Orlando Magic's win belongs to them all and their growing maturity

Nov 22, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner (22) and Denver Nuggets
Nov 22, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner (22) and Denver Nuggets / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

73. Magic Nuggets 11.22.23. 124. 38. Final. 119

There were several moments throughout the fourth quarter when the Orlando Magic could have succumbed to the pressure and intensity of the moment. They were facing the defending champions after all in a back-and-forth game where neither team seemed able to run away and the Magic had to scratch and claw just to get back.

But each moment saw something different from this young Magic team. Each time there was a moment to get together and communicate and talk out situations, the team would huddle together and make sure they were on the same page. Make sure they were taking the necessary steps to improve.

It happened so many times that they could not recall a specific instance that it occurred at a critical juncture in the game. It has just become natural to come together and solve the problem.

It is one thing for a young team to put their heads together and try to figure this all out. It is another for that same young team to put it together to take down the defending champions with Nikola Jokic putting up another MVP stat line.

But that is what this team is continually doing. They keep finding ways to win and they keep building their confidence. The crazy part is that it is the young guys who are figuring it out. And they keep delivering.

The Orlando Magic recorded another impressive victory, defeating the Denver Nuggets with clutch shots down the stretch. Their maturity and ownership over that result stands out as the team continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

This time the big moment came to Paolo Banchero. After Franz Wagner found a few creases to get to the basket, he spotted Aaron Gordon sinking in on his attempts to switch and attack Michael Porter Jr.

That enabled him to kick out to Banchero for a 3-pointer that gave the Magic a 118-115 lead over the Nuggets with less than two minutes to play.

There was no looking back from there. Orlando made its free throws and got a few critical stops to secure a 124-119 victory -- the team's fifth in a row.

Everyone stepped up to make big plays. And that is probably what had the team's coach beaming most of all.

"This is their team," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Wednesday's game. "When you start to take ownership of your defense and your identity and you start to not care who gets what shot when and where, that's the ownership this team has. They all embrace it."

So much of this season is still about this young team's growth. They are expecting bumps along the way. But they are also expecting growing moments. The moments when they take those hard lessons learned and turn them into results on the floor.

That may have been what the team saw on the floor throughout the fourth quarter.

It can be seen as the team gathers to communicate the defense or in the small moments when they correct mistakes. It can be seen in how the team switches and covers for each other on defense. How they pick each other up and fight for each other.

It can be seen as Mosley pointed out after the game in how Wagner was the one initiating all the offense, targeting Porter but still willing to call a play for Banchero or one of his teammates to get a good shot.

That is leadership as Mosley put it. And in winning everyone thrives.

"I think that's one of the main things this year for us," Wagner said after Wednesday's game. "When we walk into the building, we have a belief about ourselves that not just that we're competing but we're winning the game. I think ownership is a huge part of that making sure we're always engaged."

The Magic valued their continuity because it meant everyone was familiar with each other. It has also helped set the expectation and accountability level. Through 15 games this season, that has proven to be more than just talk.

Those chances to huddle up are opportunities for the team to get itself back focused on what it needs to do. It is a chance to calm the group down. More importantly, it is a chance for the players to lead the adjustments, seeing what they see on the court and giving that insight to the coaches as much as the coaches give the players insight.

Everyone is doing their part and stepping up at the right moments.

Wagner scored 24 of his 27 points in the second half (and 15 in the third quarter). But in the modest way Wagner always talks about his game, he said he did not think he played particularly poorly in the first half. He was perhaps overthinking. But he was taking what the defense gave him and that enabled him to score.

He and the Magic still have plenty of other players involved. Banchero scored 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting (making four of his five 3-pointers to boot). Cole Anthony came off the bench for 20 points. Wagner and Banchero each had four assists (the team had 27 total).

And everyone stayed committed defensively, as they always do. Even in a game where Orlando was not as sharp defensively, the team got the stops it needed down the stretch.

"We want to be a great team," Banchero said after Wednesday's win. "The coaches can only do so much. We have to step up as players, hold each other's feet to the fire, hold each other accountable, but also be the calming voice for each other. We can't let each other get flustered out there. If someone makes a mistake or someone is starting to spiral, we have to bring each other back in and come together as a group."

This team has always had a never-back-down mentality. Jalen Suggs showed that in a critical turning point in the game when he and Nikola Jokic tussled for a rebound with 4:25 left in the game. That was an emotional turning point.

That is a moment that can make or break a lot of young teams. It was a defining moment in the game, whipping the crowd into a frenzy and Suggs pointing to the fans. But it was followed by the team calming itself down and executing on both ends.

That is how the Magic stood toe to toe with the defending champions and one of the best closing lineups in the NBA -- the message according to Anthony in many of those huddles was to "stay solid" against Jokic and the Nuggets.

That is how this team has grown and matured all season long.

It is a mix of emotion and youthful exuberance still. But there is a growing maturity and responsibility over what this team can do and what they can accomplish. They are putting those words to action and playing with some seriousness that belies their age.

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

That this team might be able to do something a bit more special.