8. March 10 — Comeback in Memphis (the final regular game)
Momentum is the next day’s pitcher. You can never count on something happen one game happening the next game. It always takes work to build momentum. Things simply do not carry over. And the trick is always to do the same things well over and over again without thinking.
Still, momentum does feel like a real thing. When a team is playing well they grow in confidence and seem to be able to build on it so long as they focus on the right things.
In March, the Orlando Magic were starting to percolate.
Their offense was finally finding a rhythm as they had a run of extreme health for the first time. But even though the Magic were finding ways to get wins, they lacked any true defining win in their playoff hunt. They did not really string good performances together.
That changed on a road trip in March. They nearly beat the Miami Heat on the road and then blew out the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets (the Rockets win especially being a bell cap win).
They rolled into Memphis feeling positive they were turning the corner. And they had the chance to prove so against the Western Conference’s eighth seed.
Instead, Orlando went down by 17 points in the first half. the team struggled to get anything going. And they had to fight their way back.
Terrence Ross got cooking for really the first time the fourth quarter all season, a staple of the Magic’s 2019 playoff push. Michael Carter-Williams scored 20 points. The Magic just stymied and slowed down the Grizzlies, making shots down the stretch to ice the game away 120-115.
Orlando flew home after the road trip feeling extremely good. The team was about to hit the home-heavy portion of the schedule and its easiest stretch. Everyone within the organization believed this team was turning the corner.
Of course, they would not play again until July. This was the final regular-season game before the league suspended operations for the pandemic. The team will never know just how much better it would have gotten if the season had finished regularly.
Instead, the Magic will always have this moment of possibility. Perhaps the last clearly great moment of 2020.