Orlando Magic's playoff prep starts with staying true to themselves

The Orlando Magic are readying for their Playoff debuts. The postseason though is not about adjustments or changing anything. It is about staying true to themselves and what got them here.
Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic know that the Playoffs are going to be a battle. But it is not so much a battle of adjustments but a battle of doubling down on their identity.
Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic know that the Playoffs are going to be a battle. But it is not so much a battle of adjustments but a battle of doubling down on their identity. / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

When Jamahl Mosley took over as the coach of the Orlando Magic, the team was at rock bottom. They had just traded away their All-Star and mortgaged it for their future. They had two upcoming draft picks they hoped would form the foundation of a new team. But everything felt uncertain.

Mosley never wavered. He had a vision for what the team would be -- aligned with what the front office was looking for too -- and helped build the team to get to that point. To get to this point.

Mosley never doubted they would get here. The team never seemed to have doubts they would get here.

And now that the Magic are here. . . now what? How does a young team approach the pressure and intensity of its first Playoff series?

It is virtually the same way they built themselves to this point. It is by not changing course or changing their work, it is by doubling down on all of it. It is about committing further to their identity.

This is another opportunity to level up and prove who they are and what they are about all over again.

"I think in these moments . . . you have to be more of who you are and what we have done to this point," Mosley said after practice Wednesday. "We have been in big games and big moments. You guys asked a lot of questions during the year when we played Sacramento, when we played the Clippers, when we played Golden State, when we go to Denver, when we play Minnesota in Minnesota. These are big games that we have all been a part of. Some come away with wins, some come away with losses. But those all have been big moments that these guys have been a part of."

Every experience for the Magic has led them to this point. It has built their record and prepared them for these games.

Certainly, the Magic struggled some in games down the stretch. They lost all three of those games to the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors and LA Clippers at the Kia Center during that important eight-game homestand. Those losses stung and showed the chasm the team had to bridge.

But they also scored big wins on the road against the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves. All of those games saw the Magic defend well and have their chance to win in the end. That is all the Magic can ask for.

Orlando is not going to reinvent their wheel at this point in the season. They know who they are and what got them here.

"We talk about being ourselves," Franz Wagner said after practice Wednesday. "You don't have to do anything special. Obviously, it's a different approach. It's a different detailing of things. Obviously, You get to look at the Cavs closer than we can during the regular season."

The Playoffs are different, but that message is still the same. Orlando has to do what got them to this point.

The Magic have earned their place as the 5-seed. They went 47-35 and fought their way up the standings. They got put under pressure throughout the season -- especially on the season's final day. They found themselves throughout the last year and believed in that identity to make this kind of leap.

The Magic finished third in the league in defensive rating at 110.8 points allowed per 100 possessions. They embraced an identity that congested the paint, hounded ball-handlers for turnovers and pressed their size advantages all over the floor.

That is who the Magic are. And just because they are in the Playoffs, that part cannot change.

The Playoffs are a chance for the team to double down on who they are just as they did in the offseason when they built on their success from the 2023 season.

The Magic and the Cavaliers are at least a little bit familiar with each other. They played each other four times during the season and then another time early in the preseason. That will help them build some confidence.

But no matter the opponent, it still comes back to who the Magic are in the end. It is about the team pouring into each other and staying more committed to their gameplan and what got them here.

The Playoffs are about doing what you do, just better. That might be the most important lesson heading to the Playoffs.

"I think going in and playing [the Cavs] four times and going back and looking at some of that film, goes back to being what the concepts are," Mosley said after practice Wednesday. "How do we stop certain things? How do we execute a little better in certain areas? Tightening up on those details is what we're going to have to continue to do. Obviously, they are going to make some adjustments. But you don't want to go into the game trying to overthink what they could possibly do or not do. You have to focus so much on what you are doing and executing at a higher clip each time you touch the floor."

The Magic will dig into the details of their opponent in the Cavs throughout the week as they prepare for Saturday's game. The team is preparing for the pressure and added intensity that comes with the postseason.

But everything still boils down to the Magic executing their game plan and being true to themselves. If the Magic want to win the series, they will have to be their dominant defensive selves.

For as much as they need to focus on adjustments and their specific gameplan for the Cavs, they have to be more attentive to who they are. They have to be themselves, but better.

The Magic will not have to change much. They have to keep doing what they are doing. If they are locked in, Banchero said, the team should be able to handle the waves the Playoffs bring.

"I don't think the moment is too big," Banchero said after practice Wednesday. "Not only for me but for anybody. We have been talking about it since before the season. You don't talk about something that you're scared of. I think everybody is excited, and we're ready to go."

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This is the moment the team has been waiting for.