,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said at shootaround Thursday, before a 121-106 win against the Pelicans at Kia Center. “Guys are finding him and trusting him. [He is] willing to step into his shot but also [is] able to take the ball off the dribble a little bit.

“Those things are just finding comfort zones as time goes on.”

The Pelicans (42-27) entered having won eight of their last 10. Isaac had averaged 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his last six games.

During that stretch, he also shot 64.7% from 3-point range, making 1.8 shots on 2.8 attempts. In addition spreading the floor, Isaac often cuts to the basket from the corners to pick up points in the paint.

“I’m just getting more comfortable,” Isaac recently told the Sentinel. “I’m just relaxing a little more out there and that’s giving me opportunities to score the ball off of other guys finding me, making reads, me cutting and trying my best to be available.”

Although his scoring are up (for the season he averages 6.6 points), the Magic are still figuring out how much time he can play on a nightly basis. Isaac had nine points, five rebounds and two steals Thursday.

Jalen Suggs (22 points), Paolo Banchero (20) and Franz Wagner (18) led Orlando, which made 14 of 36 from 3 (39%). Trey Murphy (21) and Zion Williamson (20) led New Orleans.

He’s averaged 15 minutes a game but missed 20 with injuries. He generally plays in the second and fourth quarters and on occasion closes out contests depending on the defensive matchups.

It’s important for Isaac to find consistent minutes in preparation for the postseason.

“It’s always goes back to being able to play your best basketball in March and April,” Mosley said.

Although he’s become a defensive game-changer for Orlando, Isaac isn’t opposed to helping on offense.

“I like it,” he said. “I’m just moving forward and I’ll try to do the same.”