Orlando Magic are developing a style that they need to trust

The Orlando Magic are developing a hard-nosed, fast-paced style. But the Indiana Pacers put some cracks in a fourth-quarter comeback. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic are developing a hard-nosed, fast-paced style. But the Indiana Pacers put some cracks in a fourth-quarter comeback. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

38. Final/OT. 122. 100. 114

Following Friday’s game against the Houston Rockets, Chuma Okeke told Dante Marchitelli of Bally Sports Florida in the postgame walk-off interview that the win showed how together and how much fun the team was having. He said if the team is playing like this and grinding like this in the kind of season the Magic are having this year, imagine what they will be like when they are winning.

There is a confidence about this group and a high level of buy-in to what coach Jamahl Mosley is preaching that is starting to take hold.

Through three quarters on Wednesday, it was clear to see what Okeke is talking about and what the Magic are building.

They switched and stifled an offensive-minded Indiana Pacers team for the second straight outing. They created turnovers and got out in transition to finish.

There was a bit of controlled chaos to the way the Magic played. And this is getting closer to how the team wants to play.

This is the beginnings of the formation of an identity and a way to play. And the Magic are finding some success.

So the question remains for this group: What happened in the fourth quarter and overtime? How did the team lose a 15-point lead entering the fourth quarter? How did the team struggle to regain its composure when the starters returned and into overtime?

The Orlando Magic are starting to develop a distinct style. But it is clear their youth is indering them and they are still learning to trust the way they play.

The Pacers returned the favor of a fourth-quarter comeback earlier this season to win 122-114 in overtime on Wednesday at the Amway Center. The Magic are discovering and finding their style, but they are still not quite trusting it. Not fully.

The Pacers opened the fourth quarter on the attack, getting to the foul line for 11 of their 35 free throw attempts. That aggressive mindset caught an experimental Magic lineup on its backfoot.

The group of Markelle Fultz, R.J. Hampton, Terrence Ross, Admiral Schofield and Chuma Okeke opened the quarter and gave up 10 points of that lead within 4.5 minutes of the quarter.

The Pacers were confident and that makes everything more dangerous.

They hit six of 10 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and then hit a pair more in overtime to put the lead out of reach. If not for a floater from Franz Wagner and a tip-in from Mo Bamba with nine seconds left in regulation, the Magic may not have even had the chance to win in overtime.

That is how thorough the shift was for the Magic. Orlando got too happy up 15 and cruising to a win and could not hold back the avalanche that overtook them.

"“We just got too happy on offense,” Bamba said after Wednesday’s loss. “We had a lot of good looks. We got too happy and tried to trade buckets.”"

Orlando went from a free-flowing offense that used its defense to generate offense and moved the ball to the open man. An offense that played with pace and energy, attacking the paint and finding shots at the rim.

Through three quarters, the Magic shot 52.3-percent from the floor, forced 17 turnovers for 20 points, recorded 21 assists on 34 field goals and had 11 fast-break points. Orlando could not have asked for a better performance to that point.

Like they did Monday night, everyone was eating. The team was executing on both ends at a high level.

All the team needed to see this year was an outline of the team they would become. They just needed to see some hint of the style they would play.

Of late, the Magic are playing like that more and more.

Their pace in terms of possessions per 48 minutes is up, reaching the top 10 in the league. But increasingly now, the Magic are playing at that faster pace with a whole lot more control.

There is inherent chaos in playing with more possessions, but being able to dictate that tempo is something entirely different.

Through three quarters, the Magic played at a pace of 104.7 possessions per 48 minutes, well above their pace for the season that is at right about 100 possessions per 48 minutes.

There were plays like Jalen Suggs getting a long rebound and while the defense was setting suddenly fire a quick pass to Franz Wagner cutting to the basket for a dunk. Or there were plays like Markelle Fultz weaving through the lane as he often does.

The Magic were making a living in the paint with 40 points in the paint through three quarters and kicking the ball wherever they wanted. Wagner scored 24 of his 28 points through three quarters.

Their switching package defensively was especially strong. Orlando was willing to swtich one through five and did so as seamless as they could. It stymied the Pacers and kept them from getting the 3-point looks they wanted.

Orlando is developing its style. The team is starting to put all those pieces together. They are playing with more defensive force and pressure (sometimes too much as their fouling issues of late are showing). They are starting to run a whole lot more and use their youth and energy to create offense.

The Magic are improving and starting to buy into a distinct style.

But it is clear where their youth shows. They are not able to dictate the tempo of the game the whole tme. And confident teams locked in on defense or able to break the Magic’s defense are able to revert this team back into the group with the worst record in the league.

The fourth quarter saw the Magic lose that flow. It was not merely the experimental lineup Mosley turned to that opened the quarter that lost its offensive flow. the starting group also struggled.

"“I don’t think it started in the fourth quarter, it started earlier than that,” Mosley said after Wednesday’s game. “When we let go of it in that second quarter. Going into hafltime, they understood what they could do to get back into the game. They turned the heat up a bit. We turned it over a couple of time. Credit to Indiana for what they did, coming back, getting a lot more aggressive, knocking down some shots and getting to the free throw line.”"

In the fourth quarter, their switches were late and left holes for the Pacers to exploit. Not to mention mismatches that led to offensive rebounds and second chances.

Orlando’s offense slowed to a crawl. The team played the fourth quarter and overtime at a pace of 97.3 possessions per 48 minutes. The Magic were not able to get the dribble penetration the team needed and ended up playing a lot more isolation.

light. Related Story. Even in limited action, Markelle Fultz shows who he is

Orlando turned it over eight times in the fourth quarter and overtime. The team had 20 turnovers for the game as a whole.

That was only part of the mistakes the team made as their offense slowed.

Wagner scored only four points in the fourth quarter and overtime — a clear sign of the team’s poor ball movement. Many of the late-game possesions devolved into pick and rolls with Cole Anthony (who shot an icy 4 for 13) or Jalen Suggs (6-for-15 shooting) with Wendell Carter. But the Pacers had that locked down late and Carter had an uncharacteristically poor game overall — 13 points, 18 rebounds, 5-for-12 shooting.

Orlando’s late-game execution left a lot wanting. More importantly, Orlando was no longer dictating the flow or tempo of the game. The team was searching.

The Magic’s identity and style is cementing itself. It is clear just how good this Magic team can be. It is also very clear how much the Magic are buying in and starting to embody the way they want to play.

But this is still a young team learning how to do this at every moment. Orlando is still making mistakes and can still have the tempo dictated to them.

Next. Orlando Magic have put focus on winning third quarters. dark

They are still learning how to control the tempo and find their groove. They are still learning to trust the style they are growing to adopt.