Orlando Magic feel momentum building, know it can stop quickly

Evan Fournier has turned into two stellar games as the Orlando Magic hope they have starting to build positive momentum. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Evan Fournier has turned into two stellar games as the Orlando Magic hope they have starting to build positive momentum. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic are riding high as winners of four of their past five. They hope this becomes a new normal. But they understand how fast things can stop.

No one would blame you for feeling a different mood within the Amway Center ahead of tonight’s game between the Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves.

A couple of rousing road wins can lift everyone’s spirits and make them feel a lot cheerier about the team’s outlook. Suddenly the 8-seed, which seemed in some precarious position a week ago, feels more comfortable and the team is aggressively eyeing the 7-seed ahead of them.

Belief, faith and confidence in the team are soaring.

It is a complete 180 from where the team was even entering Monday’s game. Even at halftime and into the second half of Monday’s game.

Whatever sparked the team on the road trip — a speech from Nikola Vucevic or just seeing the ball go through the hoop — has seemingly carried over. The Orlando Magic came back from a 19-point deficit to defeat the Brooklyn Nets 115-113 on Monday. Then they followed it up with a solid 130-120 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

Two games do not feel like a lot — the Magic are now winners of four of their past five — but the undeniable wave of confidence is flowing once again. And even in the midst of four games in six nights, it feels like the Magic are picking up some steam.

But, as the old saying goes, momentum is the next game’s pitcher. Nobody is counting on it to carry them forward. That ultimately rests with them.

And it is still too early to say the Magic have caught this wave.

"“To really have momentum you have to play more games,” Evan Fournier said after the team’s shootaround on Friday. “Just two games is not enough to say you have a thing going. We are all playing better. We do feel better about ourselves right now. At the same time, we know it’s only two games and we have a lot to do. Just like last year, to go on a run, you have to focus on the moment. We’re focusing on tonight and the Timberwolves. Just do what we’ve got to do.”"

Evan Fournier had a particularly strong showing in the last two games, scoring 49 total points and shooting a 63.2-percent effective field goal percentage. He has scored 23.6 points per game and shot 63.3-percent effective field goal percentage in his last five games.

That has been one part of this mini-turnaround for the Magic in the last few weeks.

The other part has been Aaron Gordon’s strong play. Aaron Gordon is averaging 22.6 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game and 6.0 assists per game in his last five games with a 60.9-percent effective field goal percentage. He had 52 total points in his last two games, spearheading the team’s comeback in the fourth quarter on Monday and the team’s taking control of the game in the third quarter on Wednesday.

Coach Steve Clifford said Aaron Gordon is scoring in every different way for the team — running in transition, putbacks and spot-ups. He is playing more within the offense and the team is reaping the benefits with him playing that. Gordon is certainly playing more efficiently and effectively lately.

Mohamed Bamba also has shown signs of progression, scoring a career-high 15 points in the win Wednesday over the Hawks. He has nine blocks in his last two games. Mohamed Bamba is earning more playing time as he has become one of the most efficient shot-blockers in the league.

This came after Bamba said he lost significant weight after catching the flu before the All-Star Break last week.

"“You get into the mentality of after the All-Star Break, you reset, start over and start a new narrative,” Bamba said after shootaround on Friday. “I think tonight is going to be a good test. They play a lot of perimeter guys. They play a guy at the 5 who is a lot smaller. I think tonight is going to be a good test.”"

Bamba said he has started to put that weight back on. His defensive understanding and impact have increased too.

Every player has seemingly played a whole lot better lately — Nikola Vucevic is averaging 20.6 points per game and shooting 49.5 percent from the field and Terrence Ross is at 16.0 points per game on a tidy 39.0-percent shooting on threes. The rising tide has lifted all boats.

The Magic certainly need that for the next phase of their schedule. Especially now nearing the end of a busy four games in six nights.

The Orlando Magic also have an eye on their last big road trip starting next Wednesday against the rival Miami Heat. Games are going to start coming quickly again and the Magic will have to find ways to stay fresh and focused.

In a tight playoff battle, every game matters.

The fortunate part for the Magic, perhaps, is how manageable the opponent load is. The Magic play just two of their next 13 games are against teams with winning records. One of those is against the Memphis Grizzlies, who are sitting in eighth in the West and a few games worse than .500 at 28-30. By the end of that road trip, the Magic will have no games remaining at Western Conference opponents.

The schedule is certainly set up for the Magic to make a little bit of a run. But nothing is ever guaranteed in this league.

Despite a solid 22-7 record against teams with records worse than .500, the Orlando Magic have disappointing losses to the Atlanta Hawks (twice), Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks among those seven.

Momentum is not built simply on the teams you play. It is built in the confidence and execution the team brings to the table. And there, the Magic still have to build some trust. Every game is a grind and a different challenge for the team to find its level.

"“I think it needs to go longer,” Bamba said after shootaround on Friday. “Tonight and we have a back to back after, it will be a good testament to where we stand.”"

The team really needs to take things a game at a time to build itself up.

Next. Evan Fournier returns to closer role for Orlando Magic. dark

Nobody is counting two wins after the All-Star Break as momentum yet. Talk to them after another few games to see if this is really a groove the team has found.