The Washington Wizards fell to the Orlando Magic Friday night, 116-109.
With both teams still not eliminated from playoff contention — but, come on now — Friday night’s matchup was a young man’s game. Guys like Johnny Davis, Xavier Cooks, Anthony Gill and Jordan Goodwin saw relatively substantial minutes for the Wizards, while the Magic’s young core strutted their feathers in front of the Capital One Arena crowd.
In the first half, the Magic’s first-pick duo of Paolo Banchero and Markelle Fultz each put up 17 points. The star of the first half, however, was Corey Kispert, who drained six threes and put up 18 points. Banchero rightfully did a little bit of showboating on some first-half dunks, and the game remained competitive through the fourth quarter. The Magic ultimately pulled away to seal the seven-point Wizards loss.
On the bright side, Kispert demonstrated he is ready to take on more responsibility for the Wizards by dropping a career-high 27 points on a scorching 9-for-14 from three. Davis also scored an (admittedly inefficient) 10 points, but with the season all but over, it was nice to see him gaining some confidence in his shot.
The rise of the Magic this season should demonstrate to the Wizards brass the benefits of building through the draft. Three of Orlando’s key rotational players were top 10 picks by the Magic in the last two seasons — Paolo Banchero (1st overall in 2022), Jalen Suggs (5th overall in 2021) and Franz Wagner (8th overall in 2021). Additionally, the team grabbed Cole Anthony 15th overall in 2020, traded for Wendell Carter Jr. (7th overall by Chicago in 2018) and rehabilitated a damaged asset in Markelle Fultz (1st overall by Philadelphia in 2017).
Having sent out a lineup in the second quarter clearly more interested in development than winning, the Wizards seem to be finally turning toward the tank to improve their draft lottery odds. At 34-43, the Wizards are virtually eliminated from playoff contention, and all eyes will be on the draft and the young core’s development for next season.