Orlando Magic’s play should earn the league’s respect

The Orlando Magic and Paolo Banchero made a statement with a pair of wins against the Boston Celtics. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic and Paolo Banchero made a statement with a pair of wins against the Boston Celtics. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

The tweets came shortly after the Orlando Magic finished off their 95-92 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

It was a storyline that not even the usually straight-laced Bally Sports Florida broadcast could ignore. There was an air of disrespect hovering around this team after their win Friday something that they had seemingly earned the only way to earn respect.

Former Boston Celtics guard Eddie House provided commentary on the Celtics’ postgame show Friday and called out the Celtics for not taking care of business against the “lowly” Magic. At the end of the day, this was a 10-win team. They may have some solid individual talent to build around but they are not a good team.

He called them a “garbage team.”

In the incendiary way that TV pundits say such things, it generated a reaction. And that reaction made it to the Magic into their group text.

So there was at least some motivation to go out and win this game. And some revelry in the form of a GIF of Rafer Alston slapping the back of Eddie House’s head from Game 1 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals that several players shared after the game in celebration.

This is the part where everyone has to step back and remember most of the players on the Magic are younger than 25 years old. They do very much live their lives online. And no one is completely out of the bubble of the public discourse.

The Orlando Magic believe in themselves. Now they are working to get the rest of the league to believe in them. They smell the whiff of disrespect that they can only change on the court.

They knew what House had said. Whether that gave them some extra motivation or not is something only the team can answer. But the team did answer another call they had for themselves:

To fight for respect in the league.

"“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t see that,” Banchero said after scoring 31 points in Sunday’s win. “It definitely lit a fire under some of the guys and the team in general. We just want to earn the respect of the league. It’s clear that a lot of people still don’t respect us. We’re just gong to have to go out game by game, lock in and eventually it’s going to be earned. Until then, we will just have to keep proving people wrong.”"

Banchero said the team laughed and took the criticism and then used it as fuel to the fire for Sunday’s game.

House’s comments were no different from comments plenty of pundits made before the season. It is no different than the way many teams have approached the Magic in the past.

They are the team at the bottom of the standings that is yet to prove itself and come together. They were always going to need to fight for respect.

And the only way to do that is on the court by winning.

So this six-game win streak is not merely a confidence boost for a young team learning how to win. What House’s homered analysis fails to recognize — or refuses to recognize — is that Orlando went out on the floor and did the job, defeating Boston in two very different ways, and earned respect on the court.

In Sunday’s game, the Magic did none of the things they usually need to do to win.

They were outscored in the paint 34-32, the fewest points in the paint the team has scored all season. They got beat at the foul line, going to the line for 19 attempts compared to the Celtics’ 21. They shot the ball poorly at 38.4 percent, the second-worst in any game this season.

Boston grabbed 11 offensive rebounds to Orlando’s six. The Magic made plenty of mistakes — seven of their 13 turnovers came in the third quarter when the Celtics climbed back into the game.

They still came back and made big shots down the stretch.

After the Celtics took the lead with 3:50 to play, Paolo Banchero stepped up and hit a big 3-pointer, one of his six on the day, to give the Magic the lead for good. They followed that up two possessions later with Markelle Fultz again swooping in for an offensive rebound before he found Franz Wagner for his only three-point make of the game.

That gave Orlando a four-point lead. And while the Magic were still shaky to finish, giving up two offensive rebounds on the next possession before Malcolm Brogdon drained a three and then turning the ball over on an inbounds pass with a one-point lead with 10 seconds to play.

Orlando got it back though with Fultz redeeming himself for his turnover by stealing the ensuing inbounds and allowing the Magic to make two free throws to take a three-point lead.

This is who the Magic want to be and how they need to play.

"“That’s who this team has to be,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Sunday’s game. “Gritty, tough, fighting for one another. And again staying the course no matter what is happening in the game and believing in it.”"

The Magic won this game through grit and determination. They made some 3-pointers (even with the Celtics with 12 but on a much better percentage at 41.4 percent compared to the Celtics’ 25.5 percent.

Orlando’s defense was on point throughout the afternoon, locking up the paint and covering Boston’s pick and rolls. The Magic may have given up their share of 3-point attempts, but they scrambled to contest and scrambled on the glass every time.

Orlando has been much more tied together and precise defensively and that has proven to be a buoy for this team now that they are on the road.

This is the kind of win that should gain respect. It is the kind of game that shows how much this team has grown and how much it has developed. How it is able to play poorly and fill in the gaps with other aspects of its identity.

Orlando is proving itself to be a tough team to play. And with the confidence this group is playing with, the Magic seem capable of beating anyone. More important they believe they can beat anyone.

The Magic have worked hard in the last two weeks to build belief in themselves. Nothing can start without that belief and confidence in themselves. Now they are going to have to work to get respect from around the league.

And the only way to do that is by performing on the court.

The team still has to work to make these gains consistent and prove this is no flash in the pan. Teams will give this team respect and challenge them with that added attention. They may no longer be the “skip” day on players’ maintenance programs.

Orlando is a young team and there will be swings back down the pendulum coming.

"“We’re playing well right now,” Banchero said after Sunday’s game. “I think we are all clicking. There is a lot of trust out there on the court. Everyone trusts each other. Every guy that comes on the court is trusted on offense and defense. I think that has been shown these last six or seven games is us trusting each other and living with the result. right now it’s six in a row. we might lose one but we still got to have the same amount of trust.”"

The way this team has handled those ups and downs throughout this win streak suggests they have learned or are learning how to manage these ups and downs well. Orlando has had some extreme highs during this streak, but the best moments are how they have responded to the lows.

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And that resiliency is what will help this team stay competitive and ultimately earn respect where it matters: on the court with wins.