Orlando Magic’s win streak about growth and poise

Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic had to show their grit to best the Toronto Raptors. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic had to show their grit to best the Toronto Raptors. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Raptors had cut into the Orlando Magic’s lead before.

They did it Friday night, erasing a 20-point deficit late in the third quarter to take the lead late before Franz Wagner’s heroic putback delivered the team a tight win.

The Raptors were doing it again, cutting a 16-point lead down to 10. The Magic had time on their side and their defense was holding firm. But they needed to put their foot down.

This team has had its struggles closing games and going through the chaos of late-game situations. This was a test of the team’s ability to maintain a lead, something that young teams struggle with. The Magic are learning to play with poise and composure.

So the exclamation point to Sunday’s 111-99 win was as good a sign as any of the team’s overall growth and increasing maturity.

The Orlando Magic picked up their third straight win showing unusual maturity and poise for a young team. This is the growth the team has wanted to see.

In a game where the Magic struggled to shoot effectively save for a few pockets that pushed them into the lead and in a game where fouls disrupted any flow, this young team seemed to find its center and execute in key moments. They stuck to their defensive principles.

This was a gritty, dirty win. The kind that young teams are not supposed to dig out. But one the Magic gladly would take.

"“I think our poise and composure down the stretch whether the whistle was going our way or not, they stayed the course,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Sunday’s game. “They came together, they communicated with one another. They executed down the stretch. I think that’s a great sign of growth from a young team that is able to stay the course in a situation like this.”"

There were plenty of moments that showed this toughness and this maturity from a young team.

Pick your favorite Banchero shot from the fourth quarter. The jumper he made from the left corner after a Moe Wagner offensive rebound over tight defense that extended the lead to 12, ending any hopes for the Raptors to come back.

Or his last field goal, a pull-up jumper from the elbow that was the stuff of stars. It is not merely something that stands out late in close games. This was the kind of shot that buries opponents and puts them away.

This was the characteristic that has stood out throughout this three-game win streak. The team is showing poise and composure. It is figuring out how to break down defenses and play at its own pace. It is playing with calm, poise and even some swagger to close these games out.

This three-game win streak is the foundation the team has been hoping and striving for this season. It is the basis of what they ultimately want to be in the future. They can see that future playing out on the court.

Orlando is trying to give it the chance to breathe and come alive on the court. The Magic want their players to learn through experience. “Leveling up” as the team kept pitching it throughout the offseason was about absorbing this experience and becoming better for it.

It took some time this season to get the team to a place where it could show that growth more clearly on the court. But the team is getting there.

Just like Banchero’s penchant for big buckets late in the game, that poise and composure to play at the team’s pace were present throughout the game.

Franz Wagner showed it as he continually beat the Raptors’ double teams to find Mo Bamba in the paint, trusting him to make good decisions and the right play over and over again.

This is the poise and patience the team is starting to show more and more. That its stars are starting to show more and more and that have lifted the team.

"“It shows that we were listening these last couple of days,” Wagner said after Sunday’s game. “That we are at least trying to do what the coaches are saying. Obviously, It’s not going to be perfect every time. I think we are doing our best. We still have so many things to improve on obviously. Hopefully, we keep it going.”"

The Raptors are the kind of veteran team that jumps on any team’s mistakes. They seemed particularly designed to give the Magic fits. They still ate plenty off the team’s miscues.

But Orlando showed its poise defensively. As it has over the last four games, including the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks to open the homestand, the Orlando Magic were locked in defensively more than anything else.

The Magic have given up fewer than 110 points per 100 possessions in three of their past four games. If there is a reason for the team’s success, it is because the team’s defense has suddenly become better.

The Magic have been more locked in on the gameplan. Moe Wagner did an excellent job keeping Pascal Siakam to mid-range jumpers. Siakam shot a combined 19 for 43 in the two games, including 6 for 16 from the floor in Sunday’s game. He got to the line plenty. But Orlando was solid in leaving Toronto to tough shots.

This is the biggest growth from the team and the bigger reason why they are winning.

"“I think it says everything,” Bamba said after Sunday’s game. “It’s just three games, but when you string them in a row and have carryover, it’s big for those teams that want to be great. I think we’re headed in the right direction."

The Magic have been better at getting to their help in the paint early — think of Bol Bol’s trap on Pascal Siakam late in Friday’s game — they have been more disciplined in keeping their man in front of them on the perimeter and in rotating and contesting three-point shots.

It has been quite a turnaround for the team.

Related Story. Moe Wagner leads Orlando Magic's energy brigade. light

And it was the thing that kept the team in the game. That is not what a young team is supposed to do. But the growth and progression are encouraging.

This was how the Magic envisioned themselves playing. In many ways, the wins are a byproduct of the growth the team has been working on.

"“We’re heading in the right direction,” Mosley said after Sunday’s game. “We are asking our guys to defend at a high level, which they did. You are asking them to share the basketball and move the basketball, which they did. Them trusting each other and communicating with each other, which they did. Staying poised down the stretch, which they’ve done. I think we’re moving in the right direction and they have to continue doing that.”"

This was perhaps the first time the Magic have put all those pieces together for more than a moment. They have done it for three games and that feels like something the team can truly build on.

Of course, the trick is to keep doing it. Again and again and again. That will be the feeling the Magic are chasing for the rest of the season as they try to build some consistency.

Franz Wagner leads Orlando Magic to consistency. dark. Next

But the team has shown that growth and poise it needs to take that next step. Now everyone knows what they are capable of as they continue to grow.