Orlando Magic are embracing the struggle to find wins

The Orlando Magic are a young team that is supposed to wilt when faced with adversity or their own mistakes. Instead, the team seems to be thriving and finding ways to win even when they aren't at their best.
The Orlando Magic brushed off frustration and a poor offensive showing to find their way to win even with bigger fish to fry.
The Orlando Magic brushed off frustration and a poor offensive showing to find their way to win even with bigger fish to fry. / Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

38. Magic Hornets Final 03.05.24. 89. 170. Final. 101

The Orlando Magic seemed to have a vendetta with the rim for a good chunk of the night.

Franz Wagner was struggling to score and was looking toward the refs for any kind of foul call he could get with no answer or result. So he took it in his own hands and smashed the ball into the basket over a defender.

Jalen Suggs, mired in foul trouble much of the night, had to do the same too. He and Wendell Carter trapped Brandon Miller before Carter was able to rip the ball away from him.

That sprung Suggs free for a cathartic jam and gave the Magic some much-needed breathing room in the game.

It was a struggle like this throughout much of the night for the Magic in Charlotte on Tuesday. Facing a team with a poor defensive record and at the bottom of the standings, it seemed like the Magic would be in for an easy night. Instead, they found themselves in a rock fight -- some of it of their own making.

The Magic were frustrated by it in one breath. And then they seemed to embrace it. They were going to find a way.

The Orlando Magic will have to clean up a lot of things after their 101-89 win over the Charlotte Hornets. But they have a lot to be proud of too.

They were frustrated and did not play their best game. They still found a way to win.

"I think just staying poised," Jonathan Isaac said after Tuesday's win. "The game definitely got chippy, really chippy at times. And that's what we like. I don't think that they were prepared for when we can take it. And so our aggressiveness, our toughness, definitely, I think won us the game down the stretch and opened up the game."

Good teams simply find a way to win. And with the team entering the final quarter of the season (20 games remain this season), the Magic are consistently finding ways to win.

The way they found that way against the Hornets was with their defense.

The offense struggled to execute consistently with turnovers keeping the Hornets in the game. The Magic could not seem to pull away or take control despite a solid field goal percentage.

Orlando shot 54.1 percent from the floor, a sign the team should have won in a blowout. But the team turned it over 18 times, including 12 times in the first half. The Magic recorded only 42 points in the paint, going against their usual formula for success.

These are all things the Magic have to clean up. They did not look like themselves offensively with the lax passing and turnovers that slowed the team to a crawl.

But this Magic team is built on their defense and they did a number on the Hornets, holding them to 89 points, of course, but also 45.8 percent shooting and 19 turnovers. Unlike Charlotte, Orlando converted those turnovers into 23 points.

The Hornets scored only 30 points in the paint and took only 29 field goal attempts in the paint. The Hornets were just not capable of taking advantage of the Magic's mistakes. But the Magic also upped their defensive pressure and intensity to make up for it.

Orlando dug in deep to ensure the team came out on top.

"I think there was a level of poise to the guys," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Tuesday's win. "It was a rocky game back and forth. Guys couldn't really get a flow both offensively and defensively. It was physical, which we prefer that. But our guys' ability to stay poised and stay in the moment and finding ways to win on the road."

This is what good teams are supposed to do. Even against bad teams, they have to do whatever the game demands of them. The Magic did not have their best offense and their most intense focus, but they still gathered their composure enough to win the game.

And, kind of win it comfortably.

Orlando pulled away in large part thanks to its bench. Cole Anthony and Moe Wagner took over large parts of the fourth quarter as the Magic extended the lead at last got it to as much as 16.

The bench has played a big role for the Magic keeping up the pressure offensively while still defending at a high level, particularly when Jonathan Isaac is in the game.

They gave the Magic a huge lifeline with how much the starting group struggled to open both halves.

Orlando got 46 points off the bench. Whether it was Jonathan Isaac attacking the basket and hitting his shots from deep or Anthony Black hitting from three or Cole Anthony and Moe Wagner doing what they normally do to pace the team, the Magic stayed aggressive and kept up the defensive pressure throughout the game.

That set up Paolo Banchero to close the game. He still got his 22 points and hit some big shots to give the Magic some needed momentum throughout the game, not just in the fourth quarter.

But it was everyone filling in. The team just had to gut out the victory any way they could. The team struggled to pull away but they still answered the bell and never let the Hornets lead by more than a few points in the second half.

That takes poise and composure. Something nobody thought this team would have.

On a frustrating night, the Magic were still seemingly in control.

"We had some turnovers throughout the game, which kind of hurt for sure," Cole Anthony said after Tuesday's win. "We do have to work on taking care of that pill, but on the defensive side, that’s what won us the game and I think we held them to what, 90 points? When you can do that, you’re going to be in good shape and I think that’s what we did. We had some timely buckets, and yeah, that’s what helped us get that dub."

There is a lot the team has to clean up. The Magic could afford to get away with a lot of mistakes against a 15-win Hornets team. That has been the case for much of their time since the All-Star Break ended. Orlando is feasting on some bad teams.

And those bad teams make mistakes to counteract the errors the team has.

Orlando rallied and made the plays to win the game, but the team did a lot of work to put itself in that situation. The Magic did not make things easier on themselves. Their execution is not going to get the job done in the Playoffs.

The team is playing to a standard more than to its opponent. And the Magic are not living wholly up to their standard. Not in this way.

That is what they are aspiring to. And everyone knows it.

"Holding ourselves to a higher standard," Mosley said after Tuesday's win. "I think these guys have communicated what that standard is on both sides of the basketball. Offensively, we want to make sure we’re moving it and sharing it, playing the right way. We still have a continued level of work to do on taking care of the basketball with our turnovers. Defensively, we want to make sure we’re communicating the right way, we’re physical without fouling and that last piece is we have to make sure we’re hitting and checking and getting defensive rebounds."

In many ways though, they are living up to that standard with their defense and composure. They found a way in the end.

That is something too.

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Orlando is embracing the struggles they might be having. They are learning and growing from it. And they are still coming out on top in the end.