Orlando Magic Takeaways: Orlando Magic lose heartbreaker to Utah Jazz

Franz Wagner's last chance to tie the game was blocked by Lauri Markkanen as the Orlando Magic fell to the Utah Jazz. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner's last chance to tie the game was blocked by Lauri Markkanen as the Orlando Magic fell to the Utah Jazz. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports /

Final. 108. 38. 112. 118

The Orlando Magic are looking for consistency and to begin building their postseason resume. The team has struggled to build that resume on the road with precious few road wins. Heading out on this West Coast trip — a five-game trip that is the longest of the season —  this was a make-or-break point in the season.

A chance for the Magic either to build some unforeseen momentum to make that second-half push or more of the same.

It is amazing then too how narrow those margins are for a team like the Magic. The difference between success and failure can turn on a few things.

The Orlando Magic made a rally to take a late lead, but they lost their game to the Utah Jazz on a gritty offensive rebound from Walker Kessler and a gritty effort from the Jazz as a whole.

But it can turn on pure grit too. And that is what the Utah Jazz showed after losing a 12-point fourth-quarter lead with five minutes to play in the game. They went down by one and then proceeded to trade baskets with the Magic with Jordan Clarkson giving the team the lead for good.

That is when the Magic missed their opportunity.

Collin Sexton missed a pair of free throws with about 20 seconds to play. But Jazz rookie Walker Kessler was able to outmuscle Mo Bamba for the rebound and give the Jazz new life. He made both of his free throws and Lauri Markkanen blocked Franz Wagner’s game-tying 3-point attempt as the Jazz held on for a 112-108 win at Vivint Arena on Friday.

The Magic’s fourth-quarter rally was admirable. The team went on a 17-4 run to take the lead and forced 11 turnovers in the quarter. The Magic continued to build on some fourth-quarter success.

But they could not make the plays, in the end, to stay in the lead. Clarkson and Sexton both made difficult shots over the defense before Kessler iced the game with his critical rebound.

If the Magic want to hold onto any hope of fighting for a playoff spot, they will need to improve their play on the road. After Friday night’s loss, the Magic have fallen to 6-15 away from Amway Center.

Three Takeaways

Franz Wagner continues to solidify his All-Star case

When Franz Wagner was drafted, many Orlando Magic fans believed he could be a key cog in a well-oiled machine. But, not many saw exactly what Wagner has quietly become — a budding All-Star.

Wagner has become Orlando’s clear cut go-to-guy and Friday night offered nothing different.

Wagner tallied a team-high 26 points on 50-percent shooting, while adding five 3-point baskets to go with it. Wagner singlehandedly kept the Magic when he scored eight consecutive points to close out the third quarter, including an awkward leaning one-legged 3-pointer to beat the buzzer.

Wagner continues to be the one constant for Orlando in an already roller-coaster season.

Magic’s struggle to crash the boards continue

During the loss versus the Utah Jazz, the Orlando Magic were outrebounded 59-40. Only Wendell Carter had more than five rebounds during the contest for Orlando while Utah had four players achieve such a feat.

The Magic have been one of the league’s worst when it comes to rebounding the basketball of late. The Magic have won the rebounding battle in only two of their last 10 games. Orlando may be 13th in defensive rebound rate for the season, but they are 21st in the last 10 games, grabbing only 70.8 percent of their rebound opportunities.

That is a statistic that needs to change for the team to find consistent success.

The ugly games are winnable

While the loss against the Utah Jazz, showed some jarring vacancies the Orlando Magic may have on their squad, it also presented a positive that Magic fans should be happy with.

Usually when a team is outrebounded by more than 25 boards, a team was outshot at the free throw line by more than 20 free throws, and a team shoots less than 50 percent from the field, you would expect the game to be over by halftime.

But all those mentioned occurred in Friday’s loss, yet Orlando blew the game in the final seconds.

The Magic have shown resiliency not to roll over when games are not going their way. For a young team still trying to find their footing, that is important. The Magic can make a run for a Play-In spot in the Eastern Conference, but they need to do a better job at putting teams away.

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Looking forward

The Orlando Magic will close out their five-game road trip on Sunday, when the team travels to Denver — a place that the Magic haven’t won since the 2016 season — for a matchup against two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. The Western Conference leader, Denver Nuggets, have been one of the league’s premier defensive teams, so Orlando should look to build some momentum to take back to Central Florida.