Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley is not going to express his disappointment with losing yet another second-half and fourth-quarter lead. It is an unavoidable question for him and for this team despite the encouraging 7-5 start to the season for the team.
That is not where his focus is ultimately going to be. Not as long as the results keep going this way.
Mosley is always going to highlight his team’s growth and development. The places where the team is doing well and has made strides. He is not going to share disappointment when the results are going this way. He will let the tape and the work solve that.
Because ultimately the Magic are trying to accomplish the basic thing they are still doing every night.
And even facing a deficit after yet another collapse, the Magic showed the poise to win.
The Orlando Magic may have some problems holding onto the lead. But the team is not backing down in the process as they gutted out another clutch basket and another win in Chicago.
Franz Wagner ended up with the heroics this time, hitting an and-1 layup over Nikola Vucevic with 20.6 seconds left. Orlando got a lucky miss from Nikola Vucevic and a steal from Gary Harris to seal a 103-97 win at the United Center, securing their first win in the In-Season Tournament, and another gut-check late-game victory for this young team.
Something this team can continue building on. And a consistent measure for this team as they continue to build on early season success.
"“I’m so proud of this group because it’s the identical system to the last time we played them pretty much,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Friday’s game. “There was a poise in teh huddles. There was a communication in the huddles. There was each guy talking about what scenarios we need to do. And It’s just showing so much growth in this group. They fought from beginning to end and never let themselves get rattled even when Chicago took the lead.”"
Getting to that final moment was a journey in itself. But the Magic showed the calm and poise that veteran teams have to close it out.
The win is all that matters.
The Magic led by as much as 20 points but again saw the Bulls catch fire to erase the deficit, finally getting over the top when Alex Caruso hit a 3-pointer with 26.1 seconds left after Nikola Vucevic dug out a rebound and sent the ball around the horn.
Orlando had struggled to maintain the lead and everything seemed to back Chicago eking out this win. But this is the same situation the Magic were in Wednesday night when Paolo Banchero hit the game-winning basket.
There is calm in experience. And despite how chaotic the game was, Orlando played this like seasoned veterans.
Mosley had the team come out with the same alignment the Magic won Wednesday’s game with. When the Bulls took away the dive from Paolo Banchero, putting the bigger Torey Craig on him, they went to the second option of the play.
That was an inbounds to Franz Wagner in the backcourt that gave him a running start into a pick from Jonathan Isaac. That put Vucevic in a terrible position and Wagner a lane to the basket for a lay in. He stepped around Vucevic and laid it in with the foul to give the Magic a two-point lead after the free throw.
There is a lot to say about the Magic’s ability to hold onto leads, but there is just as much to say about how they find a way to win these games still.
At the end of the day, that is really all that matters. The record does not care about how you got the win, only that you got the win.
So give the credit to the Magic where it is due. They blew the lead in Utah against the Utah Jazz, they blew the lead Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls and they blew a lead again Friday in Chicago and they still found a way to win.
That is a skill in itself. Especially for a young team that is trying to make its mark in the league. Orlando has found a way to squeeze out wins more often than not.
"“We said you keep getting the same test until you pass it,” Gary Harris said after Friday’s game. “It wasn’t technically how we wanted it to go, but for us to come together and for them to take the lead and for us to regain our composure and go out there and steal another one in Chicago, it’s great. That’s the resiliency of this team. We stick together, we believe in each other and we were able to get the win.”"
There is still a lot to clean up of course. Getting to that point was rough.
Orlando led by 12 entering the fourth quarter and led again by 15 with 7:11 remaining in the fourth quarter. Chicago proceeded to go on a 16-0 run to take the lead by one. At that point, this was a game.
These collapses are reminiscent of several games the team has played — losing a 15-point lead at halftime against the Dallas Mavericks, a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against the Atlanta Hawks and losing by 20 to the Brooklyn Nets after trailing by only two entering the fourth quarter.
The situation Friday night in Chicago was all too familiar for this young team. And it is certainly playing with fire to keep losing leads in this manner.
Mosley said the Bulls attacked the paint and sought to get to the foul line. That was part of the deal. Trailing teams play with more aggression to try to force the issue. The Magic have not been able to find a way to make the killing blow.
Orlando has to find a way to address this and manage and expand leads. It is the next big area of growth for the team.
Orlando has put itself in this situation far too often with turnovers, missed free throws and loose defense in clutch situations. That is something the team has to correct. It is purely in its own hands to correct.
But it is also undoubted growth that Orlando is able to find a way despite this shortcoming. Faced with the game on the line, the Magic still found the way to gut out the victory. They still had the poise to win.
This team will take every bit of growth it can get. Learning lessons while winning is ultimately a good thing. And this team has learned and internalized a big one.
"“A team that’s continuing to grow and I’ll say it over and over again learning how to win in this league because it’s not easy,” Mosley said after Friday’s game. “When you can have the poise that they had, the communication they had in those huddles it’s signs of growth. It’s signs of them taking ownership and coming together to know what it takes to win.”"
No matter what happens during the game to get to that point, finding a way to win is valuable. The Magic may have had to do this far too many times. But this young group has not backed down from the challenge.
In many ways, the team has thrived under that bit of pressure. The team is showing the resolve and poise to come out on top still.
That has put the Magic squarely in control of accomplishing its goals and is a sure sign of how much better this team is this year.