Orlando Magic have learned momentum can flip quickly in a Playoff series

The Orlando Magic were despondent after falling behind 2-0. They are now confident heading back to Cleveland tied 2-2.
The Orlando Magic will have to find their momentum again on the road as they aim to take the lead in the series in Game 5.
The Orlando Magic will have to find their momentum again on the road as they aim to take the lead in the series in Game 5. / David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone could feel the tide turning. They could feel the crowd rising and shouting with every play. It was hard not to get swept up in the emotion of the day.

One play led to the next which led to the next.

Before anyone could look up, the Magic had a 17-7 run to erase a nine-point halftime deficit. Before they could blink again, Jonathan Isaac ignited a 7-0 spurt with a steal and a pull-up three followed by a Markelle Fultz and-1 layup.

The floodgates had opened, just like they had during Game 3. The Magic were rolling and putting themselves in a position to win. There was nothing the Cavs could do.

Even at that moment, the Magic knew they were rolling and that the momentum was building.

Moe Wagner pointed to Jonathan Isaac's stepback three-pointer as a sure sign this was the team's day. I would point to Jalen Suggs staring eye to eye with Darius Garland and laughing as a sure sign the Cavs were nowhere near the Magic that day -- that was when the Magic led by only one.

Everyone knew with how quickly Orlando erased the deficit in the third quarter that the game was theirs to take.

The question now is whether they take that momentum to Cleveland. The players feel that tailwind on the plane to Cleveland for Game 5.

"It's huge. To go down 0-2 early with them, it puts everything on mind for us for Game 3 and Game 4," Isaac said after Saturday's win. "I feel we are in the better position of the two teams right now. They are going home thinking we have to take care of home court. And so I think the momentum is in our favor. We're going to go out there, shots are going to fall, we're going to have a great game. Go out there and win that one and finish it out at home."

Orlando is not counting its chickens yet. The Cavs are not ready to capitulate either.

Just like the Magic said after they lost the first two games in the series, the Cavaliers all said after their loss in Game 4 that the Magic merely did what they were supposed to do. They held serve at home.

It does not take much though to see that there is a little bit more worry on the Cavs' side after the Magic won Game 3 by 28 points and Game 4 by 23 points. The Magic took 30-point leads in both contests, a thorough rout in both senses.

It is hard not to feel some form of confidence.

"I think we're coming off two wins, so obviously we feel good," Paolo Banchero said after practice Monday. "But We do know we haven't won there the first two games. We have to come together as a group and do what we have to do to win the next one."

That will be the challenge for this Magic team. For as good as the team looked at the Kia Center in Games 3 and 4, Orlando looked pretty poor on offense in Games 1 and 2. At the end of the day, everyone is right: The series does not start until the first road team wins.

The Magic are the ones who have to find a way to win on the road. And while the Cavs are licking their wounds, they are still tied in the series too. It may only take one game for the entire tenor of the series to change, just as it did in the pair of games in Orlando.

With the series now a best-of-three all eyes are on Game 5 to give a team the advantage and a chance to advance Friday at Kia Center.

"Any of these series that you watch the playoffs, it flips at any given time," coach Jamahl Mosley said after practice Monday. "They write a story after you win and another story after a loss. Our ability to stay the same and make the proper adjustments with what is happening real time in the game. Where can we get better? Where have we hurt them and where have they hurt us? Those are the improvements that need to be made. You don't want to get too high after wins or too low after losses."

That is the truth of it. The old saying is momentum is the next day's pitcher. The past does not inform the future. Everyone has to play in the moment.

Orlando could certainly feel the uplifting power of two wins raising their spirits after Games 3 and 4. They could easily fly too close to the sun. And now they have to battle the wall of sound and energy that will come from the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse crowd.

The Magic are now the ones who have to band together and withstand the pressure and energy a home crowd can give them. While Orlando was able to rally and respond, the team struggled to handle that wave in the first quarters of both Games 1 and 2.

In other words, the Cavs can steal momentum in this series back very quickly with a road win. But the wins from the weekend are not going to be there to help them.

"You have to play the next game," Mosley said after practice Monday. "That's a very big portion of it. I know they felt the same way coming here that momentum was on their side. You have to do the things that are within the game that you can control. A lot of that is the little things, it's the offensive rebounds, it's taking care of the basketball, it's finishing out possessions. The value of possesisons is so important in thse games. That is what we have talked about."

At the end of the day, this is still a young team learning how to win in the Playoffs. This is still a team experiencing the postseason for the first time. They looked that part in the first two games.

What have they learned heading back to Cleveland? Can the team carry over its energy and attitude to Game 5?

The playoffs are indeed different.

"You've got to be locked in every possession," Banchero said after practice Monday. "Every possesison is really important. A 10-0 run can win a game or lose a game. You've just got to be locked in and focused on every single possession."

Magic slowed Donovan Mitchell 04.29.24. Orlando Magic slowed Donovan Mitchell in Games 3 and 4. dark. Next

Those are the big questions and the real test of whether the momentum from Games 3 and 4 are real or simply uplifted from the crowd. That is something the team has talked about and understand will be something to discover in Game 5.