After Orlando Magic’s win streak, what’s next matters more

Moe Wagner helped energize the Orlando Magic on a six-game win streak. He has been clear what will come next. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Moe Wagner helped energize the Orlando Magic on a six-game win streak. He has been clear what will come next. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic’s win streak is over.

There was clear disappointment on the faces of players because of the energy expended to erase a 12-point deficit with three minutes to play and the way the Atlanta Hawks finally put them away.

Markelle Fultz capped off a furious 13-0 run with a streaking run to the basket and layup underneath to give the Magic an improbable one-point lead.

The margin for error is small in close games like this. And the Magic made one critical mistake.

Paolo Banchero contested Dejounte Murray’s layup a little bit too much and committed a foul. Murray sank both free throws for the lead. Banchero got chased off his spot just long enough that he could not get his shot up.

Banchero looked visibly upset on the Bally Sports Florida broadcast as he walked off directly to the locker room, receiving some pats and daps of encouragement from teammates as he walked away.

And like that the win streak was over. Never mind the first three quarters where the Magic struggled to get their defense right and chased the game uphill the entire way. There is a lot to work on and get right after an off day before the next game in the NBA schedule comes — a road trip closer against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

And so the focus turns toward that game. That is the story of the NBA. It is the story of what is next.

The Orlando Magic’s win streak is over. Now comes the challenge of rebuilding the winning habits and stringing together a longer stretch of victories.

The Magic’s six-game win streak buried the frustration of their nine-game losing streak that preceded it. The question now is what will the Magic do next.

Will they build off their win streak and keep it rolling, slowly or quickly climbing the standings? Or will they slide back into the difficulties that put them in the hole to begin with?

The streak is over. The work is just beginning.

"“You don’t play basketball to go on streaks,” Moe Wagner said after Monday’s loss. “You’re trying to be a consistent winning team. The day-to-day growth that you have to show that’s obviously something you have to have confidence and belief in. You do that by winning. When that growth translates and that work translates into wins, of course, it gives you confidence you can compete with everyone in this league.”"

The point is not to go on a win streak. That was a point the team has tried to hammer home as they started to build wins nad some momentum.

Instead, the win streak is a byproduct of the work the team continually put in. The work they did to tighten up their defense and move the ball. It was the byproduct of everything clicking together.

As Wagner said at the beginning of the win streak and reiterated after Monday’s loss, the winning is a reward for the team’s faith and belief and important in building that confidence. If there is one thing the Magic gained was confidence and swagger. They believe they are going to win.

That was on full display as the Magic rallied from a 12-point deficit finally getting the stops they needed. The team never quit on the game despite struggling to find their rhythm throughout the game.

That part was encouraging. and while they were certainly frustrated with the loss, they know they still put themselves in position to win. Something they did not do as often before this win streak.

"“Nobody’s happy about [the loss],” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Monday’s loss. “These guys understand how much they battled and fought to get back into the game. Gave ourselves a chance to win the game. They’re disappointed. But they also understand we have to get onto the next. It stings it burns but now we have to get back and get ready for Houston.”"

This is part of the growth this team showed during the win streak. They started to figure out what it would take to win, gained the bleief they could win and executed enough to pstring those wins together. If they take anything from this stretch it should be that.

Mosley said he was proud of how his team battled from their poise to their effort and energy. That has been the case throughout as they have continued to grow.

It is easy to measure that progress. It is measured in wins.

So now comes the next task for this young team: Getting it back and going on another win streak. Going on a stretch where the team picks up games, winning 7 of 11 or 9 of 13 or the like.

The one thing the Magic cannot do is go back to a long losing skid or losing stretch — especially with this upcoming part of the schedule where Orlando will not play a team with a winning record for the next seven games.

This team is still 11-21 and cannot think quite like that. There are not “guaranteed” wins with a team still trying to learn how to win. But this is also a clear opportunity to build on the confidence they gained from the past two weeks of winning.

"“It’s weird because on one hand obviously we’re all competitors and losing sucks,” Wagner said after Monday’s loss. “On the other hand, we are actively pushing toward the mentality where we grow every day and the results do matter but the process way more. I think we’re a little encouraged with that fourth quarter and the fight that we showed. That’s the mentality we need to have. If you are a good team, you come back from losses too and keep fighting no matter what happens beforehand. I think that’s what the mood is.”"

Orlando has an opportunity in the next eighht games before the team heads out for its first West Coast road trip in early January to build some cushion and confidence and cement the progress they made. They will not look at games in stretches like this, but this is the reality.

This is the next task for this team. One loss cannot send the team spiraling. That is the big lesson that is to come and the one the team seems confident it has taken to heart.

But the proof is always on the court. The Magic are still proving themselves there.

Orlando Magic's play should earn the league's respect. dark. Next

And what happens next could determine the direction this team goes and what this season can become.