Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic step up to answer the late call

Gary Harris stepped up with several big shots to help the Orlando Magic defeat the Washington Wizards. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Harris stepped up with several big shots to help the Orlando Magic defeat the Washington Wizards. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports /

142. 122. 38. Final. 112

The Orlando Magic know exactly what is holding them back. They know exactly what has determined their season and kept them from climbing the standings just as they know it will be the same thing that will test them next year.

Their ability to execute and win close games is everything to this team. It is the difference between winning and losing and figuring out their future or continuing to be the promising young team.

The Magic’s chances of making the postseason are dwindling. The team has more than five games to make up in their final 10 games. It is a long shot that likely will require the team going on a crazy 8-2 run at least to make the postseason.

Anything is possible. Especially considering how often the Magic find themselves in games late and with a chance to win these games at the end.

But first, they have to win the game in front of them. And that was the Washington Wizards, a team that has had their number all season long.

The Orlando Magic are picking up lessons, learning to execute late and putting away the Washington Wizards with a late push to win their 30th game.

And this was not the cleanest game for the Magic. They gave up turnovers (16 for 10 Wizards points) and could not figure out how to slow down Kristaps Porzingis (30 points). The team looked a bit flat at times as they were working off the return from their road trip.

But the Magic kept the pressure on in winning 122-112 at the Amway Center on Tuesday. They kept pushing the pace and controlling the tempo. They kept finding shots.

Franz Wagner was constantly on the attack and able to finish around the basket. The Magic hunted mismatches with Paolo Banchero on the block with the Wizards trying to keep Kristaps Porzingis on Markelle Fultz to allow him to roam. Cole Anthony killed it in semi-transition, pulling the string and stopping on a dime to hit shots.

Then there was Gary Harris, burying six 3-pointers in a sudden surge from the veteran guard.

Everything clicked into place at the exact moment the Magic needed to bury the Wizards and put the game out of reach. Orlando turned a three-point lead with 4:26 to go into a 10-point lead with 2:24 to go — adding in a Wendell Carter three and a Markelle Fultz three to the list of plays above.

This was a team that played with confidence and the comfort that comes with a lead. But also made the plays and built the momentum to put the game away. Turning what was a game with clutch situations into a fairly comfortable win. And one that felt big with the standings the way they are.

Player Grades

Gary Harris: A+

Everyone is starting to think about and project where the Orlando Magic will put their focus to improve their roster. And it has been very easy to point to the shooting guard position as the obvious place to get an upgrade. Even with Jalen Suggs — who sat out a third straight game with a concussion — and Gary Harris both putting in solid work.

Fans seem eager to anoint Suggs the starter for the impact he makes defensively and the growth he has made as a shooter. Everything Harris does is a bit more subtle. He defends well without the steals and stats that come with Suggs. And his offensive role is wholly dependent on his shooting — which has been very good but lacks the burst.

This was a game where he showed why he is still so valued even as just the veteran on the team.

Harris scored a team-high 22 points, making six of nine 3-pointers and seven of 10 overall from the field. This was a game where he was making shots, often hitting big shots to keep the Wizards close by as the Magic worked their way out of an early deficit.

The real work that Gary Harris did — and the whole team did — was on Bradley Beal. Beal scored only 16 points on 4-for-15 shooting as he dealt with foul trouble throughout the game. Bela still got to the foul line. But that was about the only breath he got. The Magic locked him up and frustrated him with their size on offense.

This was a great gameplan to try to beat the Wizards’ funky defensive scheme. And Harris’ 3-point shooting opened so many things up.

Moe Wagner: A-

Moe Wagner had every right to be a bit frustrated after the Orlando Magic tried out Goga Bitadze as the backup center in the last two games. The Magic definitely missed his scoring punch off the bench even with Bitadze playing well.

He stepped back into the rotation Tuesday and made his presence felt immediately. Very quickly into his first-quarter stint, he had a big driving dunk off a pump fake, followed by a charge, followed by another big dunk to end the quarter.

This is the kind of energy the Magic got from Wagner throughout the game. He scored 15 points, making 5 of 10 shots for the game. This is the production Wagner has given this team fairly regularly. And the Magic needed the offense with just enough defense and charge-taking to make it worth it.

Franz Wagner: A-

So to the starters then where Franz Wagner was really among the best of the Orlando Magic’s key players. Wagner is finishing his season strong and putting in some aggressive and solid performances. Just watch him squeeze through a tight space to score here:

There were a lot of plays like this where Wagner just got downhill against the defense and beat them in transition — this was a great game for the Magic’s fast-break and secondary transition with 16 fast-break points on 6-for-9 shooting.

Wagner finished with 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting with six assists. This was a solid game from Wagner where he was in control of his drives and smartly moving the ball and picking his spots to get downhill.

Paolo Banchero – A-

Paolo Banchero did not score a ton in this game. He padded his stats some at the end with free throws — and a freaking gorgeous rainbow fadeaway along the baseline — to get to his 18 points. But that does not make this a bad game for him. He made six of his nine shots. So he was not even inefficient.

Banchero was deadly effective though. He totaled nine rebounds and eight assists as he flirted with a triple-double. The Washington Wizards did a good job forcing the ball out of his hands and making him work. But he also made some excellent reads, often reading the help to make the best pass instead of the simple one the defense was pre-rotated to cover.

This was not rookie stuff on some of these passes and plays. He was not forcing things and he got his baskets in transition and when the defense was off-balance.

Next. Markelle Fultz is not just a comeback story anymore. dark

The Orlando Magic continue their homestand Thursday against the New York Knicks.