Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic give one final fight to close the season

Markelle Fultz and the Orlando Magic ended their season on a high note. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Markelle Fultz and the Orlando Magic ended their season on a high note. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

110. Final. 110. 38. 123

The Orlando Magic were not going out into the good night. They never have this year and they never will.

Their goals might have shifted. They might have been more willing to let star players sit with little else to fight for. But the fight remains. That is who this team is and who they want to be.

So with one final game to play, they were willing to let their guys go out and fight one more time.

One more celebratory play and moment for everyone to get their shots in, break a little bit of a sweat and be together on the court one more time.

The Orlando Magic might have lost their season finale, but they ended on a high note with their starters giving one final strong send-off to a great season.

The Orlando Magic could celebrate as they trapped the Miami Heat’s Omer Yurtseven in the corner and forced him to make a hurried pass that Franz Wagner easily intercepted. Markelle Fultz had the clear runway to make one more highlight play and memory for the season.

His twisting dunk was like the twisting way this season went for his team. Sometimes rough around the edges, hardly perfect and constantly missing players, but ultimately optimistic and beautiful.

That dunk gave the Magic a two-point lead in the third quarter for what was a successful and uneventful outing for the Magic’s starters who played in this game.

Soon after that play, Markelle Fultz, Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs all checked out, dapping up coaches along the sideline and each other on their way to the bench.

That was their swan song for the 2023 season. Things closed quickly for the team after that.

The Magic hung tough with the Heat, but went through an offensive lull early in the fourth quarter, allowing a one-point lead through three quarters to expand out to double digits.

Miami would go on to win 123-110 in a game where the final score hardly mattered. The Magic finished their season at 34-48, a 12-win improvement from last year. And an improvement that seems to foreshadow plenty more wins to come.

That part will have to wait. In a game that had no meaning for either team — other than celebrating Udonis Haslem’s 20 years with the Heat organization — the two teams played with effort. When the Magic looked like they might finally get put down, they scratched and clawed their way back to the lead until they finally ran out of time, energy and depth to do so.

This was the team’s strongest game from its deep bench since pulling the plug on the season after Tuesday’s elimination loss. This was the game that most signaled and characterized who this team is.

It left a much better lasting memory of what this season was about and what it meant than anything else.

But now, we have to wait. The Magic will split off and not come back again until October for training camp. That will surely bring some changes along with the expected internal improvements.

This was a fun year though. And everybody is eager to see what comes next.

Player Grades

Orlando Magic. FRANZ WAGNER. B. . F

First off, Franz Wagner does not do good in the world of disorganization. He thrives when he knows his role and everyone knows where they are supposed to be. He thrives in finding improvisation within a structure.

So putting the ball in his hands without much of a plan does not always go well for him.

Having said that, he did about all you could ask for, even cracking open some of the experimental shots and stepbacks he displayed early in the season but seemed to put away for the safety of his incredible rim-attacking abilities.

Wagner though still made a positive impact even if he deviated some from the usual plan for him. He scored 10 points on 2-for-5 shooting. But he set a good early tone that had the Magic playing at a high level early on and enabled them to sustain it throughout the game.

This was not a game that required much of Wagner. And not a game where anyone important put a ton into it. It was just the right amount.

KEVON HARRIS. A. . G. Orlando Magic

Nobody embodies the fighting spirit from this Orlando Magic team quite like Kevon Harris. He does not know how to dial that back.

So in a game like this one, it certainly stands out what Harris was doing. He has contributed to a lot of wins this year. And he probably would have forced the Magic to a win with the way he was shooting in addition to the energy he brought to the table.

Harris scored a career-high 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting, making four of his seven 3-point attempts on top of that. He added eight rebounds to boot as he just continued to be willing to mix things up physically.

It has been tough to keep Harris off the floor every time he gets on there. And this game was a clear indication of what Harris can bring to the table as his career continues to evolve.

. SF. Orlando Magic. CALEB HOUSTAN. B

When Caleb Houstan is on, he has one of the best-looking shots on the team. He can get it off quickly and make them with efficiency. Getting to that last part has often been the struggle throughout his rookie year. He just needs to hit shots to prove his effectiveness.

Houstan did that in a career game to end the season, scoring 20 points on 6-for-15 shooting, making 5 of his 11 3-pointers in the end.

Houstan was hitting his shots well and that gave the Magic ample space in a game where they were making their threes — 17 of 47 for the game, which is a high volume for the team but still a solid percentage for this group.

That was about the only thing keeping the team in the game itself. If that even mattered.

B. . F. Orlando Magic. CHUMA OKEKE

Shooting has been a struggle for Chuma Okeke all season too. Like Caleb Houstan, Chuma Okeke is a great positional defender and will typically be in the right spot to get stops and make plays.

But his value decreases the more he misses. And with the Orlando Magic making him almost exclusively a 3-point shooter the last two years, he has struggled to be consistent.

Okeke was hitting his threes in his season finale. At least that will be a good taste for him heading into his offseason.

He scored 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting, making four of his eight 3-pointers. These kinds of games are what the Magic were always envisioned for him. And he delivered in his last game of an injury-filled season.

Next. What do the Orlando Magic do if they draft Victor Wembanyama?. dark

The Magic conclude their 2023 season at 34-48. They will have the sixth-best odds to win the NBA Draft Lottery.