The Orlando Magic had things easy in their season-opening win against the Houston Rockets. The ball moved and the offense flowed easily. The defense locked in and made big, highlight-reel play and big, highlight-reel play. Everyone seemed to eat and get theirs.
If only they could all be this easy.
The Orlando Magic had some moments and opportunities when it looked like they would be able to zoom past the Portland Trail Blazers in their game Friday at Moda Center. But every time the Magic looked like they would blow it open, the Blazers would real the deficit back. The Magic would inevitably make some mistakes.
This was a tough game and a gritty game. One where the Magic had to hold on.
Following the win Wednesday that seemed to come so easy, it was important to see how the Magic would respond. What is clear after a 102-97 win, the Magic still have a lot to learn.
In an ugly affair, the Orlando Magic found a win not so easy to find as they gutted out a victory over the Portland Trail Blazers to improve to 2-0.
In the end, the Magic had the plays they needed to get the win. Most of them came on the defensive end where Orlando locked down Portland, extending an 82-80 lead to open the quarter to as much as 13 in the fourth quarter. Portland had just six points in the quarter with three minutes to play.
Then again, Portland was able to chop the lead down to three points as Orlando’s offense hit a snag and could not seem to generate enough points to put the game fully out of reach and away.
Luckily the defense stood tall. Jalen Suggs made back-to-back stellar defensive plays with the Magic up five, the final one pulling the chair on Jerami Grant to force a jump ball, and the Magic were able to escape with the win.
Defense stands tall
The defense continued to show flashes forcing 17 turnovers including 11 steals for the Orlando Magic. The defense was exemplified best by Jalen Suggs and Wendell Carter.
Jalen Suggs recorded four steals and two blocks including the final stop on Jerami Grant. On the other side, Wendell Carter played great defense protecting the rim with verticality all game long. Carter did not record a block, but he stopped several shots right at the rim.
Orlando has talked all preseason and offseason about building an elite defense. That was the goal for the season and the essential part of the team’s mantra this year.
They have come out flying defensively, giving up fewer than 100 points in both games to start the season. That is a positive sign for the team moving forward.
Controlling the lead
Another thing the Orlando Magic have said they have worked on is playing with a lead. Coach Jamahl Mosley has talked about the team playing two-minute games where one team has to maintain its lead. This is part of the team’s maturation process.
The Magic just need to continue to learn this lesson.
The Orlando Magic had multiple double-digit leads that the Portland Trail Blazers were able to climb back into on several occasions.
The Magic did do a good job on never giving up the lead and eventually won the game. But the team never put comfortable distance between them and the Blazers. Portland always had a way back. The Blazers just ran out of time.
On a bigger scale, the Magic did a good job of taking care of the business of winning their first two games and beating teams Orlando is supposed to beat.
Franz steps up
Franz Wagner led the Orlando Magic in scoring with 23 points and was a big part of the Magic finally building the final cushion the team would need. He and Moe Wagner ran tons of pick-and-rolls in the fourth quarter that got him going downhill and finishing at the basket or feeding it to his brother for a crucial and-1.
Fourth Quarter Franz was certainly in effect as he scored eight points in the quarter.
But he was only 2 for 9 in the fourth on his way to a 6-for-16 performance. It was a struggle to shoot as he settled for isolation jumpers as the Magic stopped really moving the ball and looking to get quality shots.
Orlando survived this time. But the challenges will get tougher.
The Magic have started their road trip with a win and now have three tough opponents to finish out the road trip against the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers and the Utah Jazz.
This will be a test of whether Orlando’s defense is able to compete against higher-level teams and whether or not their offense is able to take a step from last season.
These games were a good start and have the fans excited and the team are in high spirits, but these next three games will give a glimpse of what this team is capable of pulling of this season.