ORLANDO, Fla. — Franz Wagner set the new NBA single-game high by a rookie this season and joined Shaquille O’Neal in some team history on Tuesday as the Orlando Magic fell late to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Wagner exploded for a career-high 38 points, including 27 in the second half, in the 127-110 loss, joining O’Neal (1993) and Dennis Scott (1990) as the only rookies in franchise history to reach that mark in a game. His 38 points were tied for third-most in a game by a Magic rookie.
The eighth pick shot 12-of-20 from the field, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range, while he made all 10 free-throw attempts. He was the first Magic rookie since Scott to have a 30-point game on 50% shooting from the field and 3-point range, and 100% from the free-throw line.
Head coach Jamahl Mosley credited the defense for setting up Wagner.
It started with three or four stops in a row, which allowed us to get out and run. When you watch the ball go in with a fastbreak point and an easy basket that we hadn’t got in the first half, you start to build a little bit more spirit and a little bit more energy comes through. He goes 10-for-10 from the free-throw line so (credit to) him getting into the lane, getting fouls and understanding how he had to get pressure on the rim.
Thanks in large part to Wagner, the Magic managed to cut into the Bucks’ 27-point halftime advantage. Wagner scored 14 points alone in the third quarter as the Magic reeled off a 19-0 run to bring the deficit to just 10 points midway through the period.
Orlando managed to keep the game competitive the rest of the way, with the Bucks’ lead shrinking to just eight points in the fourth quarter. However, with Giannis Antetokounmpo (28 points) and Khris Middleton (21 points) leading the way, the Bucks were able to close out the Magic.
The 38 points scored by Wagner were the most in a game this season by a first-year player, topping the 30 points by Jalen Green on Oct. 24. The performance even earned Wagner a conversation with DeMarcus Cousins late in the game.
“He was just congratulating me on the game,” Wagner said. “But, in that moment, we were probably down 15 or something like that and the game was basically over so I said thank you. It was definitely a cool gesture but, at the end of the day, we didn’t win the game.”
Wagner now owns two of the top-five scoring nights by a rookie this season with his latest effort. He has scored in double figures in 17 consecutive games, the most by a first-year player this season, and is now tied with Scottie Barnes for the lead in scoring average.
The early display by Wagner has certainly been one bright spot for the Magic (7-28) through the first half of the season. The team is in the midst of a rebuilding effort as the season will be mostly in a developmental stage but Wagner has looked to have exceeded expectations early.
The early conversation for Rookie of the Year seems to be centered squarely on Barnes, Green and Cade Cunningham, but No. 22 in black and blue might just have something to say about that.
This post originally appeared on Rookie Wire! Follow us on Facebook!