Orlando Magic need as much Jonathan Isaac as they can get

The Orlando Magic got a career game from Jonathan Isaac as he continues to get more comfortable. As the Playoffs approach, they need to get as much as they can from him.
Jonathan Isaac continues to make a huge impact for the Orlando Magic. And the team needs to milk every minute they can from their young big man.
Jonathan Isaac continues to make a huge impact for the Orlando Magic. And the team needs to milk every minute they can from their young big man. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic had given up their lead with a 13-0 run, going scoreless for five minutes in the third quarter. They were getting the shots they wanted, but they were not going in and the Sacramento Kings were able to run and build their lead.

The Magic could not wait much longer. They probably waited too long to deploy their secret weapon.

Jonathan Isaac needed to be in the game.

And as the Playoffs approach, it is going to be harder and harder to deny what Isaac brings the team.

Entering the game to a standing ovation after a 17-point first half (with plenty of highlights to recount), Isaac checked in with 4:25 to play. The Magic would score the next seven points to erase their deficit. Isaac did not score in that stretch, but his energy was undeniable.

Orlando could not play without Isaac for as long as they could. And to be on the court is truly something meaningful.

"It means a lot," Isaac said after Saturday's loss. "The fans have been through a lot when it comes to me as an individual on this team. To be feeling the way I'm feeling and to be where I'm at right now and the entire team to be where we are at now is nothing short of a blessing. I just continue to put one foot in front of the other."

He earned that praise because it was so clear how much he impacted the game. Whether that came from being available at the dunker spot for dump-offs and dunks or hitting a tough fade-away jumper along the baseline or hitting corner threes.

Or just completely erasing Domantas Sabonis at the rim.

Isaac was everywhere for the Magic. He was necessary to the team's chances to win.

He would play the next 10 minutes in the third quarter as the Magic went back and forth with the Kings. The Magic lost their narrow lead in the two minutes he sat out in the fourth quarter.

Isaac finished with a career-high tying 25 points, making 10 of 13 shots and three of his four 3-pointers. He added seven rebounds, a steal and two blocks. Isaac was, as he always is, everywhere on the floor, continuing major trends from this season.

On top of all of this, he was a +26 in the game. The Magic could not keep him off the floor. They could not afford to.

"I thought he was great," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Saturday's loss. "I thought he did a great job defensively. Obviously, finding areas on the floor they were finding him for wide-open shots. He played with a level of intensity and energy that we needed on both ends."

Isaac has been on a tear.

He is averaging 10.2 points per game in 12 appearances since the All-Star Break, making 64.7 percent of his shots and 63.0 percent of his threes.

His defensive impact has hardly waned either. The Magic have an incredible 100.6 defensive rating with Isaac on the floor (the best among rotation players) and a team-high +13.6 net rating with Isaac on the floor.

Since the All-Star Break, the Magic have a 121.4 offensive rating, 100.5 defensive rating and team-best 20.9 net rating with Isaac on the floor. Those stats may not fully reflect a player's individual contributions, but they certainly say something.

The fact Isaac has started to produce more offensively has only added to his value. Everything has started to come together.

"Honestly, I'm just trying to play hard," Isaac said after Saturday's loss. "The ball was falling. I thought I got some open looks. Once they start dropping, you just feel more comfortable and confident out there. That's just a trend for me overall, I feel more comfortable on the court and in my body and in my shot for sure. I'm just letting it fly."

That comfort has allowed the Magic to expand his role a lot more.

They have spent the last few weeks using as the team's backup center, a role Isaac admitted he is still learning but getting more comfotable with as he plays more. They already have shown their willingness to close with him at center -- most notably for the first time in the win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, but far more often now including Saturday's game against the Sacramento Kings.

Orlando keeps trying to find ways to play him.

But he is still working his way back from his litany of injuries. Isaac has played more than 20 minutes just seven times this season -- four of them after the All-Star Break. He is still working on getting his conditioning back.

So the Magic know they must sprinkle him throughout the critical parts of the game and get the most out of him. Isaac and the Magic's training staff still communicate when Isaac needs a recovery or maintenance day. He is still likely to miss back-to-backs as the team remains cautious.

But Isaac is getting better there. He said he is feeling less sore and less tired the more he plays. The Magic have been aiming to peak as the Playoffs approach.

They know how important Isaac will be when the Playoffs begin.

"I feel great," Isaac said after Saturday's loss. "Not even to think about what will be in the summer, but I feel more comfortable and more confident. I'm getting my wind back. I'm not sure what's going to happen with minutes going forward. When I'm on the floor, I try to play as hard as I possibly can play and push the limit of how far I can go. And just take it one day at a time and see where it goes."

Isaac is having more and more of an impact. His offense and shooting are starting to match his defense. That will only make him more valuable.

Teammates are urging him to be more aggressive. And Isaac has the confidence now to keep shooting. They know games like the one he had Saturday are going to become more commonplace. He is a regular contributor to the team more and more beyond just his other-worldly defense.

As the playoffs approach, Isaac is as important as any player. He will be the kind of player who can change a game in the Magic's favor (as he did in Saturday's game).

Path to 50 wins 03.24.24. The Orlando Magic's path to 50 wins. dark. Next

The Magic will need to get the most out of him. They are going to work to maximize his effort and impact.