Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic get another hard lesson on buzzer beater

Jalen Suggs had great moments and difficult moments as the Orlando Magic absorbed another difficult lesson. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Suggs had great moments and difficult moments as the Orlando Magic absorbed another difficult lesson. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

38. Final/OT. 126. 84. 123

There is one lesson the Orlando Magic have unequivocally learned.

After spending most of last season taking a punch and playing through mistakes only for them to wilt and lose big — only taking solace in turning a 20-point deficit into a 12-point loss — the Magic are capable of putting themselves in the position to win games.

The Magic recognize the fact they have grown to the point of competing and being in games in the fourth quarter and that their fight to the end of the game is not inconsequential.

Orlando has had a real chance to win almost all of their games through 10 games this season. But the result has mostly been the same. The team is piling up losses, only hoping they are getting lessons in them.

Saturday’s 126-123 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Amway Center was another painful and difficult lesson. Perhaps the most difficult one of all.

De’Aaron Fox delivered a gut punch to the Orlando Magic, draining a logo 3-pointer to give the Sacramento Kings a buzzer-beating overtime win.

Close games are good and mean you have a chance. But close games are random to a point. They can be about will. But even good play is not always rewarded. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat and eat the loss.

The Magic deserve all the credit for fighting back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and forcing overtime. They deserve all the credit for trailing by four points with 14.1 seconds left and clawing to tie — Jalen Suggs hitting both free throws and then the Magic forcing a turnover with a backcourt trap that led to Chuma Okeke tying the game with a dunk with 2.5 seconds left.

They also deserve all the blame and frustration for what came next.

De’Aaron Fox, running circles around the Magic’s defense in the second half including the game-tying basket at the end of regulation, took the ball quickly up the court. Finding little resistance, he pulled up from the edge of the giant Magic logo at mid-court.

The shot went in and Fox delivered the Kings a huge win in their quest to end their playoff drought and get back on the right foot. The shot sent the Magic searching again for that extra little bit it takes to win.

The Magic had plenty of opportunities to win the game and it is again the little moments that mattered — a missed shot late with the Magic trying to regain a four-point lead that opened the door for the Kings to force overtime or two missed open 3-pointers to close regulation and win the game. Games turn on small things like that.

It also turned on a 36-12 third quarter when the Magic struggled to find the defense and ball movement that powered them to an 18-point halftime lead. Orlando turned the ball over nine times for 15 points in that quarter alone letting Sacramento back into the game.

This young Magic team, so new to winning and winning expectations and potential, still does not quite know how to put teams away or bring consistent focus and energy at the highest levels. Orlando could not get out of its funk until it was down 10 and scrambled to get back into the game.

These things feel like broken records as this team tries to find its growth and figure out how to win consistently. That may well be the struggle this season.

At this stage, it is disappointing to lose a game in this fashion. It hurts and it should hurt. There are clearly expectations and capability to win. But the important thing for this young group is to see the team grow and improve so that it does not happen again.

The only hope is that things will continue to get better.

Player Grades

Paolo Banchero – A

At this point, the only one holding Paolo Banchero back from absolute stardom is himself — and that is in a good way because he is trying to be an unselfish teammate. The fact is Banchero is a player capable of changing the temperature of the team and, at times, willing his team back into the game.

Banchero was just darn impressive, hitting tough shots throughout the game and bowling his way into the paint. He scored 33 points and grabbed 16 rebounds with just one turnover to his name on a night with a ton of them (18 for 26 for the game with, again, nine in the third quarter).

Banchero still has to improve his jumper and his understanding of when to take over. The Magic need to continue doing a better job getting him the ball in easy places for him to work and operate. When they do, as they did in the first half, he is really good at initiating contact, blowing his man off the ball and creating space to get his shot up, leaving defenders no choice but to foul.

It is a big endorsement that Orlando went to Banchero time and time again late in the game as they hunted out favorable matchups and trusted him to finish.

Franz Wagner – A-

Franz Wagner has really started to round into form after a somewhat difficult start to the season. He is doing a better job of understanding his role and where he can attack as one of the main ball handlers and playmakers on the team. It is actually quite impressive how quickly this transformation has occurred.

Franz Wagner was just as good as Paolo Banchero in this game with 31 points and six assists. He was great working his way through the lane and finding teammates or finishing through traffic at the rim. Banchero worked the inside and Wagner worked the outside attacking the basket.

The 3-point shooting is still the big piece missing for Wagner. He made only 1 of his 5 3-pointers, missing a potential winning three on the Magic’s final possession of regulation. That is still the piece missing for him and this team to take that next step.

Orlando lost this game for a lot of reasons — many listed above. But shooting only 4 of 23 on 3-pointers is a big reason the team eventually could not sustain its offense when the transition shots ran out.

Jalen Suggs – C+

There are moments where Jalen Suggs is really really good. He can make pinpoint passes delivered right in the shooting pocket or right to players a long way away. He can be a pest defensively and get into guys and force his share of turnovers and mistakes. On offense, he can stop on a dime and hit jumpers and drain deep threes off the dribble. He is always confident (that is good!).

Then there are moments when Suggs is really really bad. Where he is loose with his handle and struggling to make the right pass. He will try to do too much, whether it is bowling his way into the paint toward the basket. Or just turning the ball over unnecessarily.

With Suggs, it never feels like there is an in-between. He is either running extremely hot or extremely cold. He scored six points on 2-for-7 shooting. But he had seven assists. But he had six turnovers.

There is a lot of good in there and a lot of bad. In a game with so little margin for error, though, those kinds of plays matter. And so much of the team’s inconsistency can be traced to some extent to Suggs as the team’s acting point guard for now.

Bol Bol – B+

Orlando Magic fans are in love with Bol Bol. There is no doubt about that. He continues to do some incredible things when he has the ball and fans are hanging on every moment. It just does not seem real for him to be able to do the things he does at 7-foot-2.

Bol had several jaw-dropping plays, taking the ball the length of the court for a dunk, hitting a tough leaner and a step-back three with a foul all in the first quarter of the game. Bol finished with 23 points on 10-for-11 shooting and seven rebounds. He was genuinely striking fear into opponents with his presence.

Still, there is fine-tuning that needs to come. Bol is still a bit loose defensively, often lunging for steals or chasing blocks. That takes him out of position to help where the team needs him. On the game-tying basket in regulation, Bol Bol went for a steal or tried to leak out when the Sacramento Kings recovered the ball and that set up De’Aaron Fox to tie the game.

Next. 3 positives from the Orlando Magic's first 9 games. dark

The Magic fall to 2-8 on the season. They will be back in action Monday at the Amway Center against the Houston Rockets.