Orlando Magic are going to be unrelenting and a thorn in someone's side

The Orlando Magic toppled the Cleveland Cavaliers with their unrelenting energy and depth. That is the sign of a team that is annoying to play and bothersome to eliminate in a series.

The Orlando Magic continue to make waves in the Eastern Conference. And they are play a hard-nosed style that is sure to annoy someone in the Playoffs.
The Orlando Magic continue to make waves in the Eastern Conference. And they are play a hard-nosed style that is sure to annoy someone in the Playoffs. / David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

109. 156. Final. 116. 38. Magic Cavs Final 02.22.24

This was the moment nobody knew they needed.

A fast break in slow motion that only built the anticipation of what could be on its way. Everyone was on the edge of their seats. The entire Orlando Magic bench rose and started jumping up and down urging something special to happen.

Joe Ingles should have known this was what was going to happen after he was able to shoot the gap and steal the ball at the top of the key and had nothing but open court in front of him. Ingles was not speedy, to begin with, but he had a long runway and a long way to go to rev up.

Everyone on the Magic's bench wanted a dunk.

Ingles. . . did not oblige. He simply layed the ball up, as a disappointed Magic bench laughed and sat down.

Ingles was not done though. Ingles never is. The Magic never seem to be done. They always seem to be talking and letting their game back it up, especially off the bench with the personalities and trash talkers sitting there.

This game belonged to Moe Wagner as his energy and fire did a lot of lifting. He showed no fear attacking the Cleveland Cavaliers' interior defenders and that, like the moment when the team got up for Ingles' dunk attempt, sparked the Magic to a 116-109 win.

"I thought he was great," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Thursday's game. "I thought he was not afraid of the moment. I thought he did a great job getting to the basket. Our guys did an excellent job of finding him. He wasn't afraid to attack the rim. That set the tone for us with his level of aggression and his energy, knowing the right play to make at the right time."

The Magic might be too naive to fear anything as they embark on this final leg of their playoff push.

Orlando was not backing down. The team was playing with the joy and intensity that has made this season such a success. It is up to everyone else to try to match it.

Teams are going to find out that when the Magic are rolling they are a team that gets under your skin and torments you with their unrelenting energy.

Wagner led the team with 22 points as the Magic did well to set him up with mismatches on the block and get him the ball in movement after drives. The Cavaliers were late to rotate or keep players in front of them.

It was on Wagner to overpower his way to the basket and give the team that fearless energy.

"Don't let his build fool you, Moe is a force," Cole Anthony said after Thursday's game. "He matched their intensity tonight. When he got into the game, he threw the first punch. He was shoulders, elbows, initiating contact. That set the tone for our second unit with just how physical he was."

That was the strange thing. It was not the Magic's star players who led the way.

Paolo Banchero had only 12 points, hitting a critical three with about two minutes left to put the Magic up 14. Franz Wagner had a steady drumbeat of 14 points.

The heroes of the game were the Magic's bench. It was Moe Wagner's 22 points and Joe Ingles' 12. It was Cole Anthony scoring 13 points and dishing out six assists. It was their constant attack that helped the Magic build their lead in the second and fourth quarters.

Orlando had 63 points off its bench and every player off the bench had a positive plus-minus.

They were a constant energy source throughout the early part of the season when the Magic went on their nine-game win streak. That has something that has faded.

Their energy and the push the Magic get from their bench have been vital to the team. It has been a big part of the team's success and the by-committee approach the team espouses. It bounced back with a vengeance coming out of the All-Star Break on Thursday.

"Obviously, there is a good chemistry," Wagner said after Thursday's game. "We really play off of each other. We do a good job playing for each other. There is not really a lot of agenda individually going on. It kind of clicks together. Everybody knows their job and stays within themselves. I think what we've done good with that group is to stay consistent and do our job. Even if they take stuff away, I think it takes the opposing team a lot of discipline and energy to take away what we do well."

As Mosley said on the last episode of Orlando Magic All Access after their win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, their togetherness and joy is what makes them special. It is also what is going to make them such a tough out when the playoffs come around.

It is also what makes the team potentially so annoying to play -- in a good way -- for the playoffs. The Magic are unrelenting and they are a team that truly enjoys each other. That is something that works in their favor.

The Magic are a team that is going to let their personalities shine on the court whether it is Jalen Suggs gesturing to the Kia Center crowd or Moe Wagner celebrating an and-1 bucket. Or pointing to the bench to get them to review a call.

That got Wagner a technical foul in the third quarter, leaving him incredulous. But that is what makes this team different than other young teams.

Mosley said Wagner always brings energy to the group. And he seems to know when to turn it on and turn it off to give the team what they need. Wagner said he is still trying to channel his emotions the right way. He has done a better job at that this year.

The technical foul seemed a bit excessive. But his team responded to it the right way. It did not derail them and the energy Wagner brought in getting served its purpose. They responded to that technical foul not by unraveling or getting upset but by doubling down on their focus.

Ingles hit a three and Anthony hit a pair of jumpers to end the quarter and give the Magic a four-point lead. Orlando showed poise to take that setback and respond.

This is the biggest question this team still faces, whether it can keep its composure when good teams challenge it. The Magic had a 14-point lead late in the second quarter and saw the Cavaliers cut it to three at the half. Cleveland briefly retook the lead in the early third quarter but Orlando responded yet again.

This has been the Magic's m.o. all year long. That is why they have found success.

This is a team that is confident in its belief and in what it can do. And they are good enough to make good on that.

How the Magic do that can sometimes annoy their opponents. They have a lot of confident players and play with a certain level of bravado. That is what helps them bring out their best.

They got under the Cavs' skin on the road. And once the team had some confidence, they were not going to let go. That is what the good teams do, especially as the season winds down.

"Obviously, it's a mentality somewhat," Wagner said after Thursday's game. "The real teams start playing now. As a young team that hasn't really been there yet, we need to embrace that and understand that. The teams that want to go somewhere, this is the time they improve the most. It's a mentality we have to bring in every day. That's part of winning in this league."

This team is unrelenting. They play hard and they play with fire and intensity. That is essential to their success.

Next. Cole Anthony slump 02.23.24. Cole Anthony in precarious position after mid-season slump. dark

And they are going to frustrate some teams on the road to the Playoffs and in a Playoff series with how hard they play.