Learning how to close out games comes easier to some teams than others.
With yet another late lead, the Orlando Magic crumbled under the pressure of having to close out a game against the Detroit Pistons.
Holding a five point lead with just under six minutes to play, the Magic saw the Pistons begin to mount their run. Tobias Harris hit a three, but was answered with a jumper from Elfrid Payton.
After Payton's jumper, the Magic offense fell into another lull, with their defense struggling to keep the Pistons from getting wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted. A pull up jumper, pair of free throws and a layup from Reggie Jackson, and a transition three from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope gave the Pistons a 9-0 run to take a five point lead of their own.
Suddenly things were looking bleak for the Magic who were once again crumbling under the pressure of a late game situation.
Aaron Gordon, who had a three-pointer go three quarters of the way down and squirt back out in that stretch, thought his teams offense was the issue late.
"I think we were just kind of lazy on offense," said Gordon. "I think being lazy on offense, and careless with the ball, turns into quick points for them. It gives them energy.
"So, it's definitely something that we need to come together and cut the water off when they start scoring. But, we just made mistakes and unfortunately they capitalized."
While the final stretch was ultimately what cost them, the Magic's sloppy, lethargic play the rest of the game was equally disappointing and a detriment to their possible success.
After five games where the ball moved quickly and crisply, the Magic found themselves trying to do it all themselves, going one-on-one many possessions down the floor. That play, not only from the Magic, but the Pistons as well, made Magic head coach Scott Skiles feel as though he was watching a one-on-one tournament for much of the night.
"We didn't feel like either team really was having a very good game," said Skiles. "There were a lot of plays that we got away from doing most of the game [that] we'd been doing... We were just putting our head down going one-on-one kind of indiscriminately.
"We were just able to score and play good enough defense for three quarters to have a lead, but then we just made too many mistakes in the last three minutes."
Despite the poor shooting and overall play, the team had some chances late. Gordon's missed three, which Skiles believed was one of the Magic's better possessions on the night, showed the signs of a team fighting and trying to make the right plays.
With all of their close losses this season, frustration is building higher and higher. Gordon went a far as to say he believed the team should've won.
Evan Fournier, who bounced back with a strong second half after an abysmal 1-of-7 shooting performance in the first half, said the loss was frustrating, but said he didn't think they played bad. "Detroit is a team that is fighting for it's playoff spot. They're playing good ball. It's disappointing, but at this point, it's more about [what] we have to learn."
Ultimately, it was another learning experience for the Magic. Yet, with so many of those experiences already, it begs the question of when they'll be able to start showing the results on a consistent basis.
With four games remaining, the team will have more chances to show they've learned from these continual experiences, and if they'll be able to play at the high level they're capable of.