Orlando Magic's faith was tested, they embraced their swagger to even the series

The Cleveland Cavaliers seemed upset with the talk from the Orlando Magic during Game 3. The Magic again let their play do the talking. That is who this team is.
Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic found their swagger in Games 3 and 4 and find themselves in a series with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic found their swagger in Games 3 and 4 and find themselves in a series with the Cleveland Cavaliers. / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

38. Final. 89. 156. Magic Cavs Game 4 Final. 112

Late in the season Moe Wagner shared that he has a doormat to his home that says "The Swagners." That is something you expect from the usually boisterous Moe Wagner. He gestures to the crowd, hypes his guys up and gets under the opponent's skin. He was persona non grata in Cleveland after Games 1 and 2 and will expect a chorus of boos when he returns Tuesday for Game 5.

Nobody really expects that from his brother Franz Wagner.

Franz Wagner is a fierce competitor on his own and that fire comes out plenty. But Wagner is more the silent assassin type. He steps past you and scores with maybe a stray word to the officials as he competes against himself.

In Saturday's rollicking 112-89 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4 at the Kia Center, the Orlando Magic let everyone know they were winning. That was supposed to be the Cavs' thing.

It was Franz doing a lot of the talking this time. He let the Cavs know who now seemingly has control of this series.

"They had me mic'd up for the game for the first time. Maybe it was extra jitters or something," Franz Wagner said after Saturday's game. "I think the competitiveness comes out more and more as the series goes on. For me, that's part of it. It stays on the court honestly. I love playing basketball and they happen to be in the way. We have to do everything we can to win against them."

Wagner was the one ensuring that the Magic took control of the series, tying it up at 2-2 heading back to Cleveland for Game 5.

He hit Georges Niang with a spin move that dropped the veteran forward to the floor before he hit a floater, giving the fallen Niang a Joe Ingles point to pick up a technical foul. He drained a step-back three-pointer to help cap off an incredible 37-10 quarter and gave the "You can't see me" gesture on his way back down the floor.

His final flourish was an and-1 layup where he gave the infamous and-1 signal and turned to the sellout crowd to soak in the entire atmosphere.

Wagner had his day, scoring 34 points and grabbing 13 rebounds to take his turn as the team's star attraction and playoff performer. The Magic had theirs too. Everyone was puffing their chest once again after dominating the Cavs in the second half and tying the series.

Orlando embraced their identity and their swagger. The same bravado that pushed them to the 5-seed and 47 wins this season. Excuse their youthful exuberance to enjoy this moment.

"I felt like once we came back from the nine-point deficit, starting the third, and they took that timeout I felt like the momentum is swinging in our direction," Jonathan Isaac said after Saturday's win. "Then it was just kind of play after play and we were able to whittle them down."

Orlando outscored Cleveland 61-29 in the second half, including 37-10 in the third quarter, to flip a nine-point halftime deficit into a 23-point win.

That is what got the Magic feeling themselves a bit more and soaking in the wild atmosphere present in the Kia Center. There is no doubt the Magic were playing to the crowd as they aimed to take care of homecourt and even the series.

It is certainly easier to play with that joy when the shots are falling and the team is playing well. All of that is a privilege in winning. The Magic have been able to do a lot of that because they are winning.

The team still had to make the plays and exert its will. That is not what the team was doing in the first half as Cleveland used a 9-0 run late in the second quarter to take the lead and Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen scored 34 of the Cavs' 60 points in the first half.

The bravado the Magic exude comes from their play on the floor and how they can squeeze and pressure teams. It is not some fake talk. They back it up with their play. They celebrate their accomplishments rather than talk before it.

They had to get that test to find themselves again and put it on full display on their home floor.

"Faith is all a theory until it has been tested. So is love. Tonight was a perfect example of that and of continuing to stay with it, of continuing to do anything that my teammates needed me to do -- lock in defensively, be solid, bring energy and get the fans into the game. The faith was tested tonight with the turnovers and continuing to play basketball. In times where we could have separated and gone our separate ways, we always came together, we always huddled up and talked about what was going on and continued to attack it together."

Orlando's third-quarter run came because the team was making play after play, stonewalling Cleveland's attacks and then using that energy to get out in transition. They worked together to close up the holes they left open in the first half.

One of the most important sequences in the game came when Franz Wagner sank two free throws, Jonathan Isaac hung in the backcourt and got a steal leading to his three and then Markelle Fultz finished for an and-1 (he missed the free throw). Orlando doubled its lead from seven to 14 with less than 90 seconds left in the quarter, putting the finishing touches and slamming the door on the Cavs.

Of course the team is going to celebrate and soak in the energy and attention.

"When you make shots like that with that type of swag, it's really hard to beat that," Moe Wagner said after Saturday's game. "It's easy to say that now because it went in. That's how games go sometimes."

That is really the statement to make about this Magic team. The Cavs might be annoyed with how this young team plays to the crowd. But what they are really saying is how they are annoyed this Magic team will not back down. They are really frustrated the young team is not bending to their will and fighting back.

Orlando has sensed some of that weakness and they are not going to back down at any point in this series.

"It's playoff basketball. You expect it, you embrace it, you don't shy away from it, you lean into it and do what we've been doing for the year," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Saturday's win. "We're a physical team. We're a mentally strong team. We're a focused team. This young group is understanding and continuing to learn how they have to play on a consistent basis."

Both teams have said that they have simply taken care of their business on the home floor. As down as the Magic were afer trailing 2-0 in the series, the Cavs are feeling that pressure now.

The job is not done and Orlando still has to win on Cleveland's home floor. The team knows it still has to put in the work to get the series win. Isaac said the pressure is on the Cavs to win but the Magic want to have the chance to close the series out Friday in Game 6.

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They believe that if they can stay together and continue to have fun like they had Saturday afternoon, they can go on the road and get the win they need to win the series.