Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 115, New Orleans Pelicans 110

James Ennis helped key an opportunistic Orlando Magic defense that held off the New Orleans Pelicans in overtime. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
James Ennis helped key an opportunistic Orlando Magic defense that held off the New Orleans Pelicans in overtime. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

69. Final/OT. 115. 38. 110

The Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans had traded so many blows and punches through the end of regulation that no one would blame anybody for blinking.

The two teams, so undermanned with injuries and in the Magic’s case still figuring out life with an entirely new roster, could have backed down at any moment. Orlando built a 14-point lead in the first half. The Pelicans built a late five point lead. Orlando held a three-point lead in the dying moments of regulation.

Neither of these teams with the rosters they were playing would get confused for a playoff team. But they were willing to fight and scrap for every inch.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s three sent the game to overtime. The Pelicans rode some momentum to a lead in overtime. Orlando’s backs were against the wall.

Good, this Magic team does not mind a fight.

The Magic erased that late deficit. Chuma Okeke gave the Magic their season-high 16th steal, tipping it away from Josh Hart toward Chasson Randle for the pass-ahead and the game-tying dunk. Orlando would take the lead with about 30-seconds to play when Terrence Ross got just enough space to hit a twisting, fading jumper.

Orlando held on thanks to a missed free throw from Alexander-Walker and a pair of missed threes on the final possession for a 115-110 overtime win at Smoothie King Center.

The Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans both shared a strong effort and plenty of blows as they went back and forth into overtime. The Magic had the last knockout to secure their second straight win.

As Chuck Daly used to say, there is no such thing as an ugly win. And at this point, every victory from the Magic feels hard-earned. The team feels like it is brimming with confidence and really believes it can win every game. Nothing feels out of reach.

For now, the Magic know they are catching teams by surprise and that they are catching some teams as they are — the Pelicans played without Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. All the wins count the same.

And NBA players with a reason to play certainly love proving naysayers wrong. This Magic team has carved an identity as a hungry defensive team — creating 16 steals, forcing 23 turnovers and holding the strong Pelicans offense to 43.6-percent shooting. And that hunger is producing some wins.

C. Orlando Magic. WENDELL CARTER. A.

Wendell Carter has quickly emerged as one of the more surprising assets returned from the trade deadline. Carter was a talented big with the Chicago Bulls, but his role quickly dissipated as the team more narrowly defined his role or focused on developing other players. His confidence clearly waned.

He has been unleashed in Orlando. The Magic are letting him play without too many restrictions and have trusted him with a bigger responsibility and he has taken to that. He is playing with incredible energy defensively, making blocks and challenging shots. But he is also playing with confidence offensively. He is throwing his weight around in the post and hitting jumpers confidently.

Carter finished another incredible performance off the bench with 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting and 12 rebounds. It is going to be hard to keep him out of the starting lineup soon. And Khem Birch may have gotten Wally Pipp’ed at last with how Carter is playing and helping the team.

B+. . G/F. Orlando Magic. TERRENCE ROSS

Terrence Ross is probably seeing more defensive attention than ever before considering he is the only key player that teams probably have tape on within this Orlando Magic ecosystem. The Magic, bringing him back from a prolonged absence since the All-Star Break, are still using him virtually the same as they did before the trade. Teams are doing a good job chasing him off the 3-point line. Ross has subsequently struggled to shoot in that mid-range.

But he is still finding ways to score and create. And as he gets back up to speed after his injury, he should get better. His willingness to pass is an added bonus. He made a pair of nice passes to Carter cutting down the lane that showed he can do a bit more. Ross finished the game with 19 points on 8-for-21 shooting, adding five assists.

B. . C. Orlando Magic. MOHAMED BAMBA

Mohamed Bamba is getting more comfortable and playing a lot better now that he is getting consistent minutes. This is the progression the Orlando Magic needed to see from him and that Bamba absolutely needed. He is beginning to limit his mistakes and produce raw stats — 11 points, five rebounds on 5-for-9 shooting. He is starting to make his presence felt around the rim, especially on offense where his offense is continuing to grow.

Bamba’s defensive consistency remains the biggest issue. While he is still racking up his blocks and shot challenges that show what he can be one day on that end, he still struggles to lock down bigger post players as they work to get deep post position. And his defensive rebound is still a major concern — too often he gets beat or moved out of the way when battling on the defensive glass. Maybe some of this could be solved with a fully healthy offeason — something Bamba has not had. But he is making progress, even if it is still mistake-filled.

A. . SF. Orlando Magic. JAMES ENNIS

James Ennis deserves some appreciation for the work he puts in. The Orlando Magic acquired him for nothing at the trade deadline last year as a grinder who could help give their starting group some support filling the gaps and doing the little things. Those little things look even bigger on a team that seems to embrace the kind of grinding play Ennis usually does in anonymity.

Ennis scored 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting. More importantly, he had four steals and used those steals to get in the lane and in transition to finish over tough defense. Ennis is not forcing play at all. That is not his game. But when the ball swings to him, he makes the correct play and the right decision to put his team in a position to win.

. 21-26. 12th West. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS. B+

The New Orleans Pelicans played with the same desperate energy the Orlandoo Magic played with considering they were down so many key players. A lot of guys looked at the game as an opportunity to step up. Many of them did. Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 31 points. James Johnson scored 17 points in his debut. Josh Hart had 14 points, 17 rebounds and five assists. The Pelicans hit 12 of 29 3-pointers and did a good job attacking the paint.

But Stan Van Gundy will be very upset with the turnovers. The Magic accumulated 16 steals and forced 23 turnovers. That helped the Pelicans blow a lead late in the fourth quarter and in overtime as the game see-sawed throughout the game. The Magic shot poorly but got soo many extra opportunities. Orlando took advantage of them throughout the game. Those are mistakes they can prevent.

Next. Orlando Magic need to begin melding new roster. dark

The Orlando Magic are now 17-31 and tied 13th in the Eastern Conference with the Cleveland Cavaliers. They trail the Chicago Bulls by three games for the final spot in the Play-In Tournament. The Orlando Magic continue their road trip Saturday against the Utah Jazz.