Orlando Magic's seven-game win streak gives all a chance to believe

Cole Anthony and the Orlando Magic are on a seven-game win streak as they continue to climb the Eastern Conference standings.
Cole Anthony and the Orlando Magic are on a seven-game win streak as they continue to climb the Eastern Conference standings. / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

38. Final. 117. 170. Magic Hornets 11.26.23. 130

The sold-out crowd at the Amway Center -- yes, sold-out crowd on a Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets -- was not quite in the same fever pitch as they were Friday for the In-Season Tournament game against the Boston Celtics. But it was still loud.

When the buzzer finally sounded, everyone could celebrate. Perhaps it felt more like a sigh of relief. But the tension inside Amway Center and the anticipation for this team to take control and win was always present.

There is indeed a spirit in Orlando, as the song says. And the fans have bought in -- officially selling out all but one game at the Amway Center this year.

They all want to believe. They all see something to believe in and something growing. Even when it was not at its best, the Magic still put together a performance that was more than enough to win, another sign of the team's growing maturity and poise.

The Orlando Magic won their seventh-straight game giving fans at the Amway Center more than enough to believe in. Everyone is along for the ride of potential now.

The Orlando Magic are already being called this year's Sacramento Kings -- a feel good story from a small-market franchise with a quietly strong fan base that just needed success to cheer for. A game like Sunday's 130-117 win over the Hornets gives everyone plenty to buy into.

They keep finding ways to win now. And while Sunday's win was hardly the best the Magic can offer. Even without their best they won.

Is that enough to make people believers? Pretty soon, no one may have a choice but to believe.

This team sure doe sand they keep backing it up.

"[Coach Jamahl Mosley] said it once and I've liked it and kept saying it, 'Be greedy,'" Cole Anthony said after Sunday's game. "Why let a game go that you can win? I think that we all have the mentality where we want to defend. I think that's the key for us, and I don't see any reason why we can't keep that up."

The Magic have been plenty greedy so far as they continue to build wins upon wins.

The Magic have done well in this early part of the season to establish the foundations for their style of basketball. That is the place everything has to start for such a young team. And Sunday's game showed everyone how strong they can be in that style and what happens when things begin to slip a bit.

This was not a walk in the park against a team struggling to find its footing early in the season in the Hornets. Orlando had to claw its way to that identity and find a way to keep up and secure the victory.

The Magic gave up 117 points and struggled both to defend the 3-point line -- the Hornets made 13 of 30 3-pointers -- and keep the Hornets off the foul line -- where they made 16 of 25 attempts. Charlotte shot 53 percent from the floor overall and posted a 110.4 offensive rating.

This was not the typical Magic basketball of tough, physical and disruptive defense.

The Magic had to find other ways to build their identity and grind out a win. That is a sign of maturity and poise in the end.

"It shows the maturity of the group," Mosley said. "Knowing exactly the highs of the last two games but being able to walk in here and look at a team not with a great record but a very capable and good basketball team to take care of business and finish the game out.

The Magic are trying to establish that defensive identity. And whether this team will succeed or sustain this win streak will depend on embracing that identity. It is still about growth and maturity for this team.

They will celebrate the small victories and small moments of growth along the way before they get back to work.

That is largely what the team did to secure the victory Sunday even with a lax and inconsistent effort. The Magic buckled down to make plays and retake and expand the lead.

They still forced 18 turnovers for 28 points and got 18 fast-break points. They still attacked the paint for 74 points (even though they gave up 60). They had a season-high 33 assists on 47 field goals, making 54 percent of their shots and 10 of 27 3-pointers. Orlando still got to the line for 33 free throws, making 26 after recording only two in the first quarter.

The Magic got dual 30-point games from Cole Anthony and Franz Wagner, who had 13 in the third quarter as the Magic began to pull away. It was the first time two players on the Magic had 30 points in the same game since the Nov. 5, 2022 shootout at the Amway Center against the Sacramento Kings and the first time in a non-overtime game since March 2021 when Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon did it against the Brooklyn Nets.

This team knows it will have to re-tighten its defense -- this was the eighth game in 13 days and so a fatigued team playing an eager and rested Hornets offense certainly put the Magic behind the 8-ball.

But the team scratched and clawed to find some stability. The team got enough stops to build a lead and kept pace offensively to keep it. That is all the team could ask for and that is what winning teams have to do.

They have to find their path every night and walk it and be ready for whatever that path might be.

"It's really cool for this group," Wagner said after Sunday's win. "Obviously we want to keep it going. Mose always says it starts with the work. Words sound nice, but we want to keep it going. We have to make sure we keep getting better as a group as the season goes on."

The players have certainly bought into this belief too, finding a way to gut out their seventh straight, the longest win streak since a franchise-record-tying nine-game win streak after acquiring Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu in the 2011 season.

That fact alone should probably give everyone some pause. As much fun as that initial burst was, the team finished as the 4-seed and a disappointing first-round exit, officially closing the team's championship window and spearheading the Dwight-mare that would come.

This Magic team is clearly at the beginning stages of things. And this seven-game win streak is serving as the team's announcement as a playoff contender -- again granting that there is so long to go this season.

Still, this Magic team is the buzz of the NBA right now. Everyone wants to know if this will last. The team has no reason to think otherwise after what it built to end last season carried over to this year.

"Everyone in the building believes so," Wagner said after Sunday's game. "That's how it starts for us. It's a change in our mentality compared to the last two years. When we walk in the building, we believe that we win that day. That's just the start of it. Those are just words. We have to do the work to win the game. I think the last couple of weeks we have done a pretty solid job.

This team is trying to build its standard and who it is. And things are indeed clicking very quickly for this group. A 12-5 record has them at the top of the Eastern Conference standings near the quarter mark of the season. They have one of the best defenses in the league at this stage in the season.

What this team is working on is maintaining it all and continuing to build on it. That is something this group has never done and has made this early season push so shocking -- and fun.

Next. Orlando Magic are announcing themselves in pursuit of NBA Cup. Orlando Magic are announcing themselves in pursuit of NBA Cup. dark

It has made everyone believers in what this team is capable of continuing to grow into. The fact that this team still is building all of that is enough reason to work and keep pushing. Everyone is eager to see how this team continues growing.