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Jalen Suggs has repeated the same message as questions about his early struggles continue to mount. He is staying confident and he is getting that reminder and faith from his teammates. He praised the organization for staying behind him as he figures things out in the league.
Still, some sharp words can be best. And the proof still needed to come on the court. Suggs still needed to deliver.
Getting a walk-off interview with the Bally Sports Florida broadcast following a 104-98 win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday, Suggs related a story that will surely get him in a bit of trouble but showed the confidence and kick in the butt he needed.
He said following the game that center Moritz Wagner came up to him and told him he is a “bad mother f****.”
Message delivered. Message received. Message sent.
Wednesday’s game was not Suggs’ highest-scoring game this season — he finished with 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting and 3-for-4 shooting from deep. But Suggs showed up big on the brightest of stages when his team needed him most.
The Magic were promised a clutch performer and playmaker. Put in to help the Magic come back and then to maintain the lead defensively, Suggs put his fingerprints all over the game to help the Magic pick up their fourth win of the season.
Jalen Suggs has never lost confidence as the Orlando Magic stick with their rookie guard. That was rewarded as he stepped up in a big way to help defeat the New York Knicks.
He did so with confidence and fervor, powering the Magic to the much-needed victory.
Down by four points with less than five minutes remaining in the game, Wendell Carter dished the ball out to Jalen Suggs, and the fifth overall pick buried a deep three to bring the Magic within one.
A key, game-saving play, to say the least.
This came after several key defensive players where Jalen Suggs blocked a Mitchell Robinson layup attempt, dug in for steals or straight pilfered Derrick Ross to get a runout dunk — a cathartic jam for a player who has not been able to display his athleticism to this point in the season.
The rookie had another big moment when he stole the ball with 31 seconds remaining in regulation, he raced down the court and precisely threw up an alley-oop for Carter to put the nail in the coffin and close out the Knicks.
Suggs was sure to remind everyone he played some free safety in his football exploits in high school.
“The team and organization have done a great job in keeping confidence in me,” Suggs said after Wednesday’s game. “For the moments I do get in my head or that does dip a little bit, they always pick me right back up and tell me to keep going. Things like tonight come along where third quarter and fourth quarter out there, I was as comfortable as I’ve felt the entire year.”
In the fourth quarter, Suggs was a perfect 3 for 3 from the field. He knocked down both of his 3-point attempts. He also dished out three assists. And his defense was on another level with him blocking two shots and all three of his steals coming in the final 12 minutes.
It was a great second half for Suggs, who did not score his first point until the eight-minute mark of the third quarter. But after that bucket finally went in, he was on from that point on. He knocked down another three in the third.
Adding to that defensive grit, it finally felt like Suggs had found his rhythm and some juice.
It has admittedly been a rough start to his career. Suggs was averaging 11.3 points per game on 31.3-percent shooting and just 20.3-percent shooting from deep. It was hardly the start anyone expected from him, even if he was exceptionally strong on the defensive end.
Even though other rookies were also struggling, Suggs’ difficulties were clearly weighing on a team struggling to find its footing early in the season. They were clearly weighing on Suggs. He was not playing freely. That was affecting everything he was doing.
That light seemed to switch on Wednesday night. And he was at his best in the fourth quarter, helping lift his team to victory.
Suggs has stuck with it and finally knocked the door down.
“His will, his competitive nature, his competitive edge kicked in,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said after Wednesday’s game. “He hit some big shots. But then his ability to sit down and guard. He had the transition steal at the end. Just making the right plays. His will to fight was awesome.”
Overall, Suggs can build from his performance against the Knicks after missing Monday’s game with a sprained ankle.
Early in the game, Suggs got to his spots and had open looks but his shot did not fall. He did however remain patient and did not force the issue offensively. Suggs’ time came in the fourth and he delivered whatever the team needed.
What was more impressive was he did this without hesitation or thought. He played and looked like he belonged. And when the Magic subbed him for defense, he not only came up with a big defensive play, but the shot the team needed to gain some distance and the pass to finish the game off.
Everyone had their moments to step up to the plate and make a play and everyone did so.
“We kept supreme confidence in each other,” Jalen Suggs said after Wednesday’s game. “We knew it was going to be a fight. We knew it wasn’t going to be a blowout. We knew it was going to come down to the last couple of minutes with guys making big plays. All of us being competitors, we wanted to make winning plays. That’s exactly what we did down the stretch, whether it was steals or getting stops, we did a good job defensively tonight. Just making the simple pass and extra play to get a bucket.”
This is truly something the whole team can build on. The confidence the team placed in Suggs to go out and make plays he returned with the confidence to deliver so they can do it again and grow.
For Suggs, this felt like a breakthrough moment for the young guard.
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The six-foot-four combo guard’s defense is already at a high level. But as his shot starts falling consistently, Suggs’ offense will catch up. Through 14 games, he has already proven to be a clutch NBA player.