May 21, 2024

Why the Magic’s season ended with a brutal Game 7 loss to the Cavaliers

CLEVELAND — The NBA report ebook won’t ever report that, for a few pulse-pounding minutes in Sunday afternoon’s second quarter, the Orlando Magic seemed effectively on their approach to blowing out the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of their first-round playoff sequence.

Paolo Banchero overshadowed everybody else in the health club. Gary Harris swished a 3-pointer, extending Orlando’s lead to 18 factors. A bunch of out-of-town followers sporting Magic blue leaped to their ft behind the guests’ bench, roared their approval and made Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse sound as if it belonged to them.

What occurred subsequent, throughout the sport’s remaining 28 minutes, will hang-out the Magic for months, if not years, to come. In an abrupt about-face, the Cavaliers regained a tenuous foothold late in the second quarter after which dominated the third quarter, sending the younger Magic again to Florida with a 106-94 loss, a sequence defeat and, maybe, a feeling that that they had collapsed.

“I walked in the locker room, and I said, ‘It sucks,’ ” coach Jamahl Mosley informed reporters after he had spoken to his gamers. “It does — it does not to get the game, knowing what you were capable of doing, to be up 18, to feel you (had) a chance to close out and not get it done. It doesn’t feel good. And, then in the same breath, you have to put it all into perspective. Sometimes these painful things are blessings in disguise.”

It could also be troublesome for Orlando’s gamers to see the larger image anytime quickly. In the decisive stretch Sunday, from 4:16 remaining in the second quarter to 5:53 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers outscored the Magic 57-28.

Everything snowballed. Donovan Mitchell scored relentlessly. The Magic’s ball motion slowed to a crawl, and Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs struggled. The sellout crowd, clad in black T-shirts and waving white towels, erupted with every dazzling play by Mitchell and each missed shot and turnover by Orlando.

“It was a hell of an environment,” mentioned Banchero, who scored a team-high 38 factors. “Probably the most intense game I’ve played in my life, just with the crowd and the possession-by-possession battles and the toll it takes on your body, on your mind.”

Although the Magic had been the league’s fifth-youngest team at the start of the season, they nearly all the time performed with a composure and a tenacity that belied their youth. They had demonstrated that poise and toughness all through the sequence, particularly after they misplaced the first two video games in Ohio and trailed 3-2 heading into Game 6 in Orlando. At instances, the Cavs seemed like the extra inexperienced ballclub.

However, Sunday was the exception. Beginning late in the second quarter, the Magic appeared to turn out to be unraveled, with their vaunted, bodily protection trying like a shell of itself and their offense seeming as if it had misplaced its construction (aside from giving the ball to Banchero and anticipating him to work miracles, as he had accomplished earlier in the sequence).

After a torrid taking pictures begin through which they hit seven of their first 14 3-point makes an attempt, they misfired from lengthy vary or drove straight into site visitors, the place Evan Mobley usually awaited to block their photographs. Meanwhile, Mitchell torched them by scoring 39 factors, totally on drives to the basket and on journeys to the foul line.

“I don’t think there was a loss of composure,” Mosley mentioned. “I feel there was a chance the place we missed a lot of simple seems to be. We name a timeout. We come out and get a look that we wish; it misses. They get off on the break they usually run and get a simple layup. So it takes it out of you a little bit.

“But the one thing about this team, they did not lose their composure. There was no whining. There was no moaning. There was no yelling.”

Wagner, who had been key in every of Orlando’s three postseason victories, struggled on Sunday. He picked up three early fouls, forcing Mosley to ship him to the bench for the remaining six minutes of the second quarter. That, as Mosley mentioned, disrupted Wagner’s rhythm. Wagner completed an uncharacteristic 1 of 15 from the discipline. He additionally tried solely 4 free throws and completed with simply six factors.

Wagner took the loss arduous.

“I didn’t really get to the spots that I wanted to get to,” he mentioned. (*7*)

Like many Magic gamers, Franz Wagner struggled on offense in Game 7 in opposition to the Cavaliers. (Ken Blaze / USA Today)

Mosley added: “Franz Wagner battled, and he was doing everything possible to get what he needed. And mind you, those three fouls early — I’m not going to get a fine — at the end of the day, being taken out of your rhythm, and you attack the basket the exact same way (Paolo) and Donovan Mitchell were and not to get those same calls? You just have to look at that a little bit.”

Suggs didn’t add a lot offensively, both, going 2 of 13 from the discipline and managing 10 factors. Although he dished out 4 assists, he additionally had 5 turnovers.

Part of the downside offensively was that, after they sprinted out to an 18-point lead, the Cavaliers lastly began to sink photographs. That, in flip, gave the Cavs alternatives to set their half-court protection and construct a wall round the paint.

Neither staff gained a highway sport in the sequence, and Magic gamers credited the Cleveland crowd with disrupting their offense on Sunday.

“When it gets loud, and the communication becomes harder, that’s when even more you’ve got to be on the same page,” Harris mentioned. “Even that just slowed us down a little bit. When we were up by 18, it wasn’t as loud.”

Add the rigors of a Game 7 on the highway to the laundry record of classes the Magic realized throughout their 2023-24 season.

A win or two extra throughout the common season would have given them home-court benefit throughout the first spherical. As spectacular because it was to earn the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, a loss on April 5 in Charlotte, in addition to a few others, proved expensive.

That’s the approach the NBA works, isn’t it? Only considered one of the league’s 30 groups ends the season and the postseason completely blissful with how issues went. There can solely be one champion.

For the Magic, that actuality felt particularly brutal Sunday due to how shut that they had come to pulling off a first-round upset. But as they ready to depart Cleveland for his or her flight again to Florida, as an alternative of jetting to Boston for the second spherical, some gamers tried to put their season and postseason into a broader perspective.

“I know we’ll be back,” Banchero mentioned.

(Top photograph of Paolo Banchero and Isaac Okoro: Ken Blaze / USA Today)