Orlando Magic are going to be some serious fun

Wendell Carter helped lead the Orlando Magic to a clutch victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the preseason. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Carter helped lead the Orlando Magic to a clutch victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the preseason. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

Final. 105. 211. 109. 38

The Orlando Magic have tried to be serious about their approach this preseason.

There has been talk about accountability and trying to win more and all the other things. There had been little proof to this point. It is preseason, after all. The stars would have to align for the Magic to get their crack at some real basketball.

With the Magic though holding onto a single-digit lead, things did happen to create some conditions to learn something real about this team.

The Memphis Grizzlies and Orlando Magic put their starters back in the game with 6:34 left in the game and the Magic up 11. The game was on.

And so the playoff-savvy Grizzlies made their comeback, trimming and tying the lead in a matter of minutes. The Magic showed their youth and inexperience. They had raced out to a lead and held serve for the entire game. But this became serious business.

The Magic answered the call.

The Orlando Magic got a true dress rehearsal with a close game against a playoff-tested Memphis Grizzlies. Even with some missteps, the team came through and provided a fun glimpse into their future.

Orlando stepped up to the plate. In a clutch situation facing down the tornado that is Ja Morant, the Magic stood tall. They hit big shot after big shot, made play after play. And while there is still plenty to clean up, they came out victorious 109-105.

There was a lot of fun getting there. It was a first preseason home game that introduced this team to the fan base for the first time and left a lot to like. And, yes, it was a preseason game.

But somehow this felt real. The two teams were going for the win in the end with their starters on the floor trying to scratch out a win. A loss may not sting as much, but a win sure felt pretty good.

That did not feel like a preseason game. This was some serious business and the Magic came to play. They knew this moment was going to be important for them.

"“With us being such a young team, I think it’s probably the most important thing,” Wendell Carter said after Tuesday’s game. “Getting reps throughout practice is nothing like playing in the game. It was a great test for us because I feel like as a team we will be in a lot of late-game situations throughout this year. That was something we struggled with a lot last year.”"

As fun as the previous 42 minutes might have been, the Grizzlies sensed it was winning time and they were going for it trying to scramble back into the game. Someone would have to make a stand.

What the Magic did in that moment, even battling back from their own mistakes, was perhaps far more impressive. And perhaps that is the clearest sign of something cooking.

Orlando was tied with Memphis at 95 when Wendell Carter faked a handoff and drove past Xavier Tillman, hitting a layup and drawing the foul.

The lead never changed hands but this was the greatest threat to it and Orlando answered in a big way.

The Magic finished the game. Carter hit the free throw to get the Magic up three.

In the biggest moment of the game, the Magic were up two points with less than 40 seconds to play. The team drew up an inbounds play that got the ball back to Franz Wagner. He stared down the Memphis defense and drained a step-back three to put Orlando up five and essentially seal the game.

Wagner then followed it up by stealing the ball from Morant and further sealing the game shut (or mostly shut).

Orlando still has a lot to work on. The team’s finish was shaky with turnovers and the comeback that brought Memphis back into the game. This is a young team that made young team mistakes — let alone still preseason mistakes.

It was important to get the experience of playing and succeeding in a close game. There is no simulation for the pressure and challenge the Magic faced going starter against starter and coming out with a win.

Orlando will have that step up and that bit of confidence for the team’s first close game when the regular season begins.

As much as the Magic struggled, they still did a lot of the things that helped them build their lead to close it.

They ran perfect pick and rolls between Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter to set up basket after basket — the two combined for 10 of the team’s final 16 points and three of the team’s final four field goals. Wagner finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists and Carter had 18 points, even rebounds and eight assists.

There was nothing Memphis could do to stop them. And that was because of everything that came before.

The Magic just flat-out dominated the Grizzlies for long stretches. All the messages the team was sending on both ends suddenly seemed to click.

The whole thing got tied together.

As a home debut, there was not just the impression of winning the game and the joy of a win. It was the fun in which they did it. Orlando’s offense hopped around, moving the ball and giving almost everyone a moment to shine.

Paolo Banchero scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half, hitting some nice pull-up jumpers and cuts along the baseline. Bol Bol had his moment in the second half, running the floor (sometimes wildly) to make plays at the rim and put pressure on the defense with his size.

Caleb Houstan dove on the floor several times in the second quarter and got down defensively before hitting shots on the other end on his way to 13 points. Terrence Ross hit his share of shots as he continues a killer preseason, scoring 17 points.

The Magic’s starting lineup staked a 25-9 lead early as the team came out with focus, intensity and energy that was of a team trying to prove something and force itself into some progress. The team posted 30 assists on 40 field goals, moving in and out and quickly around the perimeter to get good shots.

"“We’ve said it from the beginning, we’re going to do it by committee,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Tuesday’s game. “Some nights, one guy may have a big night and one guy may not. The reality of how this team is being built is we are going to do it together. Guys are celebrating each other night in and night and I think that is the great part about this young group.”"

Orlando’s biggest weakness remains its fouling and the team’s defense, while interesting and good for long stretches, can still give up points and 3-pointers. Orlando can roll with those punches and perhaps the team has proven that in the preseason so far,

The team can still rely too much on 3-point shooting and lean on that instead of working inside-out.

But so much of this thing worked. this game was a proof of concept of how everything can quickly come together for this Magic and just how much fun it can all be when it works in concert. There is something there.

The Magic had a lot of fun. The fans had a lot of fun. Winning is a lot of fun. This seems like it is going to be a lot of fun.

But in the end, the biggest takeaway was how the Magic buckled down, played through mistakes and found a way to win. Perhaps before winning is really important. The Magic got the added bonus of winning experience and the learning that comes from that.

That is more than anyone could ask for. The Magic still have work to do to be ready for the regular season.

Next. Bol Bol fighting his way onto the court. dark

But Tuesday night everyone got a look at what this team looks like when things work.