Orlando Magic face the impossible loss, a lesson they only need once

The Orlando Magic's loss to the Boston Celtics was seemingly impossible. It is a lesson the team only needs once. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic's loss to the Boston Celtics was seemingly impossible. It is a lesson the team only needs once. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /

Orlando Magic fans who have been through the pain and torture of a rebuild have seen this before.

A game with feel-good vibes through most of it and what seems like would end in a comfortable win. For a group that is not going to win a lot of games, it is the kind of game that portends to a brighter future. Some proof that the team is going in the right direction.

The inpredictable win probability numbers say it is nearly impossible for the team to lose. It would only take a monumental collapse or a truly heroic performance for the result to change.

Then the lead slowly dissipates. Shots go in for them and miss for the Magic. Turnovers are committed. Inexplicable mistakes are made. A five-second violation. Missed free throws. A call goes the wrong way. The team loses its composure.

The snowball starts to head downhill and suddenly the game is tight again. What looked like a comfortable win is instead a nervous wreck.

Inexperienced teams have to learn how to win. They have to learn how to put teams away. And when they are young, they sometimes have to learn them the hard way.

The Magic’s first rebuild did not heed those lessons, instead letting it snowball into the abyss. They did not ever really learn how to put games away until several iterations.

After this current Magic team, as depleted as they are, faced their first “impossible loss,” the question is now how will they react? What lessons will they learn from their 116-111 overtime loss at TD Garden on Sunday?

The Orlando Magic lost a lead that was seemingly insurmountable as the young team took a hard lesson. It is a lesson they must take to heart and improve upon.

Indeed, the Magic had a 14-point lead with 4:20 to play in the fourth quarter. Terrence Ross and Gary Harris carried the team through the second half as the Magic scored in big bursts to get back into the game and take the lead. Wagner seemed set to close the thing out.

The sports prediction site inpredictable gives a team up 14 with that little time remaining a 99.1-percent chance of winning the game. There was always a chance though.

Jaylen Brown got cooking to score 14 of his 50 points, making all six of his shots. He burrowed his way to the rim on every occasion as the Magic’s defense struggled to keep up.

That alone would not have been enough though to power the Celtics to the improbable win. They would still need some more help.

They would need a review to go in their favor after Jaylen Brown was called for a foul while blocking Wendell Carter’s dunk attempt. Initially called a foul on the floor, the replay center changed the call.

Even Carter admitted he let the frustration of that call and other plays get to him and throw him off his game.

"“In the fourth, they turned up the defense on us a little bit,” Carter said after Sunday’s game. “They did a good job speeding us up. As a group though, we have to be able to play at our own pace when teams are doing things like that, including myself. I take a lot of blame for this game tonight. Not necessarily from scoring points or anything, but holding my composure, making the right decisions down the stretch. I feel like I didn’t do a good job at that.”"

That call happened with 2:25 left in a six-point game. Two free throws there might have stemmed the tide. It seemed all downhill from there.

Franz Wagner uncharacteristically missed two free throws with 1:52 to go, a necessary building of momentum in Boston’s favor.

He would again look like a rookie with 42 seconds left when Marcus Smart lied in wait and stole the ball from him as he tried to turn toward the basket. Smart then threaded a pass to Brown to tie the game.

That would not have been enough. Not if Wagner then did not commit the favorite of bad turnovers — the five-second inbounds violation. That led to the Celtics taking the lead with 30 seconds to go.

If not for Tim Frazier sneaking by Dennis Schroder and laying it in with 21.8 seconds left, this game would not have gone to overtime. Still, it was an 18-4 run in those final 4.5 minutes that allowed the Celtics to get it to overtime.

After that, all bets were off. And with Brown eventually landing on a 50-point game, the Celtics were the safer bet.

"“I think it’s a great environment for these guys to play in,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Sunday’s loss. “To understand exactly what needs to be done down the stretch in certain situations, the details of certain situations. It’s a great learning lesson as we continued to move forward and get better.”"

The question now will be: How do the Magic respond to this? Will this be the thing that breaks their spirit and halts all the good vibes and positive momentum the team has been touting all season long, even through the mounting losses?

That is a question that is completely up to them.

This is meant to be a season of learning and taking in lessons. Especially right now with so many players out with injuries and players (slowly) returning from the league’s health and safety protocols, there are plenty of built-in excuses. This is not the Magic’s full team.

Still, a 14-point lead with 4.5 minutes to go with Terrence Ross, Gary Harris, Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter on the floor should still be a win. Getting wins when the opportunity arises is still important to show the team is on the right path.

It still took a meltdown of epic proportions and plenty of preventable mistakes for this kind of loss to happen. Now the team just has to work to eliminate those. Now that the team has seen just how quickly a lead can disappear, they will know to protect it better and stay at their own pace when an opponent tries to make things chaotic.

Perhaps the best sign came in overtime. Even with the Magic still reeling and trailing by six points, they fought back again.

Ross got a four-point play that cut the deficit to two. If Carter had hit both free throws, he could have tied the game with 42.4 seconds left. The Magic had a comeback of their own.

But all the attention Brown absorbed beat them in the end. He kicked it out to Al Horford on the next possession to drain a 3-pointer and put Boston back up four. There was no getting off the mat this time.

The Magic certainly played well enough to win — both Ross and Carter said after the game a similar effort would put them in position to win Monday in Chicago. They know next time they have to deliver.

Otherwise, failing to learn this most important lesson would speak really poorly of the team’s rebuilding prospects.

Next. 5 New Years Resolutions for the Orlando Magic. dark

Eventually, that potential energy needs to become kinetic. Wins still have to mean something when the opportunity is there.