Orlando Magic will need a little extra to snap losing streak

The Orlando Magic did many of the things they needed to do to snap their losing streak. But still found themselves a hair short. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic did many of the things they needed to do to snap their losing streak. But still found themselves a hair short. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

38. Final. 109. 89. 102

The Orlando Magic were determined to end their losing streak. They were willing to play hard and do what they had to do to scratch out a win even against one of the league’s best teams.

They had a solid gameplan to force Giannis Antetokounmpo to stay on the perimeter and let him shoot jumpers (he made them, foiling some of those plans). They executed that gameplan about as well as they could.

They still found themselves down by double digits fairly early into the game. Even into the second half, they trailed by 15 points and eventually by 19 points. Every run they made to cut the deficit to single digits was answered and extended back out.

Orlando still kept grinding and fighting its way back into it. The Magic were not going to go down swinging this time. They had learned their lessons and got back to the good vibes from early in the season that made them a tough out for 48 minutes despite their injuries and talent deficiencies.

They just needed one more play. One more play to tip the team over the hill. One more play and one more shot to go down that would make the boulder rolling down the hill seem inevitable. Their opportunities were running out.

The shots they needed to fall with such a small margin for error just would not go down for them in the end.

The Orlando Magic found themselves grinding and fighting to climb back against one of the league’s best teams. They did everything they had to do to win. But they were just one play short once again.

Down by five with two minutes to play, the Magic had the ball popping to get the exact shot they wanted. A Franz Wagner drive sucked the defense in and led to a kick out to Caleb Houstan in the corner. He missed his three, got his own rebound and found Terrence Ross. Ross beat the blowby and repositioned himself at the top of the key for another wide-open 3-pointer.

It too was no good. And so was the story for the Magic. A supremely strong effort in almost every facet where the team fought and grinded to make up for their mistakes and found extra juice to squeeze out and stay in the game.

Winning and beating team of the Bucks’ quality will take a little bit more. It will take something a bit more. Even when the Magic seemingly have so little more to give. But that is the experience the team wants to get for now.

"“I think the best part about that is we are getting the shot,” coach Jamahl Mosley said of that sequence after Monday’s game. “At the end of the day, you talk about process over results. The process of what we did the right thing the right play, spraying it out, getting a feet-set ready to knock down three. That puts the game at two points. You want guys feeling the situation by making the right play. That’s what we’ve asked them to do and they are doing it.”"

Orlando needed that one shot to go in to make good on such a great effort and provide some bulwark against Antetokounmpo. It was that last little bit to get over the top and break the team’s now nine-game losing streak.

The Bucks though are the Bucks. They had control of the game one of the frontrunners for the league’s MVP award to give them the cushion to hold on and win 109-102 at the Amway Center on Monday.

Close will have to be good enough for a team looking for its identity. They will have to take the moral victory of congratulations for putting in a great effort and perhaps understanding this is the kind of effort that would win on most nights.

Just not this one.

Orlando had a lot of things working against it from its poor shooting — 36.6 percent from the floor and 8 for 32 (25 percent) from deep. Paolo Banchero made just 4 for 16 from the floor as he tried to beat up on the smaller Jrue Holiday, only to find Holiday worthy of the Defensive Player of the Year moniker.

Banchero made up for it with 15 free throw attempts, making 12 as he forced his way to the line. The Magic had 29 total free-throw attempts. That and 46 points in the paint are the keys to the Magic making up for their lack of 3-point shooting. It is essential to their success.

But even there, Orlando made only 23 of 49 shots in the paint. The Magic left a lot of points on the board.

Still, that determination to get to the paint, to the foul line and to the basket were critical to keep the team going. That will has been something the team has missed lately in this losing streak. Orlando was going to keep playing its style and find a way to make things work.

The Magic moved the ball and did not just force their way to the basket. The ball popped around the perimeter in a way it has done so rarely this season. Orlando had 21 assists on 34 field goals. And there were plenty more the team lost to missed shots and free throws.

If the Magic are going to win games, it will be with an effort like this. Balanced scoring — Franz Wagner took over in the pick and roll in the second half for 25 points, Paolo Banchero and Markelle Fultz each had 20 points and Moe Wagner added 19 points and 12 rebounds — and opportunistic defense.

Outside of the Magic’s still-frustrating transition defense (20 points on 7-for-7 shooting) and turnovers, they did a good job limiting the Bucks in the half-court. Milwaukee shot just 44.7 percent from the floor and 13 for 40 from beyond the arc.

Orlando was squarely in the game and used its defense and rebounding — Banchero especially was active on the boards with 12 rebounds to help limit Milwaukee to one shot — to get back into the game.

The Magic had every reason to quit and wait for the next opportunity but they kept the faith and they kept fighting. That is a lot more than anyone could say.

"“Honestly, it’s just our mentality,” Moe Wagner said after Wednesday’s game. “It has to do with belief. I’ve said this the last couple of weeks, I do think everybody in this building believes when we do the right things we can beat anyone. You have to keep grinding. Even if you are down 19, you have to keep believing. That’s what we did and it worked out.”"

But they still needed a little bit more. They did not get enough support from their bench — Franz Wagner was the only starter with a negative plus/minus while R.J. Hampton was the only bench player with a positive plus/minus. Cole Anthony missed plenty of makable shots, missing all nine of his shots.

The team needed a little bit more. Just that little bit more.

To break this losing streak it will take that little bit. That one more shot that has to go down. That little bit of will and fight to scrape ahead one more time.

Maybe this is the bigger lesson the team has to learn this year. Winning is not just merely hard work. It is some good luck and the last little plays to get over the hump. It is a constant team effort and commitment to the gameplan.

Next. Orlando Magic need to simplify lineups to break losing streak. dark

And even then it is not enough that requires the team to get back to it and do it again. Orlando needed that last little extra to win Monday night and break this streak.