Orlando Magic go against their style to find a way through injuries

The Orlando Magic lost a heartbreaking game to the Sacramento Kings in a 138-135 double-overtime classic. Nothing about this game was normal, from the Magic's style of play to their shooting. The injury bug bit Orlando again and the team had to change its style of play of attacking the paint to catch fire from beyond the arc.
Jan 3, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) and Sacramento
Jan 3, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) and Sacramento / Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

135. 38. Magic Kings Final 01.04.23. 138. 84. Final/

Five minutes into Wednesday's game against the Sacramento Kings, Franz Wagner went up for a rebound and came down on a Kings player's foot, turning his right ankle. He immediately hobbled to the side and fell to the floor clutching the injured ankle.

After a few tense moments, he was helped up and walked to the locker room. X-Rays were negative but Wagner was done for the game.

That was just adding to the growing list of injured players the Magic had to overcome.

Cole Anthony was a scratch for the game with a right quad contusion. He joined Joe Ingles (ankle sprain), Markelle Fultz (left knee tendinitis) and Jonathan Isaac (hamstring) on the injury report. Gary Harris would join them at halftime with his calf strain.

Orlando had to find a way to round everything up and push through to try to get a win. There cannot be any excuses for the journey the team is on.

Even if that meant going against its type.

The Magic have a typical formula for winning games. But when Wagner left, the Magic had to scramble to find and solidify their identity. They had to do whatever it took to win.

Whether that meant draining a franchise-record 25 3-pointers just to keep pace with a breakneck Kings team or scratching and clawing with their two-way players and deep bench players contributing, the Magic had to find a way.

They almost did, following a career-high 43 points from Paolo Banchero including a stretch of 18 straight points in the fourth quarter and overtime to stay in the game and do whatever it took to win. The Orlando Magic though fell a shot short, falling 138-135 in double overtime to the Sacramento Kings at Golden1 Center.

Orlando had to prove to itself that it could still be the same team despite all those absences. The team also had to prove that it could adapt and adjust.

There are plenty of positives to take away -- including the team's fight and desperation for a win -- but this might be the biggest. The Magic are not going to back down and they are going to find their way with whatever the game gives them if they stick to their principles and identity.

The usual formula for a Magic victory is to score in the paint and get to the foul line. It is to defend and force turnovers. Orlando has leaned on this identity to put itself firmly in the playoff picture.

All of that had to be thrown out the window. With so many new players and the team scrambling to create some comfort, it took a while for this group to find its footing.

Making some shots sure helped calm the team down.

Orlando had its best 3-point shooting game of the season, making 56.8 percent from three and a franchise-record 25 3-pointers. That ended up being 10 more threes than the usually 3-point-heavy Kings made.

This completely goes against their style of play in many ways. Orlando entered the game 29th in 3-point field goal percentage and last in the league in attempts. This is not a 3-point shooting team.

On top of this, the Magic lost the paint 64-20 as they uncharacteristically struggled on the glass and struggled to contain Malik Monk and Keegan Murray off the dribble.

Sacramento outrebounded Orlando 59-39 and had a 23-11 edge on second-chance points, areas the Orlando typically uses to make up its 3-point deficit.

The Magic did have opportunities to close the game, but so short-handed the Magic ran out of gas and struggled to finish plays with rebounds. In the critical possession in double overtime, Domantas Sabonis wrestled a rebound away from Goga Bitadze with the Kings up one and the shot clock now turned off.

Orlando had to scratch and claw and find its way to win this game just like that. And that took everyone contributing something to the team to make that happen.

With Cole Anthony, Gary Harris and Franz Wagner out, Chuma Okeke, Caleb Houstan and Trevelin Queen got big minutes. They all played outstandingly with major contributions to lift the team up.

Okeke scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to key a 14-0 run that put the Magic in the lead. Queen made some humongous defensive plays to finish with five points and six assists in the game. And Houstan scored a career-high 15 points, making four of his six 3-pointers in the game.

It took everyone stepping up to make up for the Magic's shortcomings.

It took the Magic's stars also delivering too.

Jalen Suggs finished with 24 points, making six of his 12 3-pointers, and played strong defensive to bring the Magic back in the third quarter.

Paolo Banchero once again showed glimpses of what an All-NBA player is going to look like down the road. The shot-making Banchero displayed was special considering he was being blitzed on every possession.

He scored a career-high 43 points and knocked down six of nine 3-pointers to carry the team. He scored 18 straight points in the fourth quarter and overtime to will the team to a chance to win. The Kings were scrambling just to get the ball out of his hands. Banchero's shot-making and decision-making were on full display.

The Magic had to find a way to compete and stay in the game. They gave themselves a chance to win despite playing against their type. That adaptability and will is something this group has not always had.

This season was supposed to be about having no moral victories. But considering how this game went and the circumstances Orlando faced, it is difficult to pick apart this team even with the loss and mistakes made.

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The hope is that the team can take the effort and lessons and apply that again in a tough closer to this road trip Friday in Denver against the Denver Nuggets.