Orlando Magic keep faith in their process heading to Game 3

The Orlando Magic have a lot of reason to doubt facing a 2-0 hole where nothing seems to be working. But the confidence heading into Game 3 could not be higher as they feel the break through is near.
The Orlando Magic trail in their series 2-0, but they remain confident that they have the gameplan to climb back into the series and win.
The Orlando Magic trail in their series 2-0, but they remain confident that they have the gameplan to climb back into the series and win. / Jason Miller/GettyImages

Jalen Suggs approached the media after shootaround Thursday morning wearing a shirt that is familiar to those who have been around the Orlando Magic all year. It seems more apt and pointed now.

The black Nike shirt with the Magic logo on it says in big white letters: "Seek Discomfort."

It is one of the team's mottos, a recognition that growth does not come easy and that for the team to get where it wants to be and how the team got where it is now, it would take accepting and persevering through difficulty.

Suggs has faced his own share of difficulty and discomfort in this series already. He has done his job locking up Darius Garland and taking one of the Cleveland Cavaliers' guards seemingly off the board. But he has struggled with his own shot as everyone on the Magic has.

Then came the knee injury eight minutes into Game 2 that took him out for the rest of the first half and seemingly sucked all the wind from the Magic's sails. He returned to the game in the second half, albeit playing in significant pain. Suggs practiced Wednesday and went through shootaround Thursday and should be available to play in Game 3.

That is a relief. But it does not relieve the discomfort the Magic are feeling right now. They have been unable to get shots to go down and they return home for Game 3 in a must-win situation to stay in the series. They have to protect their homecourt.

This is about as uncomfortable and as pressure-packed as a playoff series can get. That is exactly what the Magic want to feel and what they want to measure up again.

"It's comfortable. Nothing new. All this is basketball," Suggs said after shootaround Thursday. "Just how heavy the moment feels compared to the bigger picture. I think that's where all of our minds are at. We understand we're down 2-0. They took care of home court. That's what they're supposed to do. Now we're home where we've played well all season. We're going to continue to play well here. We have the crowd, the family the friends, the noise, the comfortability of being at home. Nothing uncomfortable about it. Just ready to go out and play hoop."

Orlando's players do not have the feel of a team down 2-0. There was certainly immediate disappointment after Monday's loss. But the team is quietly confident that they are still on the right track.

And a return home could be what they need to get themselves back on track and back into the series.

The Magic at least feel confident -- and have always felt confident throughout this series -- that they are getting the shots and looks they want. Or at least they are getting enough of them with their defensive prowess in the series. They feel they are knocking on the door to a win.

It is just about getting through that door.

"It's interesting in that because sometimes you think they are taking certain things away, you look at it as what can we get differently? But there's been a lot of things that we've gotten," coach Jamahl Mosley said after shootaround Thursday. "It's just a matter of knocking shots down and finding our way. Being able to finish at the rim because we're getting there. Being able to step into our shot with confidence and knock them down. I think those are the big pieces.

"If we weren't getting there and weren't getting to the free throw line and we weren't getting to the paint, there would be a high level of concern. But we are doing a lot of things that we know we're capable of doing. We just have to continue to stay with the process of them."

The team's shooting has been in the spotlight for sure.

Orlando is hitting on only 23.6 percent of its 3-pointers (Cleveland has hit only 29.0 percent of its threes). The Magic have shot 11 for 44 (25.0 percent) on threes when the closest defender is six or more feet away, according to tracking data from NBA.com. During the regular season, the team shot 37.8 percent on just 18.2 attempts per game.

That might be a shot the Cavaliers want the Magic to shoot. But they are getting more quality looks from three and shooting well below their season percentages.

The hope is a return home and continued encouragement can build the confidence to make these shots.

But 3-point shooting has been more about the momentum shift of those makes -- Cleveland made its first five 3-pointers in Game 1 and 4 of 6 in the first quarter in Game 2 to establish the lead and set the tone for the game. The team has also felt like it has gotten the shots downhill that the team typically gets.

Orlando is averaging 27.0 field goal attempts per game in the restricted area in this series but are shooting just 51.9 percent (Cleveland, by comparison, is getting 28.0 field goal attempts per game in the restricted area and shooting 58.9 percent on those shots).

The Magic averaged 29.1 attempts per game in the restricted area and shot 67.2 percent. The Magic are missing shots around the basket that they normally make.

Like Orlando's outside shooting, the team is missing shots everywhere it normally makes. That is a credit to Cleveland's defense which has always been good at defending the paint.

But Orlando is still getting to the line for a 33.7 percent free throw rate after leading the league this year. The opportunities for the Magic are all still there to replicate their success.

They just have to make shots. And make shots at the right times to build momentum. That is why confidence persists for the Magic.

"The process is so good and we haven't wavered," Suggs said. "Nobody has batted an eye, no matter the runs they go on, the injuries that happen, the tough calls, anything that alters is a bit of adversity. No one has batted an eye at it. I'm so proud of everyone for that. We're going to continue to build on that.

"You can live at peace when results aren't going your way if you are going about your business like that. Doing things the right way, handling it the right way, being detailed in our work. Sometimes the results don't always go your way, that's life. But we continue to go at it, continue to come here and work and stay detailed."

This is the time where results matter though. And the Magic need to take advantage of all these shots they feel they are getting. They have not done that in the series yet.

The Magic's defense has done the job. Orlando has held Cleveland to less than 100 points in the two games. Outside of giving up 30-plus points and a 126.0 offensive rating in the first quarter, the Magic's defense has stood tall.

As Mosley said after Game 2, the Magic just cannot spot the team 12 points at the start. Everyone knows getting off to a good start with their shooting and their defense is going to be a key to winning Game 3.

That is something everyone in the starting group has talked about with each other. Suggs said they know the starts derailed them the last two games. So it is on them to start the game off better and feed off the energy of the home crowd.

"I think defensively we have done a very good job," Mosley said after shootaround Thursday. "We're hanging our hat there. Obviously, shots have not been falling. But we have to continue to trust that process no matter what. Getting back to that is having a level of confidence knowing we're stepping into shots, knocking them down."

That is something that has been at the center for the Magic heading to Game 3. The team is still confident in their gameplan and the looks they are getting.

They just need to meet the moment, punch first and execute with shots to make the most of it. That is the confidence the team is bringing.

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They hope they can ride the energy of being home back into this series.