Orlando Magic Playbook: Where the Orlando Magic go in the clutch

Franz Wagner has had his ups and downs late in games, but is part of the diversity the Magic can lean on to win close games. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner has had his ups and downs late in games, but is part of the diversity the Magic can lean on to win close games. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
4 of 4
Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic, LA Clippers
Markelle Fultz scored a career-high 28 points in Saturday’s win. He is not just a comeback story anymore. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Where do the Orlando Magic go in the clutch?

Markelle Fultz

The reality is that Markelle Fultz might be the Magic’s best option late in games. Not necessarily because of his scoring, but because he can both score and distribute.

In clutch situations, Fultz averaged 25.9 points per 36 minutes while shooting 59.1 percent from the floor. He added 6.1 assists per 36 minutes in clutch situations to boot.

Fultz’s advantage is the variable way he can score late in games. He is excellent in normal circumstances at controlling the pace. But in the games where he takes over late, he often does so simply by pushing the pace and getting after defenses as they reset.

Fultz had his best individual game in the win over the LA Clippers in March — 28 points in the win. And it was because he took advantage of plays like this.

This play starts with great rim protection from Wendell Carter. Fultz gets the rebound and moves the ball up at a normal pace. But when nobody picks him up, he hits the jets and is able to body Robert Covington out of the way and finish at the rim.

It is reminiscent of the way he finished the Orlando Magic’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2020 in what felt like his breakout game of that season.

He had a second play like this to help the Magic extend the lead to five points a few possessions later when the Clippers did not pick him up.

Markelle Fultz averaged 1.14 points per possession in transition, that put him in the 53rd percentile in the league (and notably puts him behind Franz Wagner and Gary Harris. Fultz can be a little bit wild at times. But it is also clear how good Fultz can be when he gets downhill.

Essentially when Fultz has the ball, he is trying to create a situation where he can get downhill with momentum going to the basket. He can finish when he has that behind him.

That is what Fultz is trying to do in this late-game situation against the Detroit Pistons. From a standstill, they set up a quick screen using Gary Harris. Notice that Fultz is standing right near the mid-court line waiting for the right side of the lane to clear from Harris.

That creates the matchup Fultz wants as he attacks Bojan Bogdanovic on the switch — notice how Bogdanovic takes a bad step that makes him have to correct his body to try to stay in front of Fultz.

That is when Fultz hits the afterburners and with a free lane, he is going to score. Even if a defender is able to get in the way, he is crafty enough to finish at the rim to score.

Fultz was excellent in these situations, scoring 64.8 percent of his field goals in the restricted area (a mark that trailed only Franz Wagner at 65.4 percent among regular rotation players). Fultz made 50.3 percent of his shots in the paint outside of the restricted area.

What all this should highlight then is how the Magic have different ways they can attack and score late in games. That is the larger point that matters about what the Magic can do late in games and how they can flip those losses to wins.

The Magic are not likely to change this profile for late games very much. They are probably going to lean on Banchero — Wagner tends to dominate the early parts of the fourth quarter when he plays with the second unit.

And a lot of this, simplistically, comes down to making or missing shots — in the Orlando Magic’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in April, for instance, the Magic got downhill and got open shots that they just missed as they desperately tried to stay in that game and keep their postseason dreams alive.

Next. Orlando Magic's young stars confront flaws in FIBA play. dark

But the team has options and players who are not afraid to rise to the moment — Wendell Carter and Jalen Suggs actually recorded buzzer-beating shots for wins last year. And that will take them a long way.