Orlando Magic learning the little things matter most for winning

Markelle Fultz was at the head of making all the little plays in an Orlando Magic win over the Golden State Warriors. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Markelle Fultz was at the head of making all the little plays in an Orlando Magic win over the Golden State Warriors. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

Final. 115. 38. 101. 41

So much of this season for the Orlando Magic is learning how to do the things Saturday’s 115-101 win against the Golden State Warriors required.

The Warriors were without their superstars with Stephen Curry out with a shoulder injury and Klay Thompson a late scratch with knee soreness.

The Magic would need focus and to adapt quickly to the changed circumstances and style they would face. Golden State is still plenty potent and had a two-way player go off with a barrage of 3-pointers to counteract any advantage or focus Orlando had on the paint.

The Magic still took their lead and still had to hold the Warriors off. They still had to buckle down on defense and keep up the offensive pressure when the Warriors made their runs. They still had to hold the ship steady and go through the waves every game goes through.

This is what the Magic have to learn how to manage and push through consistently. This is the test of winning teams. How do they ride these waves? What do they do to find their advantage and create energy? How do they maintain control as opponents get more desperate to come back?

The Orlando Magic are still learning how to win and play consistently every night. It takes the little things over and over to build the kind of solid victory the Magic had Saturday in San Francisco.

Orlando has not had a lot of experience being the team in control. They are getting more and more of it.

It is easy to point to the dominating play from Paolo Banchero (25 points, 9-for-20 shooting) or Franz Wagner (24 points, 9-for-16 shooting). Those elements are easy to see.

But those are not the plays that won the game Saturday with a fairly comfortable advantage. It was a game that was never in doubt through the final quarter.

The plays that won this game are the ones that likely would not be seen so clearly on a stat sheet. The plays that won this game are the little things like how Markelle Fultz controlled the pace, picking the moments for the team to pick up its pace or slow it down and find an advantage.

The plays that won this game were the ways the team stayed composed and comfortable even as the Warriors seemed to beat their defense.

The Magic often say when they lose that they failed to stick to the gameplan. There was none of that as Orlando stayed focused and made every little play it takes to win.

The success the team experienced to win this game Saturday started with their point guards.

Fultz was a ball of energy throughout the game scoring 16 points on 8-for-16 shooting to go with five rebounds, seven assists and six steals.

The way he got those steals said a lot about how focused the Magic were and how much they moved past bad plays to make good ones. It was a play like the one below:

Fultz followed one of his turnovers by tracking back into the play and getting the steal. This, in turn, starts a Magic fast break that leads to Fultz feeding Banchero for a dunk. It was not too long until Fultz did the same thing to spark a fast break.

And Fultz once again snuck in a steal in the backcourt when an opponent was not expecting him to be hanging around eager to swipe at the ball.

The team played with a ton of energy and kept pushing and fighting. That was enough to put them on top.

"“We had high energy,” Fultz said after Saturday’s game. “We were helping each other. That led to transition buckets. I feel like our energy was there. That’s the most important thing. From the feeling of the game, I felt like we played a good four quarters.”"

This just foretold the general activity and focus the Magic had defensively. After giving up eight 3-pointers in the first quarter, Orlando remained strong in the paint but was much more disciplined to stay in the passing lanes and connected to Golden State’s shooters.

Fultz was credited with six deflections by NBA.com. Jalen Suggs and Terrence Ross each had three. The team in total had 20 deflections — Orlando averages 13.3 per game.

This was a sign of the team’s overall activity and how the Magic imposed their will on the game. Orlando could stay aggressive and in control because their rotations were precise and they scrambled well. But they disrupted the Warriors and knocked them off kilter.

This aggression found its way to the offensive end.

Not only in the fact the Magic had 17 fast-break points and 52 points in the paint (to just 26 for the Warriors) but also in the way the team stayed confident and assertive offensively.

As Orlando showed during its win streak, confidence is contagious for this group. And that helps everything run smoother.

Cole Anthony is a great example of this. He was seemingly low on confidence especially after struggling through an 0-for-8 performance from Thursday.

But Saturday he stepped into shots cleanly and within the flow of the offense. He saw a defense retreating and struggling and attacked it for 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting.

"“We are just taking it one game at a time and learn every single time out on the floor win or lose,” Anthony said after Saturday’s win. “I think we are doing a pretty good job of that right now.”"

This is what the team needed to help the bench continue to lift the team and build and expand a lead. That is an element that has at times been missing.

Anthony is not the playmaker and creator Fultz can be. But each one helped the Magic control the pace in their minutes and helped the team make little plays throughout that contribute to winning.

This consistent pressure and confidence to make that next rotation on defense, to push the pace when the team is tired and get downhill and to the foul line when the offense seems stuck or to get in that passing lane and make a play. The will to stay with the game plan and focused when the opponent happens to make a shot.

"“Ou guys did a great job keeping their poise, communicating the sets we were running,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Saturday’s win. “There was a high level of communication with our guys. The joy in which they played with passing and sharing the basketball was fun to watch. Defensively wanting to lock in was good to see.”"

These are the little things the Magic are trying to learn and make consistent this season. This is what it takes to win regularly in the NBA.

Saturday night, Orlando not only made all the big plays, they made all the little plays that make that happen. They made all of them to stagger and defeat the Warriors on their home floor so thoroughly.

Next. Paint defense is Orlando Magic's calling card. dark

Orlando has been doing this more and more often now too. Yet it is still something that needs to be highlighted as this team slowly becomes a more consistent, winning outfit.