Moe Wagner leads the Orlando Magic’s energy brigade

Moe Wagner proved to be a big energy boost for the Orlando Magic as they snapped their nine-game losing streak. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Moe Wagner proved to be a big energy boost for the Orlando Magic as they snapped their nine-game losing streak. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

There was a lot that went into the Orlando Magic’s 116-111 overtime win over the LA Clippers on Wednesday. It took a lot of things falling into place for Orlando to score that win and snap a nine-game losing streak.

There were Paolo Banchero’s heroics in overtime — the first four points of the period and then the final six from the foul line to ice the game away. There was the defense that recovered and locked down the Clippers after the difficult first quarter. The comeback from 18 points showed off the team’s resiliency.

It really felt like every player on the team who played made some contribution to the win. That is why the win seems to resonate. The energy the team brought that got them over the finish line felt like something the team could ride for a while.

Consistency is of course the battle, as it is for every young team. The Magic will have to reach down again and find it again. And hopefully, do it without going down by 18 points first.

For the team Wednesday night, it was about finding a spark and finding something to get the team going.

The Orlando Magic found a spark of energy and grit from Moe Wagner as he is leading a group of players for this team who do the dirty work that the team hopes can lead to some wins.

That came in the form of Moe Wagner.

He scored on a dunk over Ivica Zubac about midway through the second quarter that cut the lead to 13 points. That play sparked a 16-4 run to end the quarter and bring the Magic back into the game.

During that time, Wagner had another dunk, a steal and two more offensive rebounds. Those little plays did not always result in points, but it was an energy that permeated through the team.

Wagner is constantly full of those plays. It is why he can be such an impactful player even if he is not a scorer first.

Adding to that strong contributions from Cole Anthony off the bench and even a good sprinkling of Kevon Harris and his determined defensive instincts, and the Magic had the formula to resuscitate their chance and give itself a chance to win the game again.

This is the kind of effort and energy that Orlando will need to pick up wins until the roster gets healthier. It is the kind of energy that can be nearly irreplaceable.

"“He absolutely was,” coach Jamahl Mosley said of Moe Wagner’s impact after Wednesday’s game. “We talk about that is what he is capable of doing. He brought the energy. We didn’t start the right way. Our guys were resilient enough, they took the first punch and they continued to fight back.”"

Consistently right now, it feels like that energy spark is coming from Wagner. He is leading a bunch of players who seem to come into the game and inject some energy into the game, giving the Magic some much-needed emotional lift.

Wagner scored 20 points to go with 13 rebounds (including four offensive rebounds) for his second-straight double-double Wednesday. He remained in the starting lineup despite Mo Bamba’s return from back spasms on Wednesday.

In his short time, since coming back from his injury to start the season, Wagner has made a lot of those energy plays, especially after entering the starting lineup. He has proven a willingness to mix things up on the inside in a way the Magic have not always been willing to.

Especially since he has decreased his 3-point attempts — he took 11 in his first two games, making just two of them but has scaled back to 15 in his last six games — he has become a much better presence in the paint.

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In a stretch over the last eight games where the Magic have a 117.2 overall defensive rating, they have a 112.7 defensive rating with Moe Wagner on the court. That is at least some positive impact.

But so much of what Wagner does goes unnoticed or untracked on the stat sheet. It is his ability to take charges — he has one although he has had two overturned on review in critical moments in the fourth quarter. He positions himself well to be a physical presence.

And for a team needing a boost, Wagner understands what his presence can bring.

"“It’s one thing to kind of talk and be an energy leader by communicating because everybody can do that,” Wagner said after Wednesday’s game. “It’s easy to talk. I’ve been making it a challenge on myself to let my game speak a little bit more. Whether I score or not, just bring 100 percent and communicate during the game and hope that translates over to my teammates. I get a lot of trust from my teammates, a lot of encouragement so I want to give that back because I love them.”"

He is not alone in that effort. The Magic have a lot of players who are capable on the ball and have shown plenty of potential to score and put up stats.

One thing the Magic seem to be missing in balancing their lineups are these kinds of grinders. Any attempt to change the lineup has usually been asking for connector players like Wagner.

It is why Mosley still turns to guys like Kevon Harris and Caleb Houstan over and over again. Those two players in particular were key throughout Wednesday’s game.

Houstan made one of the most crucial plays of the game, stealing a pass and finishing at the rim to give the Magic the lead for the first time in the game.

That was Houstan’s only basket of the game and it was very much right place, right time. But he has gained a lot of trust despite his inconsistent shooting because he is a solid defender and reliable to be in those right spots more often than not.

The same could be said for Harris.

Harris is not contributing a lot in terms of scoring, but he is someone who is constantly active around the ball. Whether that was getting the call to check Kawhi Leonard during parts of Wednesday’s game or scrapping on the offensive glass.

Every team needs these energy players to lift everyone else up and do the things that do not show up in the box score but are necessary to winning nonetheless.

Right now Wagner is the most prominent of these players for this team. And the Magic are in need of that injection as they go through some of these growing pains as a team.

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As the Magic look to build some consistency and perhaps string some wins together, these players will become even more important in helping the team keep its energy up and succeed on the margins.