November 8th, 2013. That was the last time the Orlando Magic were at or above the .500 mark during the season. With their win against the Utah Jazz on Friday night, the team saw their record push up to 5-5, but to them, that's just a number.
Coming out with a lot of energy, the Magic found themselves running it down the Jazz, the fourth best defense in the league statistically's, throat. The Magic played with a high energy level and moved the ball better than they had in their previous two contests over the course of the week. On top of their success on the offensive end, their defense swarmed the Jazz, seemingly deflating a team that already appeared deflated following a tough loss in Miami on Thursday night.
The all-around performance was one of, if not the absolute best the team has been able to put together this season. Outside of stretches in both the second and fourth quarter, the Magic controlled the game with no issues, snuffing out any run the Jazz were able to put together with relative ease.
Following the game, coach Scott Skiles, who stormed out of his post game press conference following Wednesday's sloppy performance against the Los Angeles Lakers, was in a much better mood. The first-year Magic coach felt as though his team "looked much like ourselves," also adding he felt his team was really sharp. "The ball was moving around, we were finding open people, getting the stops, getting out in transition," he said.
"We converted pretty well early on and for most of the game. So, as I said, they [Utah] got those young wing type players that are constantly moving out there and you got to be really sharp and for the most part we were. When we did gain possession, we went down, we've been a little bit greedy these past two or three games and missing people open and I thought actually we erred a few times on the other side. We turned down some shots when we were open, but you would rather have that than the other."
Tobias Harris, who talked to his teammates about moving the ball better, seemed pleased with how his team did on the offensive end as well. Harris said he, along with coach Skiles, talked to the group about needing to get the ball moving from side-to-side again like they did so well in the preseason. Harris noted that with the improved ball movement, it would be easier for guys to get into the lane to make plays for others, something the Magic consistently did against the wounded Jazz.
Harris, who posted his second straight double-double, also said he felt as though the team moved in the right direction when it came to the ball movement. "Tonight we took a giant step in that [direction] and that's what it's all about. Just come out here and really execute that type of stuff."
Evan Fournier, who put together yet another solid game despite the tragedies happening back home in his native France, also came across pleased with his teams performance. "I think we played a very solid game both offensively and defensively," said the fourth-year man. Fournier was also asked about how the team could carry this performance over to Saturday night in Washington. "We've just got to have the same spirit, the same intesnity, just play the right way and we'll be fine," said the Magic's leading scorer.
While they had a few moments where they struggled, putting it together for as long as they did is a refreshing sign for the Magic, who have struggled to hold onto leads throughout the past few seasons. There's still some questions about the team being able to consistently play at that high of a level -- something we'll learn with a quick turnaround in Washington Saturday night -- but that will come with time and continued repetitions with each other.
The coming stretch will be important for the Magic -- they play just two road games for the remainder of the month before heading out west in early December -- so they'll gave plenty of time to practice and build the consistency that they're so desperately searching for. Nonetheless, their performance against the Jazz is a welcoming sign, and one that the team can use to build off of moving forward.