The Orlando Magic are in a strong run of play right now and have plenty more to accomplish. Wednesday’s win was a sign of just how confident they are.
The Orlando Magic trailed by 16 points in the fourth quarter to the Philadelphia 76ers. The game had the lazy feeling that a game matching up an established Playoff team has against a young team unsure of itself.
The game was close throughout the first half, but the 76ers were slowly pulling away. Their defense at times seemed too tough to crack and their offense was slowly expanding their lead. Growing it to that amount seemed inevitable.
What was not inevitable was what happened next. While previous Magic teams may have struggled facing that deficit, this team did not stare it down and despair. The lead did not grow any further even with just 10 minutes to play.
This team did something different. They kept grinding.
It is hard to say the Magic did a whole lot more than increase their urgency and focus and make some shots to spark their run. They kept grinding away making big plays when they had to make to close that gap.
Whether it was Jonathon Simmons breaking free from his cold streak to drain a 3. Or Jonathan Isaac meeting Joel Embiid at the rim to deflect his shot away, leading to a Terrence Ross 3-pointer. The Magic’s 21-0 run was a thing of beauty.
It reignited the Magic’s ball movement and put Orlando on a positive path for the rest of the game. With each play and each shot and each stop, the Magic were gaining confidence. Little moments of failure did not derail them. Wilson Chandler hit a few killer shots that cut into the Magic’s burgeoning lead and kept the game close, even giving the 76ers another late lead.
But Orlando kept coming.
Nikola Vucevic found D.J. Augustin cutting to the basket and he dished it off to Aaron Gordon and a two-handed jam and a two-point lead with about one minute to play. Then, of course, in a tie game, Terrence Ross turned a broken play into a game-winning 3-pointer.
The swagger and confidence for this team were back. The Amway Center crowd was buzzing over every big play. And on a national stage — everyone paying attention to Jimmy Butler‘s debut with the 76ers — the Magic delivered.
It felt like a big win for all that came into the game externally. More importantly, it felt like a big win for how the Magic did it. And having won five of their past seven games, the Magic seem to have found their groove and confidence.
More importantly, they faced adversity and never wavered or changed their approach. They took to the grind and used that to work their way back into the game. That is a sure sign of buy-in for the entire group. They are believing in themselves and believing in their coach.
Of course, momentum is the next day’s pitcher. The Orlando Magic faltered a bit in Monday’s loss to the Washington Wizards. Bouncing back to defeat the 76ers was a sign of just how much the team believes in itself right now. The group seems refreshed and focused.
Something certainly clicked for this group. Since the team took a shellacking to the LA Clippers on Nov. 2, the Orlando Magic have picked up their play significantly. They responded to their coach’s frustrations and answered his call.
Since then, the Magic are 10th in offensive rating with 110.0 points per 100 possessions and 11th in defensive rating giving up 105.2 points per 100 possessions.
To say the least, if the Magic continue that level of play they should be good enough to make the Playoffs — their net rating is +4.9 points per 100 possessions is seventh in the league. Orlando is playing some very good basketball in this latest stretch.
The Magic have taken advantage of a weaker schedule for sure. And there are plenty of hiccups in the meantime — some blown leads most notable as this team continues to learn how to win. But that is also all part of the process.
The Magic stealing those wins has clearly added to the team’s confidence. And confidence only grows the more success a team experiences. They are building upon those successes.
What the Magic are doing now is building its confidence in each other and what the team is trying to accomplish. That has helped make the team better and better.
Yes, there were those moments where they blew big leads against the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards. They lost double-digit leads in the two losses tot he Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards in that stretch.
But those setbacks have not defined the Magic in this strong stretch of play. And, most importantly, even when they faltered they found a way to win more often than not. They at least gave themselves a chance to win.
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If anything, they have learned from them and grown from them. That culminated with the come-from-behind effort against the 76ers. Or maybe that is the next step and the Magic are just getting started.
There is obviously a lot of season left. The Magic know better than anyone how quickly everything can fall apart.
And, for as well as the Magic are playing today, they are still just 7-8. That is hardly a record to celebrate. Orlando can still get better. And there are surely tougher days ahead and tougher stretches in the very near future.
But the Magic are preparing for those exactly how they should. One game at a time and stringing together one good game after another with few setbacks. Those setbacks, when they do happen, do not seem to last. Orlando is learning and growing from its mistakes.
This is all a start. And learning these lessons while winning is vital to the Magic’s future success. They are doing that now. But it is still important for them to continue improving. This is no time to rest on their small laurels.
But the Magic are playing with a renewed confidence. The team looks completely different than it did even a week ago.
Back then, Orlando likely does not make this comeback. Last year for sure, the Magic probably falter and lose the game in a blowout. That seemed to be the ready expectation for the group from fans. The Magic are defying that believe about them first and foremost.
Just what will Wednesday’s win over the 76ers mean? That part is still unclear.
Orlando is playing really well right now and piling up wins. They are building confidence and buying into their new identity. That is a start. That is all the Magic want for this part of the season.
Without any of that, the win Wednesday would not happen. And that is a step in the right direction.