Orlando Magic have the ball rolling now and don’t want it to stop
How does a run start? How do you know when that avalanche is coming? How do you know when a series of plays is going to become cascading? How do you tell when wins just start to pile up and build on each other?
The teams at the bottom of the standings often fear the answer to these questions. They are seemingly on the verge of giving up that run that buries them and undoes three quarters of good work to stay in the game. They cannot figure out how to build the momentum to keep things going.
This is what the Magic were for much of the last decade and certainly since the trades that ripped the team down to the studs in February 2021. This is what young teams are supposed to be. They have to learn through the hardest lessons how these runs come and how to build wins.
How does a run start? How does an avalanche come?
And how have the Magic turned this corner so dramatically?
The Orlando Magic are quickly building a solid base and the confidence to win. They have the ball rolling and it does not seem like it is going to stop any time soon.
There is something intangible about how the Orlando Magic have started to pile wins together — having now won eight of the team’s past nine after a 133-113 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday at Amway Center.
There is something obvious about it too. Whether that comes in a momentum-altering alley-oop dunk from Paolo Banchero to Wendell Carter late in the third quarter or whether that comes from the obvious confidence-building and burying 3-pointers the Magic kept hitting.
Orlando has put a lot of pieces together and this ball is still rolling. The team’s confidence is building upon itself over and over again. That has been the case throughout this win streak, which started with a 16-point comeback for an overtime win against the LA Clippers.
“What was the first win of this streak? Was it the Clippers? It was that game,” Cole Anthony said after Friday’s win. “We won that game. We started feeling good. Let’s do it again. And then again and again and again. That’s what we did. And look where we are at now.”
It is not that simple of course. But that belief is something that has changed for the Magic. Something that has been ingrained in the team.
That was the case in Friday’s win over the Spurs.
Once the Magic found their groove, particularly on defense, there was not much the opponent could do. Not much except hang on and hope it stops.
For the Spurs, it simply did not once the Magic locked in and limited their turnovers and mistakes. Orlando grabbed the game and finished it cleanly.
That much is obvious after Orlando again struggled for three quarters to find its defense before clicking into place with a devastating 18-3 run early in the fourth quarter that blew the game wide open.
They made a franchise-record-tying eight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter with four coming during that decisive run.
Most of that came with that second unit in and Cole Anthony leading the way. He directed traffic early in that fourth quarter, making a few quick shots to keep the Spurs’ defense honest before he started dropping passes to teammates.
Anthony scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter but added six of his nine assists in the quarter too. Mo Bamba made three of the Magic’s eight 3-pointers in the quarter, helping bury the Spurs under the Magic’s offensive onslaught.
The team credited locking in on defense for not only staking this streak but helping them pull away and key their offense. The passing helped too — the Magic had 30 assists on 50 field goals. Orlando struggled with turnovers throughout the game — 19 turnovers for 24 points, but the team had only four turnovers in the fourth quarter.
This was just a team dialed in and finding every hole the Spurs offered. And once the team started to build that run, the train had left the station and San Antonio could not stop it.
The rest of the league has been feeling this way for a few weeks now.
As Paolo Banchero (18 points in three quarters since the Magic did not really reload their starters in the fourth quarter after they blew the game open) put it after Wednesday’s win over the Houston Rockets, there is a different mindset about this team. They have a different belief that they are going to win and a determination to stick with it until they come out on top.
That latter part has been a factor throughout the season. Orlando has always been a team that fights to the end of the game.
Like that fourth-quarter run, the Magic are just building in confidence right now. So that fight is producing something different. And right now the Magic truly believe and have proof that they are never out of the game.
Orlando was not up to standard for much of this game. The Magic built an early lead only for their turnovers and poor rebounding to give that away. They trailed by nine points in the second quarter before a late run tied the game at 61.
Orlando’s ability to finish quarters was a positive sign of the team’s maturity and poise — a 10-4 run in the final 2:38 of the first quarter, a 9-0 run to close the second quarter and tie the game at halftime and an 8-3 spurt in the final two minutes of the third quarter. The Magic had bursts to end each quarter and that helped them make up for their mistakes.
In reality, both of these past two games have shown the Magic’s poise and ability to take advantage of a team’s inexperience. The Magic caught fire and caught focus and pressed their advantage to great effect.
“We’ve been saying it from the beginning understanding we are close and getting over the hump,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Friday’s game. “Those are the situations these guys are understanding that you have to stick with the process. It’s just the belief system these young men are starting to grow into the game being of ups and downs but you just have to continue to play.”
While Orlando has plenty to improve upon, it still says something that the team is able to zoom ahead so quickly against these teams. It is amazing and impressive how quickly the Magic can build that momentum.
Who is to say how this all starts? Who is to say how any of these runs or these moments start?
But the thing that is happening now for the Magic is that they happen. And it is not just that they happen, it is that they happen and build. The momentum and confidence just grows and grows and grows. It builds on itself.
Right now it does not seem like it is going to stop. And one way or another the Magic are going to find a way to win.