Orlando Magic’s energy raisers critical to team’s success

Even through Cole Anthony's struggles the last few weeks, his energy is critical to the Orlando Magic's success. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Even through Cole Anthony's struggles the last few weeks, his energy is critical to the Orlando Magic's success. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic were fairly lifeless in the first half of their 119-116 loss to the Denver Nuggets. They were down 15 points at the half and could clearly see that flight back home to Orlando on the horizon.

That is not who this team is.

Coach Jamahl Mosley has talked tons about the team’s resiliency and their ability to bounce back. For such a young team, they are certainly elastic in that way. They will fight back and play to the end. it has been rare that the team has suffered a blowout where the energy level completely dropped off.

The team may ultimately come up short. The Magic still have flaws on their roster they will need to resolve and skills they will need to grow. But they fight and they find their energy somewhere. Even if it is too late to get the win.

Perhaps that is the biggest place the team still has to grow and find itself for the rest of this season.

The Orlando Magic are still fighting to find their consistency but no one doubts their fight. Where and who they turn to for energy are always key when the Magic find themselves down.

That was the case again Sunday night against the Nuggets. The Magic were struggling and settling for long shots. They were frustrated with their inability to get to the attack and slow to offensive rebounds. Their defense, even against the top offensive team in the league, was just a step slow and that put them in a big hole.

If Orlando was going to fight back, it was going to need to find its energy somewhere. On the last day of a long road trip, the Magic needed to manufacture energy, whether that came from a change in tactics or from players picking up the slack.

That is what the team was able to do. It found that energy somewhere, somehow on the end of a long road trip facing that deficit and gave themselves a real chance to win.

To the point that it took heroics from Nikola Jokic to close the game. That is some solace for a team that is still learning how to win and play consistently.

"“I want to say how proud I am of this group,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Sunday’s game. “Their effort, their energy, their will, to be on the back end of a five-game road tirp and give that intensity and effort down the stretch where an MVP type player made an MVP type play and that’s what it came down to.”"

The Magic found that energy a lot through their defense.

The Nuggets scored only 104.2 points per 100 possessions in the second half — they were at 119.0 for the game and lead the league at 117.5. This was an impressive turnaround for a team that looked like it was feeling the effects of the road trip throughout the first half.

It took a spark to get there for sure. Sparks that came from individual players stepping into these energy roles.

For instance, Orlando’s energy certainly picked up some when Bol Bol stepped onto the court.

Bol, who has just returned from the league’s health and safety protocols and had a phased return, seemed to return to his full minutes Sunday. Against his former club, Bol scored 17 points in 18 minutes, making 8 of 12 shots.

Bol did it though in the ways that energize his team, running in transition for flying dunks. While Bol ended up a -1 for the entire game, his presence certainly lifted the team in significant ways. With each play that he made, the bench got up and that helped the team’s energy permeate elsewhere on the roster.

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That energy was most seen in the second half when Bol’s impact was a key part of the team coming back. There are certainly inconsistencies in his play — the numbers clearly show this over the course of the whole season — but he is someone that gets everyone on the roster excited and engaged with the game.

That support is a critical part of this team.

"“Antoher thing we have been talking about is playing for each other,” Bol said after Sunday’s loss. “Just go in there and play hard and have each other’s back. I think that’s what we’ve been doing as of late.”"

The same could be said for someone like Cole Anthony.

Anthony can be a metronome, especially for the second unit. No player on the team can have a bigger impact on games and either drop the energy of the team or raise it up.

Anthony is in an undoubted slump as he tries to figure out the best way to attack and keep others involved. It is a balance that he is going to have to improve and develop as the season continues.

In Sunday’s game, Anthony still struggled to shoot, making only 1 of 7 shots. But he still had a positive impact on the game. He got to the line for five free throws and had six assists against zero turnovers. Anthony was a big driver for the team to get back into the game because he was able to impact the game without scoring.

It helped too to have the physicality that Moe Wagner brought to the game. He does not fill a stat sheet, but Wagner is someone who will scratch out extra possessions and make key plays that permeate through the team.

Every team needs its irritant and Wagner is not only someone who gets in opponents’ heads at times, but also lifts his teammates up with his play.

Really the big driver for the game throughout was Markelle Fultz.

He had a team-high 20 points to go with an active seven rebounds and six assists. His five turnovers might well have been a sign of how he was trying to do too much at times. But, especially in that first half when he had three of those five turnovers, he was often the only one able to get downhill and bring energy to the game.

But as he got going, others started to come with him. And that is when the Magic broke the dam and climbed all the way back into this one.

"“We’re not going to be a team that gives up whether we are up 20 or down 20,” Fultz said after Sunday’s loss. “We have to play the same way the whole game. We are starting to build that and starting to understand what it takes to win and play hard.”"

There are still a lot of pieces the team has to put together. As encouraging as it was to see the team rally and find that energy, the team still found itself in a huge hole at halftime and looked lifeless for much of the game.

Many of the same problems that led to losses against the Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz — poor transition defense and poor rebounding — reared their heads again. Energy players are important to maintain a level head and keep the team playing at a consistent level, but the team should not need to manufacture that energy in these key areas.

At the end of the day, it took someone or something waking up the Magic for them to have their shot to beat the Nuggets. This team can clearly see how good it is, but consistency eludes it.

Orlando though knows that it has players who can lift the team’s energy up. That may well continue to be its battle throughout the course of the season and as this team develops.

Next. Orlando Magic searching for consistency. dark

The energy is there though if the team rallies and is able to find it quickly.