Orlando Magic's success starts with their belief

It is not easy to erase a 21-point deficit even in the offensively charged modern NBA. As the Orlando Magic climb the standings, their belief is one of their biggest superpowers.
The Orlando Magic stormed back from a 21-point deficit to defeat the Washington Wizards. The best part of it was that they expected their comeback and never blinked.
The Orlando Magic stormed back from a 21-point deficit to defeat the Washington Wizards. The best part of it was that they expected their comeback and never blinked. / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Confidence is a powerful thing. And if anybody needs proof of that, watch this play from the end of the fourth quarter in the Orlando Magic's 119-109 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

Forget any other context of this play and how the Magic got here. Watch everyone react to this laser of a pass from Paolo Banchero to Moe Wagner.

There is first the bravado from Banchero to treat this weak double team this way with an overhead strike to Wagner cutting along the baseline. There is Wagner sneaking along the baseline baiting the defense and striking when they turn their heads.

There is Moe's brother, Franz Wagner, fist-pumping and shouting toward no one in particular. There is the cut away to the bench flexing and getting off their feet to celebrate the big play.

Look at the Wizards' players though. They were already losing some of their energy and deflated before the pass was made. Deni Avdija reacted far too late to the baseline cut and Moe Wagner's flush. They know they have no chance.

They had already lost.

The Magic are celebrating a huge play and immediately focused on what comes next. This one had to feel a bit sweeter. This play might have been the moment the team knew it was going to win after going up 106-97 with about two minutes to play.

They had buried their opponent.

That was quite a turnaround and emblematic of who the Magic are. Here is the context of that play: The Magic trailed by 21 points in the second quarter and seemed dead in the water. But they kept grinding. They showed who they really are in making their largest comeback of the season -- and the sixth largest in franchise history.

They are confident. They play with a bit of swagger. They celebrate every moment and then go do it again. This dunk came a few minutes after Wagner slammed another one in as the Magic asserted their control on the scoreboard.

This is a Magic team confident in its ability to win and make plays. This is a team unafraid of the moment or the task ahead.

The biggest thing for them might be that they believe. They truly believe. And that belief has enabled them to do anything.

Like come back from a 21-point deficit or win five straight (again) or 13 of their last 16 games. Like taking over the 4-seed in the Eastern Conference and building a bit of cushion before Friday's showdown with the 5-seed New York Knicks.

This Magic team has always believed in its potential. Now they have the confidence to prove it on the floor from the top of the roster to the bottom.

"I think we have a lot of responsibility," Franz Wagner said after Wednesday's game. "I think both of us [Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero] want to make sure we make the right play and pay that back to the team. I thought we did a really good job, especially with our mentality. I thought we had the right mindset coming out of the halftime. I think everybody did not let their heads hang down even when it was close. That's exactly the type of mentality we need as the season goes on."

As coach Jamahl Mosley put it, the team holds each other accountable. They really do pull for each other and understand who this team has to be to win. And so, facing the big deficit they had they knew what they had to do for each other. And they knoew they had to hold each other accountable.

That was one of the messages at halftime. Everyone said so after the game. The Magic had to get back to playing to their standard.

Message received.

Banchero grabbed hold of that with 13 of his 25 points in the third quarter and Franz Wagner started to spark the comeback in the second quarter. The Magic had the confidence they could come back despite a frustrating first half.

Wagner had 28 points in a constant drumbeat. His play in the second quarter started the comeback and ensured the Magic had their chance to win. Then Jalen Suggs, Moe Wagner and Cole Anthony stepped up with big shots in the fourth quarter to close it out.

That says something. It says something about their togetherness as much as it says about their ability. They faced a challenge and they faced some major questions and they answered the bell.

"I think we just claimed our identity," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Wednesday's win. "We realized who we need to be to come out and give ourselves a chance. I think in that first half it was more about our offense affecting our defense. In the second half, we realized we've got to buckle down, sit down and guard and the offense will flow the right way."

Everything for Orlando starts with its defense. After giving up 65 points -- and a 135.4 defensive rating -- in the firt half, the Magic gave up only 44 points and a 93.6 defensive rating in the second half. Orlando finished the game at a respectable 114.7 points allowed per 100 possessions.

The Magic have established their identity as one of the best defensive teams in the league.

A comeback like this did not happen immediately. The Magic did not go on a crazy scoring run to erase the deficit. It came in pieces -- cutting the deficit to 11 before halftime, tying the game by the midpoint of the third quarter and then pulling away in the middle of the fourth quarter.

It took the Magic answering runs, going cold and having to dig out stops. This was not easy and the Wizards found their groove to try to re-expand the lead.

But Orlando did not blink. That continually is part of this team's identity too. No one has been able to shake them even when it feels like they should. This team shows it is not a young team making mistakes. It is a young team confident in its abilities.

There can be no comeback without this kind of confidence and belief. There can be no comeback without composure and poise.

And even down 21 points, there did not seem to be much panic. That was one of the messages in the locker room at halftime. The team still knew it could make the comeback, they just had to play their basketball and change their energy.

That is confidence too. The belief that their style of basketball is good enough to erase a major deficit and enough to flip a game on its head.

That is where success starts though. It starts with belief.

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Wednesday's win was something to celebrate. It meant a lot to the team as each play brought out the joy Mosley wants his team to have. Their success starts with this confidence. And it is going to take them far.