The Orlando Magic followed their worst streak of the season with their best.
Their 111-99 win over the Toronto Raptors at the Amway Center gave them their third straight win, a season-best winning streak and the first time the Magic have won three straight games since Feb. 17-21, 2021.
The Magic (8-20) lost nine straight before beating the Los Angeles Clippers 116-111 in overtime on Wednesday and earning wins over the Raptors on Friday and Sunday.
“You’ve gone three games in a row – we’re going in the right direction,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “We ask our guys to defend at a high level, which they did. Asking them to split the basketball and move the basketball, which they did. They trust each other and communicate with each other. Balance on the stretch, which they did. We are heading in the right direction and we must continue in this direction.
The defense got stronger.
Their defensive rating – points allowed per 100 possessions – of 107.3 over their last four games (3-1) during the homestand is the fifth-best rating in the league during this streak, significantly better than the rating defensive of 119.1 (27th) they had during the drag.
They fare better with rim protection despite not having starter big Wendell Carter Jr., who has missed 13 of the last 14 games with a strained plantar fascia in his right foot.
The Magic traded less and played more traditional defensive coverage during Carter’s absence. The results have improved after being poor at the start.
They allow 21.5 shots inside the restricted area (8th) and 13.3 shots inside the unrestricted area paint (8th) over the last four homestand games, which will close the five-game homestand against Atlanta on Wednesday.
Opponents don’t knock down their floats and mid-range shots like they did when sliding.
“Making sure we protect the paint every time — we’ve done a really good job of that the last two games,” said forward Franz Wagner. “We are figuring things out, especially the last two games. People keep adapting to the way we play and sending us different tricks. We will continue to work. »
A greater confidence manifested itself.
“We like to apply ball pressure; we call it heat,” said big man Mo Bamba. “It’s the NBA. Guys are good; guys are really good. You’re going to get bluffed. We try not to be in between, but it happens. Just knowing my teammate, knowing [Bol] Bol will do his job and step over, get that block or get that charge or even step up and pass the ball to them, that’s a small example of doing your job and others will replace you.
The Magic also showed more balance during tight periods, as evidenced by their net ratings of over 15.8 in clutch situations – when the scoring margin is less than 5 points with five minutes or less left to play. in a game.
“It shows we’ve been listening over the past few days,” Wagner said. “And we try to do what the coaches say. Obviously, it won’t be perfect every time, but we do our best. We still have so much to improve. Hopefully we can continue. »
The Magic have gone through this streak without several key players, including five players who are considered their best defensemen.
In addition to Carter, Gary Harris (strained right hamstring), Jonathan Isaac (recovering from left knee injury), Chuma Okeke (left knee pain) and Jalen Suggs (right ankle pain) sat out on Sunday. .
Harris has played in six straight games after missing the first 15 after left knee surgery in the offseason. Okeke missed 10 games while Suggs was sidelined half the season, including the last nine games.
“We are still waiting for JI, he looks good every day,” Bamba said. “Chuma returns to the field. Gary returns to the field. Wendell is getting closer. When we get our whole group back, we’ll look scary. It’s hard to really assess where we are as a team because, quite frankly, we haven’t had our full squad. When we get the guys back and build that camaraderie, that chemistry with each other, it just gets better.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Prize to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.