From: Orlando Sentinel
Date of Publication: Jan. 10, 2022
For the fifth time in as many games, the Orlando Magic had a chance at a win in crunch time. The Magic got the ball back against the Washington Wizards on Sunday night down 2 with about seven seconds to go, just enough time to get up the floor and attempt a game-winning shot.
But guard Gary Harris missed his last-second 3-point attempt, forward Chuma Okeke’s putback failed, and the Magic once again found themselves on the losing end, 102-100.
“What we were trying to do was get the ball back into [Terrence Ross’] hands because of his pacing, his speed,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after the game. “But at the end of the day, Franz [Wagner] turned the corner with a great opportunity to get to the rim … we kicked it out to Gary in that situation.”
Close losses have become an increasing frustration for the Magic, with the team consistently failing to execute in clutch moments. Just the night before, guard Cole Anthony missed a 3 with seconds to go against the Detroit Pistons that would have tied the score.
All five of the Magic’s most recent games have been decided by 10 points or less and all five have ended in losses. For a team on a nine-game losing streak, coming so close to victories can be a major frustration. But the players anticipate a breakthrough at some point.
“We’re making a bigger emphasis on the last five minutes of the game, the last three minutes of the game. That’s usually what it comes down to in every game,” Ross said. “We’re just doing a better job of understanding time, score situations. The outcomes haven’t been what we like but we’re sticking with it and we’re learning, we’re growing, we’re making improvements. We’re gonna get over this hump eventually.”
One positive for the Magic is that different players have risen to the occasion. On Saturday night, Harris put up a team-high 28 points while Anthony played a major role as well. On Sunday, it was Ross who led the way with 32 points on 13-for-20 shooting.
“What I see out of this group is just complete growth,” said Mosley, whose team opened 2022 with back-to-back losses in OT at Boston and by 4 Chicago. “They’re understanding time and score situations and competing on the second night of a back-to-back, similar to the Boston-Chicago scenario. They’re just continuing to compete at a high level against some very good basketball teams. We’re putting ourselves in position every single night, just giving us a chance.”
While the season has been rougher than anticipated for the Magic due to injuries and COVID issues, this year was always expected to serve as a rebuild, giving the team’s many young players a chance to grow and improve. While Orlando hasn’t found a way to win now, the players are hopeful there’s a long-term payoff.
“It’s all experience, it’s all learning. Everybody goes through this. Everybody at some point in their career goes through ups and downs like this,” Ross said. “But I think it’ll be good for the young guys down the line because after awhile there’s not going to be too many situations they haven’t seen. We’re getting better day by day but there’s still some more work to do.”