David Steele said on the Bally Sports Florida broadcast that after his pregame interview with coach Jamahl Mosley he asked if this game was one the team needed to win. The usually unflappable Mosley, always seemingly focused on the big picture with such a young team, had to admit to him at least that this is one his young team needed.
It was a win he was going to will into existence.
After giving up a buzzer-beater to go to overtime, Jalen Suggs said the team told itself it was made for these moments. Really these are moments the team has prepared for and seen. Now the team was putting its experience to work.
There were enough downs to cover Saturday’s game against the rival Miami Heat.
The Magic lost a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter to them once again. They saw their best efforts down the stretch — including big shots from Wendell Carter, a chase-down block from Markelle Fultz after he lost the ball on a turnover — turned away from the Heat’s own shot-making.
Jimmy Butler seemed to make history repeat itself when he buried a 3-pointer as time expired with Jalen Suggs and Wendell Carter surrounding him.
It would have been easy to give into the frustration of that moment — especially considering the difficulty of the shot Butler made and the potential to foul to protect the lead. But the Magic were determined that their effort would not go unrewarded.
They too wanted to make good on this moment and this opportunity.
Orlando did just that. There was no hanging of anyone’s heads. They got out of the timeout and went to work, burning off the first eight points of overtime to coast to a 126-114 win at Amway Center over the Heat.
It was a cathartic win. But one where the Magic had to find the will to take the game. Especially against an opponent notoriously difficult to push around.
"“We were in the exact scenario the last time we played them,” Mosley said after Saturday’s win. “There were no heads hanging. Our guys had a level of resiliency about them and the toughness to go out there and go get the game. There was decisiveness in their decisions, they communicated with one another, and they sat down and guarded. I think our guys showed great, great growth learning from one game to the next.”"
That was the prevailing message. This time was going to be different.
The Magic still have a lot of room to grow to finish games and win these big games more effectively. But they did not let history repeat itself. Orlando did not give up or hang their heads after Miami forced overtime.
That can be a difficult thing to count on with such a young team. Even in this season alone, there have been so many ups and downs. And this team was decidedly on a down after a three-game losing streak consumed an important homestand.
This time the Magic were going to learn their lesson. They were going to close this game and put the sometimes randomness and chaos of the end of games behind them. They were not going to let this opportunity slip again.
For the second time against the Heat, the Magic blew a 15-plus-point lead and seemed deflated heading into overtime.
This time, instead of wilting through overtime, the Magic gathered themselves and took control to put the game away. They were going to will themselves to a win this time. They were not going to go away.
They dominated the overtime period with Wendell Carter scoring seven points. The Magic forced three turnovers and missed only two of their nine shots. They frustrated the Heat by not backing down when the Heat probably expected this young Magic team to do so.
This Magic team did not back down, showing the resilience they have put on display throughout the season. This was one mistake the team was not going to repeat. And that kind of growth — a direct comparison and a lesson learned from the exact same situation — is something this young team needs to continue experiencing and gaining.
Of course, getting there still left plenty for the Magic to learn and gain. This was not a perfect game. Wendell Carter when asked if this game somehow saved the team’s season — as big as the win felt — he said it was still about winning the next game and the next game. There is still a lot to build for this team.
This was not a perfect game by any means. And the Magic still have a lot to learn about closing out games.
Orlando again lost a double-digit with 6.5 minutes to play. It was not even for missing shots. The Magic made a few miscues but kept fighting through them. The Magic had some turnovers and Butler got cooking to slowly whittle into the lead. But they certainly hit some big shots that seemed to put the game away.
The Magic still turned the ball over too much with 19 turnovers. They went through offensive lulls, those lulls mixed with the turnovers cost them a 10-point lead after the first quarter as much as it cost them the lead in the fourth quarter.
It was still a rough ride. It was always going to be with this team and this group. The Magic are still trying to learn how to plan and win these games. And certainly how to close games more comfortably against quality opponents.
That is still the trick for this group. Perhaps it is still the thing holding them back. But this is what the team needs to go through. They need the experience that only these situations can provide.
It is the only way for them to grow.
"“They walked in there and said, ‘Let’s go get it,'” Mosley said after Saturday’s win. “That was their demeanor. That was their level of confidence in themselves because we had been there before. That’s the great part about the experience for a young team is you have to go through it. You have to look at the scenario and see what can we do differently. Where can we improve? And they showed that tonight.”"
Ultimately, the Magic needed a win. And they all count the same.
In a moment where the Magic have wilted before even with how resilient they have proven themselves to be at times, they withstood their worst instincts and worst play. They stepped up to the plate and made sure they got a win. They truly moved forward and grew in that overtime.
Whether this is a turning point and something that propels the team forward or just a singular moment is something that will get determined the next time the Magic have a chance to close a game — whether it is stretching a lead beyond reach or holding on and needing to execute late in games.
This team still has a lot of growth to make. They seem perfectly capable of doing it. And Saturday represented something tangible for them to sprout from.