Scott Skiles was hired to immediately help the Orlando Magic emerge from the depths of rebuilding. That’s something the previous coaching regime couldn’t accomplish, and the surface-level takeaway from the season’s early going doesn’t suggest anything different from this one.
After the Magic lost yet another hard-fought game earlier on Wednesday, Skiles was asked “how to build” off his young team taking a title contender like the Houston Rockets down to the wire.
“Well,” he told the Orlando Sentinel, “I’m curious as to how much the previous coach answered that same question in three years.”
Moral victories, basically, aren’t good enough for the Magic anymore. Age and experience be damned, this team wants to win right now – which makes its remarkable run of close games both immensely frustrating and wildly encouraging.
Upon beating the previously undefeated Toronto Raptors by a score of 92-87 Friday night, Orlando registered its sixth consecutive game to open 2015-16 that was within five points in its final five minutes. The Magic are the league’s only team to play each of their games in crunch time, and have notched 37 such minutes in total – nine more than the Oklahoma City Thunder’s mark, which ranks second most in the NBA.
Orlando lost to the Washington Wizards on John Wall’s game-winner in the final 15 seconds. It couldn’t get past the Thunder despite two overtimes and crazy clutch shot-making from Victor Oladipo. The late-game surge of Skiles’ team wasn’t enough to beat the Chicago Bulls. The Magic held off the the winless New Orleans Pelicans on the road for their first win of the year. Lady Luck betrayed them again just one night later, though, when the blue and black lost to the Houston Rockets in overtime.
This team, believe it or not, is a few more fortunate bounces away from being the talk of the league. Just imagine how much attention Orlando would be receiving if Wall’s layup was off the mark, Russell Westbrook didn’t make a 40-foot, game-tying bank shot, or had the Rockets missed just one additional attempt in the fourth quarter.