Orlando Magic are a reflection of their coach: Cool, calm and clear-eyed about their future

The Orlando Magic have become a reflection of their coach in Jamahl Mosley. He is calm, collected and always focused on the development of his team. (Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic have become a reflection of their coach in Jamahl Mosley. He is calm, collected and always focused on the development of his team. (Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images) /

38. 109. 142. Final. 116

No one would blame fans for being frustrated with the Orlando Magic’s performance through three quarters against the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards were without their three top scorers in Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma. The Magic were clinging to their slim postseason hopes and needed a good effort

And they proceeded to see Cory Kispert drain threes on them in a lackadaisical defensive effort and get outworked by the undermanned Wizards.

Orlando fought back from a first-half double-digit deficit to go to the locker room down three heading into the locker room. But the Wizards would go ahead and score the first 13 points of the third quarter, with Kispert growing his 3-point total to eight, and burying the Magic as they struggled to find their footing.

This was rock bottom. An unacceptable outcome for such an important game. An unacceptable effort even beyond those fleeting playoff hopes for a team that is trying to learn and grow. The Magic are still a deeply flawed team with a lot of things they still have to put together.

But if you look at their coach Jamahl Mosley on the sideline, you will never know whether the team is ahead or behind. He is always coaching and always teaching. There is no sense of panic or change.

Why were the Magic able to erase that deficit for a 116-109 win at Capital One Arena? There were a lot of reasons — including some stellar play off the bench and some important tactical tweaks — but it is just as important to note how their coach responded.

There was no panic and no wavering in what they were trying to accomplish. It was just about getting the team there. Eventually this night the team would get there.

The Orlando Magic again showed their trademark resiliency as they erased a 16-point deficit and put together a stellar fourth quarter to put the game away and defeat the Washington Wizards.

If you look to the bench, Mosley has a quiet intensity about him. One that rarely betrays how his team is doing good or bad. He is always quick to put a hand over someone’s shoulder and give some important instruction.

A team does indeed take on the temperament of its coach. And while Mosley, like his young team, still has plenty of areas where he can improve, this even-keeled temperament — the one that always has him looking at the big picture — comes in handy in calming a team down and keeping them on task in the heat of a game.

"“I think it was moreso us understand we know what we have to do,” Markelle Fultz said of the team’s early struggles Friday. “We weren’t satisfied with that first quarter. I think we had a great second quarter. Going into half we understand what we have to do. We understood we had a great second quarter. our motto has been just worry about each quarter try to win every quarter.”"

The Magic were struggling to get the right execution for most of the game. Outside of Paolo Banchero and Markelle Fultz’s scoring push, nobody seemed to be able to do much. And the Magic’s defense was a mess with the undermanned Wizards completely outworking them.

As with many criticisms of Mosley this season, he was maybe a tick late making changes to try to get these last lessons in.

But to his credit then too, Mosley’s patience paid off. He stuck with the right players to get his team steadied and then made the necessary tactical tweaks that put his team in a better position to win the game as it went on.

All of this will come in handy as this team continues to learn and grow.

Mosley definitely benefits from having several key players who do not seem to lose their cool very often. Banchero led the Magic with 30 points in the game and never seemed to be knocked off balance by the game’s hectic pace.

Without Porzingis in the game, Banchero attacked the paint and was able to get into a good rhythm. Banchero made 14 of 15 free throws, showing how aggressive and under control he was throughout the game.

The Wizards really had no answer.

Just as they had no answer for Fultz who was able to do the same thing. He scored 25 points on 11-for-17 shooting.

Paolo Banchero closing with strong shooting kick. light. Related Story

Both of those players are noted for their control of pace and their cool demeanors too. And that is what the Magic needed to calm themselves down. Mosley let both work.

But the real shift in the game came with his second unit. Jamahl Mosely tightened his second-half rotation, leaving Moe Wagner out and sticking with Goga Bitadze in the second unit. That meant leaning more heavily on Franz Wagner (he played 32:38 for the game and the entire fourth quarter).

Bitadze made good on that with two second-half blocks.

Mosley then switched to a 2-3 zone with his team struggling to find its width and to cover the 3-point line. The Magic were much more attentive in the zone and did a better job communicating switches and cutting off dribble penetration.

Mosley, as he always does, credited his coaching staff for helping with the decision-making and knowing the right buttons to push. He also credited the team for bouncing right back into the defense despite their not playing it for some time.

There is no doubt that it worked.

The Wizards made 16 of 39 (41.0 percent) 3-pointers through three quarters but just 1 of 11 in the fourth quarter. Washington scored only 13 points in the fourth quarter, including turning it over six times (13 total in the game).

That is what opened the door for the Magic to climb back into the game as they slowly hit shots — Franz Wagner scored 11 of his 20 in the fourth quarter and Cole Anthony scored seven of his 16 in the final frame. Eventually, they took the lead and raced ahead.

"“Our guys’ energy has been great,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Friday’s win. “We’ve seen it all year. They’ve competed all year. They’ve pulled together all year. Then they’ve continued to do it by committee. I think they did such a great job pulling together and banding together with a high level of energy.”"

The Magic did not play a perfect game. And some of it certainly lays on the coach for preparing his team and having the right game plan ahead of time — the Magic’s starting group continues to struggle to keep the Magic out of deep holes.

Those early errors certainly sit with the players but also with the coach. This is still a flawed, young team that has a lot to learn.

But Mosley has always been someone looking at the big picture. He trusts his team to make to learn from its mistakes and gives them the space to do so. And he will give them the space and the tools to learn from those mistakes without betraying any panic or wavering.

He believes in this team and what they are capable of just as much as he believes in the process he has the team working through. And that faith comes through for moments like Friday night’s win.

"“That’s just what we’ve been doing all year,” Banchero said after Friday’s win. “Being able to fight back and walk teams down in the second half and pull out wins. I wouldn’t say it is ideal. We definitely need to work on getting off to better starts and not getting behind so quick. It’s good to know you can go down 16 in the second half and still come out with the win.”"

This faith can get the team in trouble if they repeat those mistakes. But Mosley has shown throughout the season that his faith is often rewarded. That he will make the little tweaks he needs to unlock what is missing from the team.

Next. Franz Wagner is the best sophomore in the league. dark

And all his rapidly improving team needs is a chance. Because Mosley rarely loses his cool and can keep his team focused on the goal in front of it.