Throughout the course of an NBA season, there’s going to be a lot of ebbs and flows.
As a team that hovers around .500, those peaks and valleys may be bigger, or smaller at certain times throughout the season. For the Orlando Magic, their peaks, and valleys, have been some of the biggest in the NBA.
After dropping five of six, including the final four on a West Coast road trip, the Magic returned to home for one might be one of, if not their hardest back-to-back set all season against the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets. They’d seen double digit leads crumble against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz, and the air seemed to be slowly leaking out of their balloon.
The resiliency they’ve shown throughout the season once again cropped up, with them piecing together victories against two of the leagues best.
It was the fourth time this season they’ve put together quality wins after dropping four in a row, something teams of the past few seasons would not have done. Those teams would’ve let the season, and any hopes they had of making the playoffs, slip away from one of those skids.
This year, it’s different, and that was evident on Sunday night.
Every time they would cut the lead down to a possession, Houston would answer and push it back up to eight or nine points. The Magic would punch back, once again cutting it down to two or three points before the Rockets answered right back.
That continued until late in the fourth, when the Magic finally connected on multiple punches.
A three from Terrence Ross off of strong ball movement, followed by an open corner three from Evan Fournier, and a punctuation three from D.J. Augustin, once again off good ball movement, put the Magic up for good. The set of three balls spearheaded an 18-4 Magic run to finish the game after James Harden put Houston up seven with 4:34 to play.
“30-21 in the fourth, [and] that’s two nights in a row where we scored over 60 in the second half and played really well in the fourth quarter” said Steve Clifford when asked about what is says about his team to hang in and put themselves in a position to win. “A bunch of guys played well. Aaron Gordon made a bunch of big plays, Vooch had some big baskets. . . It’s a really good win.”
Needing to get things back on track after a tough road trip, the Magic got all-around performances from a handful of players on Saturday, and Sunday night. Saturday night it came in the form of some unlikely hero’s, while Sunday came from some of their main horses in Gordon, Ross, Fournier and Nikola Vucevic. 27 of Orlando’s 30 fourth quarter points came from that quartet, with the final three coming from Augustin.
The gritty performance was exactly what the team needed, and gives them building blocks for their continued tough upcoming stretch.
“We played together,” said Ross when asked about his teams performance over the last two games. “It was a tough game, just like last night. We did a good job of staying together, playing for each other and making big plays down the stretch.”
While the victories are important to get the Magic back on track, they can’t become complacent thanks to their strong stretch. They have to be ready to jump back on the road in an important game on Wednesday night against a Detroit Pistons team they’ll likely be fighting for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Resiliency is a good quality for a team, especially a young one trying to improve, to possess. The Magic clearly have that, and it shined once again on Sunday night.
Now, they have to find a way to continue to build off of that win, and keep themselves in contention for the final playoff spot in the East.