Orlando Asserts Itself as a Potential Eastern Conference High Seed

Ken Cross

April 09, 2024 at 9:35 am.

ORLANDO, Fla. – One of the more theatrical stories in any sport coincides with the movies as, all of a sudden, a missing character has reappeared where last spotted.

The Orlando Magic continues to firmly fit that characterization firmly as the team stretched into a third-place tie with the New York Knicks in posting a 113-98 win over the Chicago Bulls with just one week to go in the regular season.

This has been a resurgence of a team that hasn’t been part of the NBA’s second season since 2020.

There has been a full roster turnover plus the addition of an excellent coach in Jamahl Mosley, who took control of Orlando three years ago and will now steer the team into the playoffs in his third season. Mosley had been an assistant coach in Denver, Cleveland and Dallas.

It’s been a monumental leap as he led the Magic to 22 and 34 wins in the past two seasons and they currently sit with 46 ‘Ws.’

“We have to be locked in on a game-by-game basis,” Mosley said. “That thing is going to flow a ton in these last four, so for us being able to focus on doing what we are capable of doing is the focus right now.”

The focus has been a day-to-day process since he took over in 2021. The key has been for the Magic to acquire talent and Mosley has proven his analysis of players and personnel. He has put together a group that complements each other on and off the court at a high level.

“I think being decisive is what we were doing, the right decision on the right play, understanding what they were doing,” said Mosley. “Knowing where the opening is that we have. We are finding the open man and being willing to step in and take the shots.”

That step-by-step approach and the Magic front office allowing Mosley to build as he knows how have been prime components in allowing him to become a favorite for the NBA Coach-of-the-Year.

“He does a great job of understanding how to get us going,” explained guard Jalen Suggs. “That’s what makes him so special, the connection that he has to all of us. To where he says stuff like that and we listen to him on the court, in the locker room and off the court in life.”


Stampeding the Bulls: Magic forward Paolo Banchero made a pair of free throws with 5:58 to play in the first quarter to give the Magic a 16-6 lead. The double-digit margin allowed Orlando to build the lead to as many as 17 on three occasions in the third quarter.

Guard Markelle Fultz made a 15-footer off the right wing and a slam off of an offensive rebound to pace the Magic on a quick 8-0 run and give them their biggest lead of the night at 89-68 with 1:13 to play in the third quarter.

“For ‘Kelle, just being aggressive, looking to attack, finding the right play, making the right decision,” explained Mosley of Fultz’s potential on the point. “More importantly, defensively as well. Sit down at guard and make the right plays.”

The Magic were tested almost immediately in the fourth quarter when Bulls’ sharpshooting guard DeMar DeRozan scored 13 of his game-high 30 points in the first 5:11 of the quarter as Chicago cut its 21-point deficit to 96-90 with 6:49 remaining.

DeRozan’s play summoned the Magic to a 12-1 sprint over roughly three minutes as Wendell Carter, Jr., scored in the lane and hit a three to allow Orlando to build the lead back to 108-91 with 3:17 remaining.

“Coach did a great job tonight,” explained Suggs. “‘Just focus on holding them under 100 points; let’s focus on the defensive end. Let offense figure it out.’ We’re special and we can bring the heat to make them uncomfortable and we did that.”

Orlando’s defense was key in scoring 28 points off of 21 Bulls turnovers while posting a 21-12 advantage on scoring off of offensive rebounds.

“It’s growth, understanding what they were doing, the run that they’re going on,” said Mosley. “We have to continue to understand that it is a game of runs and knowing how to stop those runs.”

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