Orlando Magic's confidence growing as they establish their standard

The Orlando Magic had a raucous good time with a 139-120 victory over the Washington Wizards. But despite their eighth straight win and a blowout too, the team keeps getting a reminder of the standard they are trying to build.
The Orlando Magic are rolling with their eighth straight victory. Their standard is growing with their confidence.
The Orlando Magic are rolling with their eighth straight victory. Their standard is growing with their confidence. / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

38. Final. 120. 142. Magic Wizards 11.29.23. 139

The Orlando Magic having a good time right now.

The team is rolling with a league-long and nearly-franchise-record eight-game win streak after a 139-120 victory over the Washington Wizards. The vibes inside the Amway Center, where the team is 5-0 with one more game remaining on this six-game homestand, are good. Everyone is just enjoying life.

Look no further than Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony doing their best Dwyane Wade-to-LeBron James impersonation in the fourth quarter. The kind of play that defines Magic basketball right now.

A steal in the backcourt leading to a break and then a selfless play for a teammate for a basket. And a little fun on top of that.

Suggs is never going to miss a chance to rile up the Amway Center crowd, and why wouldn't they get excited after so long since having this feeling?

Coach Jamahl Mosley continues to stress he wants his team never to lose the joy of playing. And this team is having a lot of fun right now.

The Magic are discovering their principles and who they are still. They have a good idea of it with their defensive intensity and disruption, their selflessness to move the ball and find holes in the defense and their determination to get to and put pressure on the rim.

It is all playing out as they keep building and growing during this win streak. And teams are finding the Magic a tough team figure out. Even on bad nights for the team.

This team is truly establishing the standard it is playing to every night, something that seemingly goes beyond the final score.

"I think it's just really cool that we are figuring out how we want to play," Franz Wagner said after Wednesday's win. "This game was I think a good example. First half, we were up 10 but we didn't play the way we want to play. I think it is really good that we have that awareness and make sure we keep doing that and keep building. We don't want to be really good right now, we want to be good at the end of the season. We just need to keep getting better."

Nobody probably wants to hear that part of the conversation after the team picked up this win -- a 19-point win and the eighth straight win. Nobody probably wants to hear that after scoring 139 points and rolling through the Wizards, cutting through them with ease to a season-high 34 assists and 17-for-27 shooting (63.0 percent) from deep and 60.7-percent shooting overall.

Nobody probably wants to hear that from Wagner after he scored 31 points on 11-for-14 shooting and 4-for-6 shooting from deep for his second straight 30-point game. Nobody wants any of that negativity at this time. The vibes are too good.

But this is exactly the time for it. The team knows it is winning despite itself and it has to improve.

The Magic have their identity and that is what this win streak continues to build. It is also proving their adaptability and ability to shapeshift and change as games go by.

However, the team was not completely satisfied with its win on Wednesday. They know they can play better.

"We gave up more than we wanted," Suggs said after Wednesday's game. "We had great moments of defense. Moments where we did impose our will to help us go on runs. We get to learn from it. We understand now two nights in a row where we don't come out with the same intensity and attention to detail on that end, teams can put up points on that end. We want to lean on our defense and have that be our anchor and we've got to continue to pay attention to detail on that and be great at that."

The Magic indeed leave something on the board against an energetic Wizards team that was easy to see. The 120 points Orlando gave up was the second most this season and the fourth time in six games giving up more than 115 points.

The team ended up with a 117.6 defensive rating, the fourth-worst defensive rating in a game this season. Orlando had 19 turnovers leading to 25 points and gave up 32 fast-break points to the Wizards (along with 14 second-chance points for good measure). The usually stout Magic paint defense gave up 52 points in the paint.

As Mosley put it with the team's passing and turnovers, the team was trying to make the right play. Corey Kispert said the Wizards were trying to put more pressure on the Magic, potentially leading to some of the 3-point shots the Magic got and made with regularity.

Both teams will have to adjust for the next game Friday. But Orlando got caught on the back foot a bit.

Alarm bells do not necessarily need to be ringing. But these are some cracks in the foundations, especially after the team struggled to start the game defensively against the Charlotte Hornets in Sunday's win.

The team is going to have to refocus when the competition gets stiffer. It knows that.

"That's what it was: Us being able to keep prioritizing our defense to get out and run," Mosley said after Wednesday's game. "When we got those stops, we were able to take that lead and kind of push it up a little bit. When we were exchanging baskets, we found ourselves in trouble there."

There were those great moments -- moment often capped with the highlight-reel players that made it such an enjoyable night. That would include Suggs intercepting a pass and finishing with a 360.

Still, this is a young team discovering how to win for the first time and the wins are coming in bunches right now. It is hard not to feel the excitement and get wrapped up in the joy too.

The team has won in a number of different ways. The team can grind teams out with its halfcourt defense and get deflections and steals, playing ugly games. Then the team can get out and run in track-meet games like the last two nights.

The important things in those games is that while the overall defensive numbers slipped, the Magic still found ways to get the stops they needed to build and extend a lead. The defense showed itself just enough.

That kind of versatility is a special thing about this team. That is what good teams do. They find their way no matter what the game calls for. The team just has to maintain its control over the tempo in each game.

"I think that's one thing that has made this run special and the start of the season special for us is we are so locked in," Suggs said after Wednesday's win. "Any situation that gets thrown at us -- playing with leads, playing without leads, playing kind of rat race games to really detailed games -- we're able to adjust on the fly because of our attention and our attention detail and it's leading to wins."

Next. Magic's key to growth. Orlando Magic's key to growth is to focus on themselves. dark

Orlando is still building its standard. It is still learning to play to this standard. And in the process, the team is winning. It is learning these lessons while winning.