Magic complete season sweep of Bulls with key home win; Franz Wagner exits early

Magic complete season sweep of Bulls with key home win; Franz Wagner exits early

ORLANDO, Fla. — Even before the Magic tipped off against the Bulls on Sunday night, Orlando moved up the ladder in the East.

As Jamahl Mosley‘s squad got set to host Chicago at Kia Center, Paul George lifted the Clippers to victory over the Cavaliers, who fell from third to fifth in the conference standings.

Thanks to help from thousands of miles away, the Magic (46-32) suddenly rose to third in the East and just two games behind the No. 2 Bucks.

Immediately following the 113-98 win over the Bulls (37-41), the Magic held sole possession of the third spot in the conference with a half-game lead over the Knicks (45-32).

At publication time, Milwaukee was still battling No. 4 New York while No. 8 Philadelphia, who the Magic face on Friday, was on the road at San Antonio.

It goes to show just how much the playoff race can change hourly on any given night entering the final week of the regular season.

Balancing a sense of urgency while focusing on the task at hand is no easy job for such a young Magic squad set to reach the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Orlando begins a three-game road trip at Houston on Tuesday.

“We’re taking it one game at a time and controlling what we can control,” Mosley said pre-game. “You can look at the seedings and it’s going to be one game or one win changes from 6 to 8 or from 2 to 4 — whatever it is.

“We just have to continue to focus on us taking care of what’s in front of us right now.”

The Magic did just that and more against the Bulls on Sunday night.

Orlando used a 21-6 run in the first quarter to lead the entire game, and by as many as 21 points, against a Chicago squad that’s already locked in its spot in the NBA play-in tournament.

Paolo Banchero led the way with 24 points to go with six rebounds and five assists. Franz Wagner, who exited in the third quarter, totaled 16 while Jalen Suggs had 19 and Markelle Fultz added 17 off the bench.

For Orlando to still have a chance to finish as high as second the East shows just how far the Magic have come in the past year.

At this point last season, the Magic had already been eliminated from play-in contention but now find themselves deep in a playoff race.

“To now be playing for a certain seed, which position you can be in, it just shows the growth and the resiliency of the team and the greatness of the coaching staff,” Mosley said. “It also puts it all back into perspective.

“You’ve been on the other side of it when you’re eliminated and you’re now on the side of being able to basically take control of what you’re able to do and control your own destiny in that way.”

Wagner and Isaac hurt

Wagner exited Sunday’s contest with 10 minutes left in the third quarter when he suffered a sprained right ankle.

The Magic forward was able to walk off the court on his own power but headed straight to the locker room. Initial X-rays were negative but the injury still could be cause for concern.

Wagner previously missed eight games (Jan. 5-19) due to a right ankle sprain.

Earlier in the game, Jonathan Isaac exited at halftime due to a sore back. He only played 5 minutes in the first half and did not return after the break.

Isaac did not play Friday against the Hornets because of back spasms but had remained off the injury report entering Sunday’s game.