Amway Center crowd delivers for growing Orlando Magic team

Markelle Fultz helped feed the Orlando Magic's go-ahead run in a wild win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Markelle Fultz helped feed the Orlando Magic's go-ahead run in a wild win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

110. 86. 118. 38. Final

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley has talked a lot this season about how much his team enjoys playing in front of the Amway Center crowd and feeds off their energy. Homestands have been an opportunity to harden fundamentals and foundations.

The Magic have played their best this season when they can group home games together.

What they have not seen is a responsive and loud Amway Center crowd. Not consistently.

A major talking point for a rebuilding team in a transient market like Orlando always turns to how to win the fans over — especially when opposing fans enter their building.

There were plenty of moments where the Magic were well aware the Amway Center was getting invaded — there were M-V-P chants for Joel Embiid and Jalen Suggs shouted down a Chicago Bulls fan with, “This is a Magic city” during a blowout win.

Orlando has rarely had the chance to back that up. They have rarely felt the energy a raucous home crowd could give them.

All that is earned though. The team needed to show growth to get the crwod behind them. They needed to give them a reason to cheer and pay attention.

Orlando still has a long way to go before this team is ready for playoff contention, but those reasons are becoming clearer and clearer, especially after a 118-110 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night.

The Orlando Magic fed off the energy of a supporting and wild crowd as they came back to take down one of the Western Conference’s hottest teams.

As Orlando erased an 18-point deficit and picked up steam in the third quarter, the crowd swelled with them. The energy from the play fed the crowd which fed back to the players.

"“I think there was a level of growth that we displayed out there,” Mo Bamba said after Friday’s game. “This was like the perfect game to work through and grow to become the team we want to be down the road. We were up, we were down, it was tied, but we kind of clawed back. We did a little bit of everything tonight to pull out this win.”."

Like the game itself, it is something the team has been building up to as they have started to show more tangible improvements.

Markelle Fultz finally got the team over the hump, taking a rebound and getting to the other end of the floor, driving right through Jalen Nowell for a lay in and the league, the crowd picked up its energy. It was at full force — doing organic cheers without the assistance of the in-arena sound effects.

It only got louder as the Magic aimed to hang on after nearly losing a 10-point fourth quarter lead of their own.

But as the Magic put the exclamation point on the game — Cole Anthony breaking the press in the backcourt, Jalen Suggs breaking the press in the half court and then Wendell Carter, behind the defense finding Mo Bamba cutting baseline for a game-clinching alley-oop dunk with less than a minute to play — the Magic had done more than give fans a reason to cheer. The team was showing hwo much it has improved and grown.

Just as fans seem eager to return to the Amway Center for this homestand, the Magic are putting the pieces together more consistently. They are not resembling the team with the worst record anymore. They are a team that is growing and earning respect.

They are earning these cheers.

"“The main thing in this is making sure we have fun,” Fultz said after Friday’s win. “We’re all competitors and we all want to win. We’re all going to do the things we need to do but he biggest thing about it is going out there and having fun. I think that showed tonight through everybody playing free and belieivng in each other and the work that we put in. It showed tonight.”"

Fultz said the fans can feel that fun. They can feel that passion and energy from the fans. The crowd in this game gave the team energy and gave them the boost. Fultz said he had not heard the Amway Center rocking like that in some time

This might as well be the Magic’s playoffs during this critical homestand. These final 15 games are their statement of progress to a fan base hungry to support a winning team and still unsure over the start of another rebuild.

It did not look like it would be that way early in Friday’s game. The Wolves were burying threes and Karl-Anthony Towns was leaving bodies in his wake.

Slowly though, the Magic turned it around. The tide started to rise and build. The storm was brewing. A packed crowd in the Amway Center — 14,557 fans in announced attendance — started to come alive.

The Magic have been looking for a breakthrough moment. They have been building and building, placing each block carefully in place and trying to find some positives in a lot of muck. There has been a lot of focus on the future and little on the now.

"“[The fans] willed this one,” coach Jamahl Mosley said to open his postgame press conference Friday. “They got us going and pushed us through after that first quarter. We got a little bit of momentum and they helped carry us through. They have been fantastic in these homestands.”"

Orlando has played its best basketball through these homestands. They went 3-2 in a five-game homestand in January, capping off a month when it felt like their defense was turning corner. As they prepare to finish the season with a majority of home games, the team is again putting pieces together.

It is games like this that show how much everything is coming together. Orlando has been resilient all year. This was a sign that this resilience does not just come when the stakes are low. The Magic are finding resilience and fighting back.

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So how the Magic finished this game is even more important and impressive.

Coming back after the poor first quarter — the Magic gave up a defensive rating of 101.4 points per 100 possessions in the final three quarters — to stay in the game, fighting and clawing their way back in the third and overtaking the lead and then finally holding off with big plays down the stretch, that is all signs of a team figuring its way through the league.

The Magic are starting to win in multiple ways now too. It is all that tangible sign of progress.

"“We’ve said it: Hanging our hats on the defensive end is what it’s going to take to get things done,” Mosley said after Friday’s win. “We’ve shown that in the past couple games. . . . This young group is growing and learning how to execute down the stretch.”"

Despite all the talk about the future needs some tangible growth to point to. They need a clear signal of how much progress they are making. They need to show that to the fans as much as anything.

Orlando is starting to show those clearer signs of progress and that growth. That is all anyone wants to see from a young team.

That kind of energy and play is getting the response and respect of the home crowd at long last.

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The Magic fans showed their appreciation and fed that energy. And the Magic gave it back in return. Everyone could see the picture coming together.