The Magic know a little bit about hard work.
Everyone can see Orlando fighting and scrapping in every game. Kenneth Faried's level of effort is just a little bit more some times.
On a free throw in a tie game, Faried found his way around Andrew Nicholson and got to the ball before Nicholson could. The two fought the ball to the ground, but Faried got the timeout. Out of the timeout, Ty Lawson isolated Jameer Nelson, spun quickly by him for a layup and drew a foul on the late-reacting Nelson.
What was once a seven-point Magic lead moments ago in the fourth quarter turned into a 10-0 run for the Nuggets and eventually a 108-105 win at Pepsi Center on Friday. That extra possession Faried earned and that touch foul called late in the game proved to be the difference between a nice road win and a 10-game losing streak for Orlando.
The frustration is growing and growing for the Magic.
Orlando faced some of the same problems the team has faced throughout this losing skid — the failure to close, of course; giving up of offensive rebounds; an offense stagnating in one-on-one basketball, going away from the ball movement that made it work; and giving up free throws.
The Magic's defense struggled mightily in the first half, allowing the Nuggets a free path to the paint and then played poorly in the fourth quarter particularly, fouling any foray into the paint and giving up 38 fourth-quarter points. The Nuggets took 36 free throws, making 22, while the Magic took only 10 free throws on seven fouls committed against them.
It was a frustrating night in that respect for Orlando. The Magic were attacking the paint as aggressively as the Nuggets were, scoring 52 points in the paint. Orlando had its offense moving most of the night and that showed in the team's 47.3 percent shooting.
Jameer Nelson was a man possessed in the second quarter scoring 10 of his 20 points after picking up a second quarter technical foul. He led the Magic in scoring and added eight assists. J.J. Redick added 17 points and Orlando got a good contribution from Andrew Nicholson, who scored 12 on 6-for-10 shooting.
Again, Orlando's offense did not seem to be the problem.
But with two minutes to go in the game, you could sense the tide changing, if it had not already. Denver had erased a seven-point deficit with about four minutes to play and this was going to be a battle to the finish like so many of the games in this stretch.
Orlando just struggled to execute, something the team had done so well to that point.
The ball got stuck on isolations, particularly with Arron Afflalo who struggled throughout the game with 12 points on 4-for-14 shooting, and the Magic just could not score. Denver could because Orlando could not rely on its defense.
The Magic's struggles on defense, particularly fouling in the fourth quarter, just did the team in. There is really no other way to put it. Orlando cannot put games away because teams know they can score against the team down the stretch. The opportunity for wins are there, but the Magic are not doing what they need to get the wins.
That is the sign of an inexperienced team and the sign of a Lottery team. That is what this team is quickly quickly becoming (for sure, at least). And nobody seems satisfied with that.
Nobody seemed satisfied with this loss either. But nobody seemed to have an answer for it or for any of the close losses that have dominated this losing streak.