How many times could the Magic have decided to pack things in and take an embarrassing loss like a good team in the cellar of the NBA? How many times coudl the Magic have put their heads down while depleted with injury and accept the fate of their season, eschewing team improvement?
How many times on Wednesday could they have done this?
A 14-point first quarter lead gone. A Bucks team that refuses to go away and pulls ahead in the fourth quarter after the Magic led heading into the final 12 minutes. This was a case of "here we go again." Insanity — doing the same thing and expecting different results — was about ensue.
Insanity did ensue.
Orlando trailed Milwaukee by five points with 37 seconds left in the game. The Bucks called timeout but failed to inbound the ball as Mike Dunleavy seemed to zero in on J.J. Redick and could not find him open. Five seconds passed and the Magic got the ball back. Nikola Vucevic scored on a goaltend from John Henson.
Monta Ellis then split a pair of free throws followed by Tobias Harris putting back a missed Maurice Harkless three. Ellis split another pair of free throws, leaving the Magic about nine seconds left and a three-point deficit. After a foul to bring the Bucks to the penalty, Orlando inbounded to Tobias Harris. Harris dribbled past Marquis Daniels, perhaps trying to foul.
He got to the top of the key and drained the game-tying 3-pointer as Daniels fouled too late. Harris missed the three-pointer, but bedlam had already begun at Amway Center.
Nikola Vucevic started the overtime with a post up and made a big basket late in the overtime period by spinning past John Henson and getting to the basket for a layup while drawing the foul from the trailing Henson. Doron Lamb hit a big 3-pointer and Vucevic gave Orlando a seven-point lead.
The tired Bucks could not respond one more time as Tobias Harris put an exclamation point with a garbage time breakaway dunk in a 113-103 overtime win at Amway Center on Wednesday.
Orlando had finally finished a game to earn its 20th win and 12th home win. Finally a tangible measure of the team's growth.
As far as measurables go, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris provided plenty of those. Vucevic scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed 20 rebounds. Tobias Harris matched him with 30 points and 19 rebounds. Each had five assists.
With Larry Sanders leaving the game after falling hard on his hip in the first quarter, the lane was pretty wide open. John Henson did record 17 points, 24 rebounds and seven blocks but the rarely used center seemed to wear down as the game went on. And at the end, he could not match Vucevic physically.
Orlando seemed to be succumbing to its own fatigue too at the end of the game. Maurice Harkless played 51 of the 53 minutes, Beno Udrih played 47 and both Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic topped 40 again. The Magic were relying on these key guys for long stretches of time.
The defensive focus and ability seemed to decrease as the game went on. Milwaukee was getting to the foul line and into the paint more as the game went on. Monta Ellis, who shot an icy 7 for 27 from the floor, made two of his baskets down the stretch by getting to the basket. Those missed free throws late will eight heavily as he never could break through like he did on St. Patrick's Day.
The Magic were given life and found a way to take advantage of it. And one thing you cannot do against a team in Orlando's situation is give the team life.
Confidence can be a powerful tool as Tobias Harris has proven in his short stint with the Magic. And even as Doron Lamb proved against his former team as he scored a career-high 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
The lesson for this Magic team was that playing to whistle and always believing you have a chance will pay off. At last something good happened for the effort. And, at last, the Magic gave their home crowd a nice memory and taste for this season.