Orlando Magic's little mistakes throughout, not the big misses late cost them Game 5

The Orlando Magic certainly missed some key shots and had some poor decisions late in Game 5 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But it was the little mistakes throughout that ultimate put the Magic on the brink of elimination.
The Orlando Magic came one shot short of tying the game and having a chance to take a 3-2 series lead back to Orlando. But all the little plays ultimately cost them.
The Orlando Magic came one shot short of tying the game and having a chance to take a 3-2 series lead back to Orlando. But all the little plays ultimately cost them. / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

156. Final. 103. 38. Magic Cavs Game 5 Final 04.30.24. 104

As Jamahl Mosley walked into the media room at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Tuesday, he asked for a pen. As he sat down, he scanned the box score, circling key numbers and points he wanted to bring up.

The things that in his mind are the reason the Orlando Magic lost Game 5 104-103 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, putting his team on the brink of elimination.

Fans will point to the big moments late in the game that cost the team.

They will look at Paolo Banchero's choice to take a step-back, 30-foot 3-pointer with 1:29 to play in a one-point game as a shot the team would have liked to have back -- Banchero said there are choices and decisions he would like to have back even in a 39-point effort.

They will look at the Magic's decision on two of their final three consequential possessions to challenge Evan Mobley at the rim. Mobley contested a Banchero floater that kept the Cavs ahead by two points. And then he blocked a Franz Wagner drive with 5.1 seconds left, preserving a two-point lead for the Cavs to ice the game at the foul line -- "A hell of play" as Mosley put it after the game.

Those plays certainly mattered. They came in big moments. And in a close Playoff series like this, they are the difference. The game stood in the balance and all the questions flipped on those plays.

But those moments are still the sum of all the parts. And a playoff series still forces a team to confront itself as much as its opponent.

In Game 5, the Magic found themselves wanting not for late-game execution but for the mistakes that led up to it long before.

"There was a level of poise to them," coach Jamahl Mosley said of the team's fourth-quarter showing Tuesday. "They didn't get rattled. They executed some timely possessions. But it is never that final two minutes that you look at. It's what happened throughout the game that you have to focus and pay attention to. The extra offensive rebound, the missed free throws, the transition points off turnovers. Those things we have to continue to look at and improve."

The Magic have been determined and poised. They have accorded themselves more than well in this first Playoff outing.

But they still have shortcomings. They still make a lot of mistakes. And as much as the Cavs did plenty to take this game, rallying with veterans Marcus Morris and Tristan Thompson to help fill in minutes lost to Jarrett Allen's rib injury, the Magic lost the game with their miscues.

They are an unfortunately familiar tune for the team in the season as much as this series.

First-quarter starts have been a major talking point throughout this series. The Magic have just one win in the first quarter of games this series with the Cavaliers. They again got off to a slow start, finding themselves down 13-6 nearly five minutes into the game and by 10 at the end of the quarter thanks to a 9-2 run in the final 90 seconds.

Those things simply add up as the Magic kept fighting to stay in the game. It remains a credit to this team that it did.

But the mistakes kept coming.

"I feel like we were not as solid defensively as we were the past two games, giving up threes and dropoffs to the bigs. That's something we have to clean up for Friday," Franz Wagner said after Tuesday's loss. "Obviously, I think there were timely mistakes that we made whether it was offensive rebounds, missed assignments or turnovers. Obviously, they add up in a close game."

Orlando turned the ball over 14 times in the game and every miscue seemed to lead directly to a Cleveland basket. The Cavs scored 17 points off turnovers.

The Magic have overcome this all season, ranking 26th in the league with a 15.0 percent turnover rate in the regular season. The team gave up 16.4 points off turnovers per game this season (16th in the league).

Orlando tallied a 14.6 percent turnover rate in this game, but even being just below average compared to the 10.3 percent rate from Cleveland meant the team was losing possessions.

That is what this series has ultimately been about. It has been a battle for extra possessions. And turning the ball over is one way to give an opponent extra possessions.

The Magic worked around this error throughout the season thanks to its suffocating defense.

But the Cavs especially have been good at poking holes in that defense. Cleveland had only eight offensive rebounds to go with 11 second-chance points. But those extra chances and opportunities -- especially without Allen in the game -- were critical in such a close game.

These are the little plays that matter.

And that does not get into the Magic missing seven free throws to go 22 for 29. A key area where the Magic make up for their poor 3-point shooting and their other shortcomings comes at the foul line.

There were miscues when the pressure ramped up and the Magic needed a shot. But the effort they had to put in to get to the end and have a chance came because they were overcoming all of these mistakes.

"I just think you can't really point to one play or the final play," Banchero said after Tuesday's loss. "There were a couple of plays in the last 3.5 minutes that swayed the game in their favor. I wouldn't say it came down to the last play. That wasn't a make-or-break moment. There were other times when we could have had a chance to extend the lead by two or three possessions."

That too is one of the few weaknesses for this team defensively. Orlando could not extend what lead it had late in the game. The Cavs kept bouncing back with timely shots or free throws.

Orlando gave up a 26.4 percent free throw rate. This team gets a little too eager to defend physically and can send opponents to the line.

The Cavaliers took 12 free throws in the fourth quarter including Donovan Mitchell getting 10 (making nine) to power him to 14 points in the quarter, his first strong fourth quarter of the series.

These little things add up. And that is what added up to a Magic defeat. These are the things Orlando must clean up.

"It's a reminder that you can't start the game off down 10. How do we start the game? That's one," Mosley said after Tuesday's game. "Did we execute and knock down our free throws? 22 of 29, got to make your free throws. You have to take care of the basketball. 14 turnovers for 17 points. Those are opportunities you don't get back. I think our ability to continue to understand that gives us a chance. They did a heck of a job on the glass. One more offensive rebound than us. But that's one more possession. That's the importance of the possession game."

Mosley clicked his pen it seemed as he rattled off the numbers that cost his team a chance at a 3-2 lead. He never second-guessed Banchero's shot choices or Wagner's decision to drive the lane. The team trusts them all in those close moments.

They missed shots and the Cavs made plays to beat them in the end.

What mattered is the Magic had a lot of things in their control that they could have done to prevent them from needing a big bucket. They left the door open for the Cavs to control the game. They did not play their best even with that chance to win late.

Next. Magic Momentum Game 4 04.30.24. Orlando Magic know how quickly momentum turns in the Playoffs. dark

And that is what the Magic must learn and do to win Game 6.