Orlando Magic truly win by committee when everyone was needed

Caleb Houstan stepped up in a big way to help the Orlando Magic get back on the winning track. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Caleb Houstan stepped up in a big way to help the Orlando Magic get back on the winning track. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

For the longest time, Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley has spoken that his team is built by committee. They are built to share and move the ball and work together to score.

Yes, the presence of Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner have given the team more individual attackers — the team has gone from 29th in the league in isolation possessions at 4.7 per game at 0.86 points per possession to 15th in the league with 7.3 isolation possessions per game at 0.82 points per possession according to NBA.com — and the ability to drive to the basket. The Magic have become a team that lives in the paint. But that is not enough.

They know it. And their offensive potential and ability to score consistently rely on quick ball movement and everyone making their contribution. To be successful — and improve on an offense that still ranks 25th at 110.7 points per 100 possessions — the Magic need the ball to find the right players and for those players to execute and make shots.

The Orlando Magic’s offense is built on the trust everyone has in each other and the belief that anyone can attack and score when called upon.

When it happens it can be a thing of beauty as it was in Wednesday’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"“I think it’s huge,” Gary Harris said after Wednesday’s game. “I think that just shows we were sharing the ball. Once we were getting stops, that has been the emphasis the last few days of practice, just our spacing, our flow. Just being able to play for each other. That’s what we did tonight.”"

Those days of practice helped the team reset some and get back to their fundamentals. That showed in the energy they played with on defense and the way they moved the ball on offense to take and keep their early lead throughout the game.

The Magic had eight players score in double figures — out of nine players who were available and played — marking the second time they have had that balanced scoring this season and tying a team record for most players.

Harris was among the big players who stood out with 18 points and three 3-pointers, making his first start since returning from injury.

But he was not the only one.

It was truly a team effort to win Wednesday night because of all those players who contributed. And more than that, it was that it came from players pushed into the lineup because of injuries and suspensions that have still accumulated from last week.

Caleb Houstan stepped into the starting lineup and scored 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting and 3-for-7 shooting from deep. Houstan had played sparingly before last Friday when players were suspended. Houstan played more than 20 minutes in consecutive games for the third time in his career.

But he stepped up and made big shots late in the second quarter to extend the lead to 15. He was also critical defensively where his positioning was a clear deterrent most of the night. He was also extremely active on the glass, grabbing three offensive rebounds.

"“Caleb is exactly what we talk about him being,” Mosley said after Wednesday’s game. “He’s a professional in the way he approaches the game, the way he approaches his craft. He is the first one in, the last one out, studying film. He just steadies the pace of everything. He knows where he is supposed to be offensively as well as defensively.”"

That was the kind of energy the Magic needed with so many players down.

They also got a big contribution from R.J. Hampton, playing 23 minutes and scoring 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting. Hampton was eager to take advantage of the playing time, his most since Nov. 28 against the Brooklyn Nets, and played with the energy he needs.

His defense was not perfect against Shai Gilgeous-Alexnader, but R.J. Hampton brought the right focus and energy to make a positive difference. Hampton is still seeking playing time and requested and received another assignment to Lakeland to get more playing time.

Terrence Ross too has been in and out of the rotation and looked like the 2019 version of “The Human Torch” scoring 18 points to pace the Magic off the bench, including 3-for-4 shooting from deep.

"“That’s what it takes,” Mosley said after Wednesday’s game. “It’s a cliche that it’s a game of runs. There was that stretch where Terrence Ross lifted us up. There was that swing, swing situation with Gary and Caleb. he knocks down the three. In those moments, each person is stepping up. R.J. coming up with big rebounds and understanding how to sit down and guard. I think each one of those guys did a fantastic job in their minutes.”"

To get through the absences, injuries and suspensions the team has dealt with the past week, it has taken every one to step up. That has been the mentality the Magic have had to have throughout the season as they dealt with all the injuries and adversity they dealt with.

It has forced the team to have that share-the-ball mentality. They have had to learn quickly to trust each other if they want to succeed.

As much as the team wants to be “by committee,” the reality is that they know Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner are likely leading the way and helping generate those opportunities. What the team needs is for everyone to trust each other.

That goes for the stars trusting teammates as they soak up attention as much as anything else.

The results when they do this are clear as the Magic have shown what a strong offensive team they can be — including posting a 127.3 offensive rating Wednesday night, their third-best mark of the season.

"“I think it’s huge,” Banchero said after Wednesday’s game. “That’s when we are at our best. Everybody is confident, everybody is taking their shots and just trusting each other. That’s where it starts. Come out to star the game trusting your teammates, throwing them passes and moving the ball, everyone gets confident in their shots. We did a good job of that.”"

It has been next-man-up all year long. Harris said the group has confidence in each other to step up when called for. And as players start to return, the team is going to need to lean on each other more to keep this run going.

Franz Wagner is crucial to every lineup the Orlando Magic have. dark. Next

So far, everyone has found their pockets to step up. And that has helped the Magic turn a small corner.