November 6th, 2013 the Orlando Magic put together an impressive performance, led by Nikola Vucevic's 30-point, 21-rebound double-double, to take down the Los Angeles Clippers. The win, the Magic's third straight after a pair of convincing victories over the New Orleans Pelicans and Brooklyn Nets, put them over the .500 mark for just the second time since trading disgruntled star Dwight Howard just over a year prior.
Before Sunday night, that win over the Clippers was the last time the Magic were over the .500 mark.
After a nine-point victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday, and a dominating 24-point victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, the Magic strung together yet another strong performance against one of the best defensive teams in the league, the Boston Celtics. The 110-91 win over Boston vaulted the Magic over .500, a feat they had multiple chances to accomplish previously this season, but failed to.
Sunday had a different feel, with the Magic seemingly in control for much of the game -- despite a horrible first quarter which saw the team's offense bog down, while they coughed it up eight times -- before blowing it wide open in the second half.
Orlando's third straight W gives it a lot of momentum as it gets set to head out West for a five-game, eight-day road trip. However, the Magic aren't looking at the three potentially key victories -- the Magic will likely be duking it out with the likes of the Celtics, Knicks, and Bucks for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs -- too much. Instead, they're focusing on the big picture, and they know they have a long way to go.
Coach Scott Skiles said he's talked to his team about the fact that it's still early in the season and there's a long way to go. "The guys know that. We did what we had to do. We talked about this being a three-game season and we came home and trying to get all three games and so we did that.
"And now we've got a long trip, day wise, five games and all teams we feel like we can beat. But, if we're not playing well, it could go either way for us. So, we just got to continue to focus on how we're playing, taking care of what we can control and then hope for good results."
"We're winning, but it's a long season," said Channing Frye, who's had a sizable impact since being inserted into the starting lineup on Wednesday. The veteran floor spacer went on to talk about how he thinks the team is building their confidence in their practices, and that guys shake off bad performances.
"Guys aren't looking at numbers," he said. "Guys aren't like, 'Man, I didn't play good today.' They're like, 'today wasn't my day; I will be ready for tomorrow because tomorrow might be my day.' It's just showing the sign that we're maturing and getting better."
Frye also said that no one in the locker room brought up the fact the team was finally able to get over the .500 mark. "No. We've [been] .500, two under, one under, .500. So, until we get some consistency, we'll go from there. No body brings up our record, it's more just about how we play and getting ready to be out there and have some fun."
Tobias Harris, coming off yet another double-double, said the recent victories are "encouraging," but that the team needs to "stay humble."
"We know, our schedule coming up, we're playing some good teams, so we've really go to go out there and prove ourselves consistently and try to get wins," Harris said
The starting small forward also said that he doesn't think the Magic should put too much stock in the fact that they have that winning record now. "I think for our team, we have to continue to just grow. Every game we have to continue to get better, but at the same time, we are above water right now. The goal is to stay above and to keep it moving from there."
Harris finished by saying that he and his teammates know that it's a long season, but the goal is ultimately about building consistency, something they've lacked the last few years. "We know that [the schedule is about to get tougher going out west], but at the same time it's about consistency, about being a consistent team night-in and night-out and everybody knows that in this locker room.
"If we can just continue to be consistent with our play, our defense, our offense, keep playing together, keep playing as a unit. We're a tough team. That's winning basketball on a nightly basis. You can discourage the other team by your play. That's how we have to continue."
Second-year man Aaron Gordon said they can't really enjoy being over .500. "I guess for the night you enjoy the win, but that's not the ultimate goal. As I've said before, we have high aspirations for our team. If we get caught up in this, we turn around and lose the next game. So, we go out and try to win every game."
With their first winning month since March 2012 in the books, the Magic have the base for their ultimate goal at the end of the season: a playoff berth. The upcoming West Coast road trip will tell us a lot about the team -- with five games, four of which they could be considered favorites in -- they need to build off of these last few wins to really build something special.
Nevertheless, they know they can't look too far ahead, because if they do, it could fall apart very quickly.