Orlando Magic still fighting for respect from every corner

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 05: Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic fights for a basket deep in Denver Nuggets defense during the second half at Amway Center on December 05, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 05: Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic fights for a basket deep in Denver Nuggets defense during the second half at Amway Center on December 05, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic left Wednesday’s game frustrated with the officials and yearning for respect. Winning is the only way to get it.

Aaron Gordon shared the frustration of the entire Orlando Magic locker room after Wednesday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets.

The team had fought hard to force overtime against the best team in the Western Conference on their home floor. There had been few complaints, just a determination to give themselves a chance to win. It was no surprise the Magic got Terrence Ross a game-tying 3-pointer and it went in. The surprise was he was so open.

This is a different Magic team in that way.

They have played a lot of close games this year as much because they are still a team learning to win and close out games with the lead as they are fighting back to make every game close, stealing a few along the way.

To see the team lose its composure down the stretch was the odd part of Wednesday’s game. This is a group that has been resilient and tough in close games throughout the season. Yes, the Magic have struggled at times to maintain leads and finish games but they always had a chance to win. And, for the most part, recovered to win the game in the end.

The team’s even 8-8 record in close games is a testament to the team’s ability to be in at the end. Those 16 games represent the most games that are within five points in the final five minutes in the league.

But this was different.

Evan Fournier took a technical foul trying after arguing his final foul of the game when he tried to front Nikola Jokic in the post. He said after the game the Magic are not a team that complains, but when they raise their voices once the team gets a quick whistle. That added to his frustration.

Aaron Gordon was a bit more blunt in expressing his frustration with a game where the Magic conceded 37 free throws while taking only eight themselves without a massive foul discrepancy.

"“It’s horrible. It’s horrible,” Gordon said. “It’s just tick tack after tick tack that they get and we come down and same type of play. I feel like the refs are more worried about what’s on the front of the jersey than watching the actual game.”"

And that gets to the heart of the team’s frustration. It is something the Magic are likely going to fight for the rest of the season. The Magic are still fighting for respect, even if it is just perceived.

Respect from other teams, from fans, from the media and, yes, from the officials.

The team that has been a laughingstock around the league for the last six years is trying to flex its muscle. It is trying to fight back. The general response from national media has been, “Oh look, the Magic are good again!” without a ton of serious discussion beyond that.

Orlando is still looking to fight for the eighth seed in the Playoffs.

But at that personal level, respect is about an even playing field. It is about getting the seriousness and attention of their opponents and those around them to take them seriously. It is not something freely given but earned through winning.

That is something the Magic have begun to do with their solid start to the season. But there is still a ways to go.

As if to prove that point, the Magic’s frustrations with the officials and their public statements after the game barely caused a blip on the national narrative or with the league.

Surprisingly, no Magic players were fined for any comments after the game expressing this frustration. Coach Steve Clifford was not fined for telling the officials what he thought about the quality of their work immediately after the game, picked up on TV.

The team was largely ignored in their complaints too. The only pittance the team got was confirmation they were right about at least one critical play.

The NBA’s report on the final two minutes and overtime confirmed the officials should have called Jamal Murray out of bounds with roughly 20 seconds to play. Video replay in the arena shown to fans clearly showed him taking two steps out of bounds. That would have given the Magic the ball down three points.

Instead, Nikola Vucevic committed a foul to put the Nuggets in the bonus and Jamal Murray iced the game.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Of course, that same report said the Magic also committed three fouls that were not called too. The report does little to alleviate the Magic’s concerns or soften the blow. And the result is not going to get changed.

And Orlando, to its credit, expressed its frustrations but still put the blame squarely on itself. The team’s defense in pick and rolls was not good as the Nuggets shot better than 50 percent the entire game and it took the team making 20 3-pointers just to stay in the game and scramble into overtime.

The Magic have proven they will fight and give themselves every chance to win. This is becoming so commonplace as it meets the very basic expectations. Success or failure with this team falls on the things it should — execution and making or missing shots.

That probably only added to the frustration of seeing a perceived inequality in calls. That is something that is completely out of the team’s control. They are not the things the team can factor in or make up for.

The Magic are still fighting for their place in the league. And fighting for the respect of those around them to take them seriously.

Orlando cannot control how others treat or react to them. They have to let those frustrations from Wednesday’s game pass on. And they have to refocus on Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers.

Next. Orlando frustrated with free throw discrepancy. dark

The only way for the Magic to get the respect they want is to win.