Orlando Magic 2019 Season Review: What Went Right — Terrence Ross, flamethrower

Terrence Ross endeared himself to Magic fans with his big shots and easygoing manner. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Terrence Ross endeared himself to Magic fans with his big shots and easygoing manner. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Early on in the season, the Orlando Magic could tell they had something special off the bench. Terrence Ross’ ability to change the game was special.

It was November and the Orlando Magic were still getting their feet under them. They were still trying to find out who they were and the roles players would play. Their identity was still as uncertain as their future. There was no inkling of a playoff push, just a feeling out process of new coach and new players.

Nothing was sure and the team needed a spark. They needed confidence, perhaps some irrational confidence. This was one of their first late-game challenges.

In a tie game against the vaunted Philadelphia 76ers, after Jonathan Isaac blocked Joel Embiid and Nikola Vucevic scored 30 points, the Orlando Magic needed a big shot. They needed someone to step up and become a legend.

Terrence Ross had come up with a big game before, albeit in an effort that came up just short. A few weeks earlier, Terrence Ross scored 15 points and caught fire late. His super deep 3-pointer tied the game late and gave the Magic a real chance of stealing a road victory.

This one was different. This would become an iconic moment for this team.

Terrence Ross stared down the defense before coming around a screen from Nikola Vucevic. He rose over the defense and fired. The ball landed safely in the net. Ross had turned around and screamed, slapping his thighs emphatically.

The legend of Terrence Ross was born. The Magic had their spark.

No matter how poor he was shooting, he seemed to be one shot away from sparking a run. It happened against the Indiana Pacers on the road, scoring 23 points on 8-for-17 shooting in the game. His scoring would come in handy again and again.

A 35-point effort in the season finale against the Charlotte Hornets to ensure the Orlando Magic’s seeding in the Eastern Conference. A 31-point outburst to charge a 17-point second-half comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies in one of the most critical games of the Magic’s playoff push.

Or how about the scoring barrage he had against the Toronto Raptors in the Orlando Magic’s February win that kept a blowout game out of reach? Or even his Game 3 performance in the playoffs that helped inch the Magic closer and closer to give them a chance to take the 2-1 series lead.

It was this instant offense that turned Ross into a quick fan favorite. Go on any Magic message board and the “offer Terrence Ross a lifetime contract” line will be there somewhere. His cool demeanor, Marvel fandom and chill relationship with fans fed his popularity. The quickfire way he could score points made him legendary.

Ross earned, was bestowed and accepted the nickname “The Human Torch.” It was truly apt.

Ross finished the year averaging a career-high 15.1 points per game on a 53.4 percent effective field goal percentage. He hit 38.3 percent of his threes. All of this coming off the bench and happily doing so.

More than anything else, Ross was the Magic’s lone tough shot-maker. He does not need a lot of space to get his shot off and he had the ultimate green light to fire. Ross took advantage of that confidence over and over again.

Orlando has not had a shotmaker like him in a very long time. There were few players in the Magic’s recent history that were liable to go off for a 30-point game at any point.

Orlando did not need him to have those scoring binges every night, but there were games where he just was unconscious. And when Ross was in that zone, there was no one stopping him. The Magic were most likely going to win when he was playing like that.

Amazingly, this was coming off a difficult season for him. He missed almost all of last season after a knee injury. he returned for the last five games and was still clearly getting his wind. But that little dip in the water was all he needed to jumpstart his offseason.

He spent the entire offseason in Orlando getting jumpers up and getting himself back into game shape. He proved quickly how up to speed he was when the season started. All that hard work came to fruition this season.

More than any other time in his career, Ross displayed a consistency that he had never shown. He was not only going through major scoring binges — scoring the most 30-point games in any single season of his career — but regularly contributing. The games he would disappear became fewer and fewer.

At a  good time considering his impending free agency.

To be sure, the Magic were not going to be able to survive without some boost from the bench. Almost entirely, Ross gave the Magic’s bench a new dimension. he was the best offensive option and quickly rose up scouting reports.

Teams had to account for his constant movement and close his space. No one really did this better than Norman Powell and the Raptors in the playoffs (he made just 37.0 percent of his shots in the postseason).

Orlando’s depth was a major concern entering the season. Ross quieted those down some. Then coach Steve Clifford started pairing Terrence Ross with Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon in the second unit and suddenly that group came alive. Add in Michael Carter-Williams constantly pushing the pace and the Magic had enough weapons offensively to have one of the best bench units in the league after the All-Star Break.

Ross remained at the center of it. He was a wild card and a spark. When the Magic needed to make a big comeback and revive their offense, Ross was the guy often providing that spark. He was someone who just created offense and energy out of nothing. And Orlando needed that desperately.

Ross was an elixir of sorts for the Magic in that way. A factor that was absolutely necessary to steal some wins and get the team to the playoffs. It is hard to imagine the team replacing his production and that energy easily.

Next. What Went Right: Nikola Vucevic. dark

Bottling up Ross was tough for the defenses. And he made this season memorable seemingly on his own.