Orlando Magic needed a play, Jalen Suggs delivered

Jalen Suggs turned in a career game, making all the plays the Orlando Magic needed down the stretch to pick up a win over the Golden State Warriors. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Suggs turned in a career game, making all the plays the Orlando Magic needed down the stretch to pick up a win over the Golden State Warriors. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

41. 130. 38. Final. 129

The Orlando Magic may well have felt like they were one play away in most of their games.

One stretch away or sequence of plays. Just something needed to come together for the team to earn a win and consistently make good on the progress they could clearly feel they were making.

They had that discussion following their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday. There was the come to Jesus moment when they had to realize their success or failure was on them.

At the end of the day, the team would need to find a way to get a shot to go down or get a stop when they needed. They would need someone to step up and make a play.

They could talk all they want about what they have to do. What the Magic have not proven so far is whether anyone could do it. Somebody needed to be the hero. Somebody had to step up and take the big shots.

There were a lot of unlikely heroes in Thursday’s 130-129 win over the defending champion Golden State Warriors. It was something that built up throughout the end of the game.

But the Magic’s early season run has turned on a few plays — a made or missed shot, a turnover or a needed stop. This game was always going to come down to the wire and someone making a play.

No one probably would have thought this would be the Jalen Suggs breakout game.

Jalen Suggs made the big plays for the Orlando Magic as they got over the hump and picked up a big win over the Golden State Warriors.

Not with his second game back from a five-game absence with a sprained ankle and all the difficulties he has had managing the team and finding his footing in the league let along to get going this season.

Suggs showed the burst and creativity and defensive doggedness that made him one of the top prospects in his loaded draft class. This is not the Suggs the Magic have seen for much of his career beyond a few bursts.

When the chips were down, Suggs was the one making the plays.

"“It’s just about us being ourselves and playing within our gameplan,” Suggs said after Thursday’s win. “Coaches have trust in all of us to make the right plays and to make good plays. We all have trust to make those good plays. My teammates have my back right or wrong. They are behind me. The shots went in and we got stops. All of us contributed all night long. I ended up getting the ones at the end. The ones that happened before that are at the same level. If they don’t do those things and us as a team didn’t play like that, I don’t get those opportunities.”"

Suggs finished the game with a career-high 26 points, adding nine assists and four steals. He scored 15 of the Magic’s 34 fourth-quarter points, hitting five of seven shots in the final frame.

That only gets halfway there though. It is where all those points and baskets and plays came from and the sequence of them all together.

The Magic opened up a seven-point lead when Suggs ripped the ball from Stephen Curry and started a fast break, finding Paolo Banchero for an alley-oop.

The Warriors, of course, came back, raising the temperature for Magic fans who have come to expect losing and do not quite have faith in this young roster yet.

It would be a fair assumption to believe Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson would be able to will the Warriors to a win over this young Magic team. The Warriors took a one-point lead. The Magic needed a play.

They kept on fighting back.

"“This group is so resilient,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Thursday’s win. “It’s going to be a game of runs. It’s a game of flows. You have to understand to stay the course no matter what and do the simple things. We always talk about dominating the simple. Those are part of the things we did going down the stretch.”"

That is where Suggs stepped in.

Down by one with 1:48 to play, Suggs went into a pick-and-roll and came around on the other end with no one guarding him. That is the shot the Warriors probably wanted Suggs to take. Suggs recognized the miscommunication on the switch and buried the open three.

The guard has struggled from deep in his two seasons, making just 5 of his 18 3-pointers. He has struggled with shot selection too. This was a player with a confident stroke making a big shot when the Magic needed it though.

The Warriors of course battled back once again.

The Magic would have to take one more punch from the champions. But Suggs answered again, sizing up his defender and hitting another step-back three to break a tie and put the Magic up with 37 seconds left.

These are not the shots the Magic are accustomed to Suggs taking or making. These are the exact shots the Magic have often seen Suggs struggle with and lean on too much.

But this is also the potential the Magic saw in Suggs when they made him the fifth pick. They knew he was always capable. And when the Magic needed a play, they rode the hot hand and trusted their teammate to deliver.

Suggs closed his game by doing something that was expected. He played some stellar defense, as he had most of the game when he got matched up with Curry (the Magic did a lot of switching so it is hard to say anyone had the primary coverage on Curry).

He deflected a pass from Curry and getting a steal, his second in fairly quick succession in the final moments of the game. Getting fouled and going to the line.

Suggs could only extend the lead to four by splitting the free throws. There is always something to improve upon. Things were never easy to close the game. Orlando scrambled well and got a stop on Thompson’s missed runner at the buzzer.

The win was the win. And Suggs shined brightest late in the game. A cathartic moment for a guard with tons of talent and plenty of adversity in his early career.

"“I’ve had a lot of fun moments,” Suggs said after Thursday’s game. “I’ve had a lot of moments where I went to the game happy. This is definitely one of them. It’s definitely towards the top. The part of it that makes me so happy about it is to do it with this locker room and this team. These guys lifted me up all game — good shot, bad shot, turnover, gamble on defense. They were constantly talking to me. We battle every night.”"

It showed that anyone on this Magic team can be the hero — Paolo Banchero did work in the third quarter to help Orlando erase a 16-point deficit from earlier and bench players like Kevon Harris, Chuma Okeke and R.J. Hampton were critical for the team throughout.

That is what it will take for this team specifically to start building wins. And that is where the team sees its future.

They got one under their belt now where the team made the plays necessary down the stretch. They can see clearly how every play matters and how every play builds on each other.

At the end of the day, they know now it takes just one player asserting their will to make a play and get the job done.

Next. Franz Wagner's shooting, usage are last pieces of the puzzle. dark

Thursday when the Magic needed a play, Suggs delivered. And that is how the Magic got their win.