3 New Year's Resolutions for the Orlando Magic in 2024
2. Improve fourth quarter play against upper-echelon teams in the NBA
This has been a struggle more as of late for this squad.
It is not uncommon for young teams to experience inconsistencies down the stretch. The Orlando Magic do not, as a collective group, have a ton of experience taking over games in the final 12 minutes, let alone in the final five. Outside of Joe Ingles and Gary Harris, there is not enough experience to take over.
Still the Magic have had a lot of encouraging moments late in games. They have salvaged a lot of games with some clutch shot-making even if getting there is shaky.
Orlando has the seventh-most clutch wins in the league (when the game is within five points in the final five minutes) with a 10-4 record. But the team only has a +0.3 net rating. The Magic have also played only a total of 31 clutch minutes, the fewest in the league.
The Magic have had success, such as Paolo Banchero's game-winning baskets against the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls or Franz Wagner's game-winning shot in the second matchup with the Bulls. Orlando also came up with several big plays to defeat the New York Knicks on Friday.
It will change with each new late-game situation but as of now, adjustments need to be made. The Magic have had too many games where they were in the lead and lost it in the final moments and needed a basket to bail them out.
Take the December 27th game at home versus the Philadelphia 76ers, for example. With nine minutes to play, Orlando cut a double-digit lead to just three, only for the visitors to go on a 23-6 spurt to finish the game. The Magic shot 25 percent from the field in the fourth and could not shake the Joel Embiid-less 76ers.
It was a similar story toward the beginning of the year too. Orlando led by 11 late in the fourth against the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 9 before Atlanta flew back on a 14-2 to grab the lead with 4:04 to play. The Hawks hit some big shots down the stretch with Dejounte Murray draining a big three to secure the win -- and one of the Magic's few losses against a team with a below .500 record.
They have gotten better, of course. Friday against the Knicks, the Magic held a 12-point lead heading into the final quarter and successfully held on for a win with some key plays down the stretch when the game got tight.
Orlando let New York back in the door as the lead was cut to six with a little more than three minutes to go. The Magic turned up the heat on defense and led on their hard-nosed offense, attacking the basket for a Goga Bitadze dunk and a flurry of free throws as a result of drives by Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and Goga Bitadze.
Similar to their first resolution, three-point shooting has been a big key for them. It is an element of the offense that is so huge for most teams down the stretch. Not having it as a consistent option allows for teams to defend the paint and dare Orlando to shoot itself out of close games -- something the Los Angeles Lakers did successfully early in the seaosn.
It has resulted in a bottom-six fourth quarter scoring average at 26.7 points per game. And this will be something the Magic need to continue showing growth in.