Orlando Magic turn the tables for improbable win, can let confidence grow

Aaron Gordon leads a group of promising young players who represent the Orlando Magic's future. (Photo by Gary Bassing/NBAE via Getty Images)
Aaron Gordon leads a group of promising young players who represent the Orlando Magic's future. (Photo by Gary Bassing/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic turned the tables for an improbable win. It was a new sign of the team’s fight. The question remains whether they can do it again.

Evan Fournier has hit plenty of big shots before. Statistically, he has been one of the best clutch performers in the league for several years. No one would know it because the Orlando Magic are rarely in clutch situations… or rarely have success in them.

Throughout the last six years, the Magic have suffered plenty of heartbreaking losses. The ones that are too hard to bounce back from. The impossible defeats.

It was only a few years ago the Orlando Magic lost a game to the Cleveland Cavaliers after the probabilities site Inpredictable projected the team with a greater than 99 percent chance of winning. It was this loss, as much as any other, that became emblematic of this long rebuild. The team seemingly could not even win when there was a statistical certainty they would.

The fact this happened on more than one occasion only made things worse. It would be impossible for that not to have some effect on the team’s psyche. The team seemingly had a mental roadblock in these situations. It compounded as things got worse.

It is within this context that Monday’s 102-100 win over the Cavaliers was impressive and potentially groundbreaking for the team.

Not for the shot that Evan Fournier made to deliver the win — a side-stepping long two with a second to play. But the way they achieved that win, overcoming impossible odds. And then the swagger they had after it. The swagger they had during it.

This was a part of the change the Magic needed to see. A deeper, cultural change that would shed the frustrations of the past and help the team emerge with a new confidence to win in the end.

That part has not been the easy part. There is only one way to gain that confidence. Paradoxically, it is to do it. Then do it again. Until it becomes second nature.

Just as the worry of collapse can be contagious and set in. This is the kind of culture — or whatever word we want to use — the Magic are trying to break.

They have been in the Cavaliers’ locker room before. They have experienced that frustrating feeling of knowing they had a game virtually won and to fritter it away.

According to Inpredictable, the Cavaliers had a 98.6 percent chance of winning the game after Evan Fournier missed a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left. It was nearly impossible for the Magic to win this game.

But from there, the Magic scratched and clawed. They never gave up on the game and they found a way to win. The most important for any team to have. Just an ability to find a way. Even against impossible odds.

Everything had to go perfect, of course.

Aaron Gordon hit an extremely difficult turnaround fadeaway jumper off the offensive rebound to cut the lead down to three. They needed Cedi Osman to make the poor decision to try to pass to a cutting Jordan Clarkson when all he needed to do was get fouled. They needed D.J. Augustin to get fouled immediately to save every spare second they could at the foul line.

Then they needed J.R. Smith to turn the ball over on an inbounds to Kyle Korver. A perfect trap set from Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross. Fournier expertly knocking the ball out of Korver’s hands before any foul was called.

They needed Nikola Vucevic to block George Hill‘s lay up with a second left. And then they needed perfect execution — Terrence Ross acting as a first option and decoy cutting toward the corner before Nikola Vucevic’s screen sprung Evan Fournier to the top of the key for his big moment.

A thunderous ovation and a giant group hug followed. This is a team that needed a bit of swagger. They needed to see that their hard work could lead to anything. Even the impossible.

The team should be feeling a swelling of emotion and energy from that victory. This was the other side of frustrating defeats. This was a team that fought to the final whistle.

That is certainly an attitude coach Steve Clifford wants to instill. This is the kind of fight the team will need to win games. Because it takes the team’s full attention and intensity to play at a high level.

There is no making these kinds of comebacks without forcing the other team into mistakes and questioning their own confidence. These kinds of games are left there for teams to take. But they have to take them. And for much of the past six years, the Magic have not gone out and taken them.

This is something they did Monday night. The Magic were the ones who went out and made the plays to make the game. All those pieces do not fall into place without Orlando taking those opportunities.

The question remains just whether the team will carry over this confidence and spirit. That is vital to the team taking that next step.

But the one thing good teams know how to do is to win even when the odds are stacked against them. They know how to win when they do not have their best play.

This Magic team has a long way to go from that. There is still a lot of work to do. Even in Monday’s game, Orlando had plenty of flaws exposed. Especially their inconsistent and sometimes nonexistent offense.

But the Magic overcame all of that. They overcame nearly impossible odds. And that is something.

Next. Mohamed Bamba flashing potential. dark

It is a new feeling for this group. The feeling of success. Now the Magic have to build off that confidence and repeat it.