Ahead of Sunday’s home matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley wanted to see how his team would respond defensively after allowing a combined 284 points and two 50-point scorers in the previous two games.
The Thunder, the league’s lowest-scoring team and were without their three top scorers, shot 32.6% (30 of 92) and didn’t have enough firepower to be the same offensive threats as the Brooklyn Nets or Detroit Pistons.
While the Magic experienced their own offensive struggles, Wendell Carter Jr.’s career-best performance lifted Orlando to a 90-85 win over the Thunder.
Carter scored a career-high 30 points (12-of-15 shooting, 2 of 3 on 3-pointers) to go along with 16 rebounds and 2 assists to give the Magic their first win since the start of their homestand.
He scored his previous career-high of 28 during his rookie season while with the Chicago Bulls against the Pistons on Nov. 30, 2018. It was the first time he scored 30 points since high school.
“A lot of credit to my teammates,” Carter said. “They found me a lot on the rolls and in the dunker [spot]. Whenever I was spacing, they found me. A lot of credit to them. I saw it as an opportunity to help my team out.”
The Magic (19-53) struggled for most of Sunday, shooting 38.6% (32 of 83) and turning the ball over 21 times for 23 Thunder points.
But when they needed a jolt offensively, Carter stepped up, scoring 10 points in the final 5½ minutes as part of a 17-9 run with which the Magic ended the game. Carter secured his career-high with a putback layup with 1:08 remaining to give Orlando an 85-81 lead.
Tre Mann missed a 3-pointer on the next possession and the Magic closed out the win with free throws from Cole Anthony (6 points, 7 assists) and Chuma Okeke (8 points, career-high 11 rebounds) to end their losing streak at three games.
Franz Wagner had 11 points (3 of 12), 7 rebounds and 4 assists.
“His dominance,” Mosley responded when asked what impressed him the most about Carter’s performance. “His ability to understand what his physical presence is, what his voice is and what it means to this team. That’s the biggest thing for me with Wendell. He did a great job of commanding the basketball as well as being a presence of both sides of the floor.”
Carter’s performance is part of a late-season breakout.
He has averaged 20.2 points and 12 rebounds in his nine games since the All-Star break and has been the team’s leading scorer (17.7 points) since Jan. 1.
The Thunder (20-51) were led by Darius Bazley’s 18 points. They were without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right ankle soreness), Lu Dort (left shoulder surgery) and Josh Giddey (right hip soreness).
The Magic will wrap up their six-game homestand against the Golden State Warriors Tuesday before playing the Thunder in Oklahoma City Wednesday.