Orlando Magic are building to be resilient

Franz Wagner was brilliant in leading the undermanned Orlando Magic to a gutsy home win over the Dallas Mavericks. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner was brilliant in leading the undermanned Orlando Magic to a gutsy home win over the Dallas Mavericks. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

38. Final. 87. 79. 94

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley has emphasized to his players to get into their habits and routine to help them prepare for each game. Consistency in routine and consistency in effort are ways the team hopes to build good habits that will help players improve and then help the team improve.

Of course, nothing ever goes to plan. Not perfectly.

While they might be in their pregame routine, everything changes with the cards the team was dealt ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks at Amway Center.

Tip-off was moved up to 5:30 p.m. to help everyone get out of the arena before the worst of Hurricane Nicole (upgraded to a hurricane mid-game) came on shore in Central Florida. Then came the news that Paolo Banchero would miss the first game of his young career with a sprained ankle suffered in Monday’s loss to the Houston Rockets.

But one thing the Magic have proven themselves to be, at least in Mosley’s estimation, is resilient. They have fought hard to keep themselves in games and rallied to hang around despite their many, many mistakes.

The Orlando Magic have shown a nice reilient streak early in the season as they try to learn to win. With the deck stacked against them, they fought back and beat the Dallas Mavericks.

How does that resilience turn into wins? That is what this season is meant to find out.

But if there is one characteristic that keeps popping up time and time again it is that the Magic will play from tip-off to buzzer.

Other teams are finding that out. So when the team is able to put the pieces together, it is producing some exciting results.

With everything working against them Wednesday night, even taking on a strong Mavericks team with Luka Doncic playing at his best, the Magic locked in. They stayed in contact despite loads of turnovers and their own poor 3-point shooting waiting for the chance to take the lead.

When it finally came, the Magic hung on, locking up Doncic in the fourth quarter for a 94-87 victory in front of a larger-than-anticipated crowd at the Amway Center. They saw a team show its resiliency and maturity as they closed the game down the stretch and won with so much seemingly working against them.

"“We have everything to prove in this league as a group and as individual players,” Franz Wagner said after Wednesday’s win. “I think as a group we weren’t satisfied with our performance the other day against Hosuton. We really wanted to come out and show what we are about. We have great character as a team. We want to be a resilient team.”"

Orlando certainly played with that chip on their shoulder, playing through 19 turnovers and struggling to contain and contest 3-point shooters early in the game. But Orlando fought through all of those and stayed within reach until the team could overtake Dallas.

That came because of the team’s resilience and the way the team has responded to mistakes. They kept fighting and grinding to earn a gutsy win.

Their games have turned on one or two plays they needed to make. What this young team is trying to learn how to do is make up for mistakes and make these plays. They are learning how to roll with the punches and make plays after mistakes rathher than compounding mistakes.

"“I’m so proud of these guys,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Wednesday’s game. “Their energy, their effort, their resilience to keep fighting. They did a heck of a job sticking with the game plan. I’m really proud of this group.”"

Mosley said the team has had meetings with players about having this “next play mentality” including speaking with the team’s coaching staff to move past their mistakes and not compound it.

It is an area the team still has to grow in and will be a source of constant improvement.

But that trait is being slowly throughout the course of the team — think R.J. Hampton turning the ball over and then getting back to swat a Josh Green layup attempt. Orlando might have let plays like those become worse or drop their heads and wallow in it for a brief moment last year. That is how deficits grow to 20 points and become insurmountable.

Instead, now the team is recognizing the mistake quickly and making a play to make up for it.

This was on display at crucial points in the game too as the team showed some real poise and focus to close it out.

With 48 seconds left in the third quarter, Wagner fumbled the ball trying to spin back to the center of the court. Tim Hardaway Jr. picked it up and got to the other end of the floor. Wagner sprinted back with him as if the turnover did not happen.

He was able to contest the layup, causing Hardaway to miss. Chuma Okeke gathered the rebound and the next offensive possession ended with Franz Wagner finding Wendell Carter in the corner for a three to tie the game at 72.

These are the kind of winning plays that do not always show up in a box score. The kind of margin plays that determine wins and losses. It was big for Orlando to tie the game and head to the fourth quarter with that boost of confidence.

These are some of the plays they were missing in their losses. But it was a big part of the game for the Magic. It was emblematic of how the team played and kept fighting through some of the same errors that cost them games this year.

Orlando committed 19 turnovers, but gave up only 10 points off turnoves. Dallas was unable to make good on the mistakes Orlando made throughout the game.

That speaks to how the team was able to bounce back and prevent the easy baskets that turnovers can often lead to. The Mavericks are a low-possession team and it showed in how they attacked these turnovers.

Orlando knows it will make mistakes as a young team. But the team is quickly understanding how it responds to them can make the difference in the game.

"“There are going to be games where we are going to be up or down,” Wagner said after Wednesday’s game. “We have to continue to get better at finishign games and playing through mistakes. As a young team, mistakes are going to be a part of it. We’ve got great players on the team and the coaching staff is very ambitious and competitive. I’m very happy that we could show that tonight.”"

But Orlando continually adjusted and executed a strong gameplan.

They held Luka Doncic to 24 points on 9-for-29 shooting, making sure he had big bodies in Chuma Okeke or Wendell Carter on him and then another big body waiting to help.

Dallas hit its threes early in the game, making five in the first quarter. But the Magic were able to adjust, trust each other more and contest shots a lot better as the game went on. The Mavericks finished 11 for 42 for the game (26.2 percent) and hit only 1 of 8 in the fourth quarter.

In that fourth quarter too, the Magic committed only a single turnover (a Terrence Ross travel), protecting the ball and maintaining possession to close the game out.

Orlando entered the game not showing a lot of this consistently. The response to Monday’s loss in addition to all the factors leading into this game put a lot on their table.

The Magic clearly used it as an opportunity to refocus and rally.

"“Being that the game was moved up, we just had to come in and be more locked in than we usually are, honestly,” Chuma Okeke said after Wednesday’s game. “Especially facing a team like this, a team can score and also a slow-paced team. We just had to stay locked in for the whole game, play together and the outcome would be what we expect if we play like that and lock in.”"

The Magic are still going to be fighting for consistency.

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But one thing that is quickly becoming clear is how much this team is going to fight and move past mistakes quickly. That is part of what the Magic hoped they would see this year. And it is quickly becoming a key part of this team’s ethos and identity.