Orlando Magic give one last enjoyable night to send off season

Apr 12, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) and forward Aaron Gordon (00) celebrate as they beat the Detroit Pistons at Amway Center. Orlando Magic defeated the Detroit Pistons 113-109. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) and forward Aaron Gordon (00) celebrate as they beat the Detroit Pistons at Amway Center. Orlando Magic defeated the Detroit Pistons 113-109. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic had one last enjoyable game at the Amway Center to close off their season. Nothing outside mattered as the fans got a hopeful glimpse.

Final. 113. 38. 109. 64

It was easy to fear the worst when it came to the Orlando Magic’s regular season finale.

Neither the Magic nor the Detroit Pistons had anything to play for. If anything, the Magic were scoreboard watching to see if the Philadelphia 76ers would win or lose and break the tie for the fourth most Lottery odds. Fans online, at least, were on pins and needles awaiting this result.

For the Amway Center record announced crowd of 19,458, that was the farthest thing from their mind. Or at least for most of them. They were watching a basketball game. It was 48 minutes in isolation without anything else mattering.

What they saw was pure entertainment, something that showed no hints of the stains of a difficult and frustrating 29-win season.

They saw Aaron Gordon flying through the lane one more time, displaying his incredible athleticism for a rim-rattling dunk. They saw the Magic raining in 3-pointers, making 6 of 10 in the first quarter to build as much as a 21-point game.

Fans even saw someone hit a half-court shot to win the Century Link Prism TV’s shootout, the first winners this year. It sent the crowd into the frenzy.

And, in the end, they saw a competitive basketball game. Maybe not involving the team’s superstars — Andre Drummond remained on the bench for the Pistons and Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier sat the final moments for the Magic. But they saw an entertaining basketball game.

Isn’t that what you pay your ticket for?

"“I want to start by thanking the fans for their support all season, in particular tonight,” coach Frank Vogel said to open his press conference following the win. “Just a great crowd. It has been a tough season for us. To see them stay behind us the way they did and show up for the last game of the season the way they did, it’s special. They were a big part of the win tonight.”"

The fans indeed filled the Amway Center and made their presence felt. They were completely engaged in the game throughout and the Magic fed off that energy.

It did not matter that there would be no tomorrow and that Orlando Magic basketball would go dormant for another six months. This was a moment everyone got to enjoy — every fan and every player.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The Magic got a game that delivered some thrills and eventually a nail-biter. The team needed a running bank shot from rookie Stephen Zimmerman and three straight pull-up jumpers from Elfrid Payton to close out an 113-109 victory over the Pistons at the Amway Center on Wednesday.

It was all unexpected, but a pleasant surprise. In that moment, all that mattered was the result of the game and the fans got to go home happy.

"“It was big,” Elfrid Payton told Orlando Magic Daily after the game. “We just wanted to end the season with a win. We talked about it yesterday and this morning. it was good for us to come out there and compete and get this win.”"

The Magic had their eyes set solely on the win. But there were the insidious results going on and the negative ramifications for the win.

Yes, the Magic’s win cost them 31 more combinations for the NBA Draft Lottery in May. Orlando will enter the Lottery fifth in the pecking order with 88 combinations and an 8.8 percent chance at winning the top pick. A loss would have tied the team with Philadelphia and the teams would have shared the 207 combinations awarded to the fourth and fifth spots.

That was far from Vogel’s mind and far from the Magic’s mind as the game went on. Judging by the reaction inside the Amway Center, only the reporters were following the Sixers’ game against the New York Knicks.

This game was about the pure unadulterated fun of basketball. And the Magic provided from the opening tip.

"“We wanted to leave a better picture for the end of the season,” Nikola Vucevic said. “I thought we would come out really great, playing the right way, moving the ball and defending well. Everybody was getting good looks. And we were just enjoying the game out there. It’s fun to be a part of that.”"

It was fun to watch too. There was a bit more joy in the way the Magic played too.

Teammates were invested in each other, standing for almost the entirety of the final two minutes. The team wanted to win this game and, more importantly, made the plays down the stretch to do so.

The victory was bittersweet, though.

Orlando played one of its better games in a while, even while relying on young players who made plenty of mistakes. But the season is over now.

The Amway Center is shuttered to basketball for a few more months now. The memories of this game will fade. And the itch to return will slowly creep back with no games to scratch it.

"“I’m done playing basketball,” Aaron Gordon told Orlando Magic Daily. “I don’t like that. I will start itching if I stay away from the gym for too long. I’m not excited about not continuing to show up and play with these guys and go to the Playoffs.”"

Even the Playoff dreams will have to wait. The Magic will still have a ton of questions to answer this offseason. The team that comes back in October is not likely to be the same team that leaves in April.

Next: Grades: Orlando Magic 113, Detroit Pistons 109

For one night, the Magic played with joy and gave their fans something to cheer about.