Mario Hezonja, the fifth overall pick from last Thursday's NBA Draft, drilled a go-ahead 3-point shot with 12.9 seconds remaining that proved to be the winning points in Orlando's 75-74 overtime defeat of the Los Angeles Clippers in first-day action of the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League.
Known throughout Europe as a knock-down shooter and a player loaded with confidence, Hezonja took a pass from Devyn Marble on the left wing and never hesitated on the shot that put the Magic (1-0) into the lead for good. Hezonja, a native of Croatia who played in the Spanish League the past three seasons, finished with 12 points, two 3-pointers and two steals in nearly 24 minutes of action.
"This,'' Hezonja said with a broad smile after the game, "is the beginning of the journey.''
Hezonja's heroics backed up a stellar performance from second-year pro Aaron Gordon, who had 22 points, 18 rebounds and two blocked shots in 33 minutes. Gordon scored 10 straight points during one stretch of the first quarter to help the Magic jump out to an 18-2 lead in the opening minutes.
The Clippers (0-1) battled back behind Branden Dawson (14 points and 14 rebounds), C.J. Wilcox (13 points), Nate Wolters (12 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals) and Jordan Hamilton (11 points). The Clippers appeared poise to win the game in regulation, surging ahead by five points before the Magic came storming back in the final 90 seconds. Hezonja connected on two free throws with 1:30 to play and Gordon had a difficult bank and a free throw to knot the game at 72-all and force overtime.
In the extra period, each team had just one basket, but the difference came on the 3-point shot by Hezonja. Knowing for having as much confidence as he does talent in his 6-foo-8, 218-pound frame, Hezonja welcomed getting the ball with the game on the line at the end of overtime.
Magic guard Elfrid Payton, who finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting this past season, had seven points and nine assists. Devyn Marble, whose rookie season was cut short by a detached retina injury, had 14 points, four 3-pointers and a steal in the final seconds as the Clippers were pushing the ball ahead in hopes of swiping the victory.