By Nicholas Leo
The first three weeks of the NBA season have been filled with glimpses of great basketball for the Orlando Magic and their fans.
However, it’s been followed by a fourth-quarter fallout far too often. In their losses, they only average an 8-point deficit at the final horn.
Mellissa Thomas from Florida National News asked Paolo Banchero what his personal goal was following their buzzer-beating loss to Sacramento Saturday night and he chose to add what he believed the team needed to focus on.
“Just finish games, I think me, myself, the team, we’re right there every game. This was probably the closest one we let slip away,” Banchero said.
They’ve held their own with some of the league’s premier teams, having leads in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics. Recently beating the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in Orlando for their second win on the season.
Before this win, Head Coach Jamahl Mosley spoke to his team about moments, reminding them it’s a game of runs and flows, and that they must stay the course and dominate the simple things.
“The great part about for these guys is it was an immediate response to the other night, understanding what they had to do executing down the stretch, getting timely stops,” Mosley said.
The Magic’s start to the season has been rattled with key injuries to their point guards and the team has shot a three-point percentage that is bottom three in the league.
The Magic had a big-man heavy roster while both Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony were injured, forcing them to use both of their two-way contracted players, Admiral Schofield and Kevon Harris, in meaningful minutes early in the season.
Suggs, in his second game back from injury, willed the Magic to their second win with a tween step-back from way beyond the arc with 37 seconds left to put the Magic up three. He followed that up by getting a steal on the next possession (Suggs is averaging the third most steals per game in the NBA at 2.3), finishing with 26 points as they secured the win.
Deeper than just team highs and lows, the potential in many players on this roster has been shown game in and game out, starting with Paolo Banchero opening his career with a six-game run of 20+ points. The number one pick in this year’s draft is averaging a team-high 22.9 points per game and has shown a smooth initial transition into NBA after just one year in college.
Bol Bol is playing the most minutes of his career in Orlando, leading to being third in the NBA in total blocks (2.3 per game) and recording his first double-double. Now that he’s finally gotten a chance to get comfortable on the court he’s shown his versatility. Most recently in their overtime loss to the Kings, Bol boasting a 10-11 shooting night with two treys in 37 minutes, the most he’s played in a single game in his NBA career.
In the frontcourt Bol handles the ball in transition, going coast to coast, and in the half court he plays in the dunker spot for drop-off passes and alley-oops, spots up for catch-and-shoot/drives to the rim, and constantly is an offensive rebound threat with his length at 7 foot 2 inches tall with a 7 foot 8-inch wingspan.
Wendell Carter has made huge improvements this offseason and has rounded out the rotation of bigs the Magic use well. He’s provided a constant scoring threat and is getting the Magic second-chance points often averaging over two offensive rebounds per game.
Along with the veteran leadership of Terrence Ross and the influx of buckets provided by Franz Wagner and Cole Anthony.
The Magic have started a seven-game home stint 1-1, and look to use these next five games to work their way out of last place in the eastern conference. Orlando will face the Houston Rockets Monday night at 7:15 p.m., the single team with a worse record than the Magic in the league at 1-9.