Defensive play the backbone of Orlando Magic’s win streak

Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics defends Paolo Banchero of the Orlando Magic (Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)
Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics defends Paolo Banchero of the Orlando Magic (Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic are currently riding a scarcely believable six-game win streak, and have completely turned their season around in the process.

The dynamic duo of Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner are looking like future All-NBA level talents. Not to mention the timely return of point guard Markelle Fultz to run the show has given the team some needed stability, answering lingering questions about other guards on this roster in the process.

The Magic have saved the best for last during this run, beating the Boston Celtics not once, but twice, on their home court. These wins took the Magic from 1-11 on the road up to 3-11, and 6-4 since Fultz returned from injury.

It seems like the Magic are just going to keep building.

There have been many reasons for this shocking run, but the defensive play will continue to be the unspoken backbone of the Orlando Magic’s success.

Coach Jamahl Mosley has preached hard work and effort from his first day in charge of this group. Often, and usually because of injuries, the Magic have had poor games on the defensive end.

There is no quick fix here either, with the organization still languishing in 24th place (113.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) in defensive rating for the season so far. But going back to the end of last season, you could at least see the schemes that the coaching staff was trying to implement.

Wendell Carter was seen as integral to all of this. A young big with tremendous defensive upside. Yet he has been injured during this run, and so too has Chuma Okeke. Instead, Moe Wagner, Bol Bol and Mo Bamba have combined to do all that they can to help the Magic win these games.

The elder Wagner in particular has been huge for the franchise since his return from injury, and he is more than capable as the backup to Carter too. Flying under the radar completely though is Franz Wagner’s interior defensive importance.

What makes this run even more unprecedented, is that the Magic have now twice beaten a Celtics group that leads the league in offensive rating (116.8 points per 100 possessions) and looks like one of the best scoring units of all time.

For the Magic to hold them to only 92 points in that second win is a huge confidence boost for them. Another standout from these two games has been the defensive play of Banchero when guarding Jayson Tatum.

Banchero is going to be a stud and defensively may end up better than we all thought.

Yes, Jayson Tatum did not play in that second game, and the Celtics just got Robert Williams III back from a knee injury and are trying to integrate him into the group. But you can only play what is in front of you, and the Magic have certainly done that.

All of this has come together to give them the fifth-best defensive rating in the league in their last six games (107.0 points allowed per 100 possessions), and the fifth-most rebounds in that span with 52.8 per night. These two numbers give some indication as to why they have suddenly had success against good teams.

Best of all, Jamahl Mosley will know the eventual return of Wendell Carter, Chuma Okeke and Jonathan Isaac should take their defensive play to another level. Coming at it from another angle, this recent run of good form has made potential trade assets like Bamba look more appealing to other teams around the league.

Interestingly, the Magic have won these six games while having one of the slowest paces in the NBA (22nd, 98.38 possessions per 48 minutes). This spells more good news because it shows the group are not relying on being one of the youngest rosters out there to run opponents out of the gym.

There is a methodical approach to the offensive end that is controlled by Fultz, and defensively there is a growing belief in the system they are using.

It is no bad thing to be able to turn up the pace when required, and players like Cole Anthony are capable of doing this. But measured play that is leading to wins is exactly where the Magic want to be right now.

It looks like the defensive play can stay at around the level currently on display from now until the New Year. At a time when their schedule looked as daunting as it had all year, the Magic responded to push themselves back onto the fringes of the play-in conversation.

Looking at their next six games, and it is vital that they continue to build upon these foundations, and not get complacent against opponents who are not close to being on the same level as the Celtics.

  • December 19th – at Atlanta Hawks
  • December 21st – at Houston Rockets
  • December 23rd – vs San Antonio Spurs
  • December 27th – vs Los Angeles Lakers
  • December 28th – at Detroit Pistons
  • December 30th – vs Washington Wizards

dark. Next. Orlando Magic turn heads with 6th straight win

Nothing to fear there, and if the Magic can go even 3-3 during that span, Eddie House might just delete his social media accounts altogether because he is unlikely to get an easy time from Magic fans if they continue winning.