Channing Frye: Magic 'close to winning ... still [expletive] losing'

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Channing Frye raises up. (USA TODAY Sports)
Channing Frye raises up. (USA TODAY Sports)

For three quarters on Tuesday, the Orlando Magic stunned the Toronto Raptors, punching above their weight class and taking the fight directly to the Eastern Conference-leading Dinos at the Air Canada Centre. A Magic team that had struggled this season to space the floor and reliably produce offense had drilled nine of 17 3-point attempts and scored 83 points through 36 minutes against the league's seventh-stingiest defense.

After an early season slate full of false starts, you could kind of see Orlando's offseason blueprint working — Channing Frye bombing away from deep, opening up space for Nikola Vucevic to go to work on the interior, Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton getting to the paint off the dribble, and Tobias Harris doing a bit of both. It was neat to see a plan come together. 

Orlando's problem, of course, is that basketball games are 48 minutes, not 36 (for now, anyway.). Toronto opened the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run in just two minutes and 10 seconds to tie the game, leaning on a small-ball, reserve-heavy lineup — neither Amir Johnson nor Jonas Valanciunas played in the fourth, while Patrick Patterson and James Johnson went the distance — to put the clamps on the Magic, turn the tide and come away with a 104-100 win that improved the Raps to 7-1.

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Frye finished with 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point land, to go with six rebounds in 43 minutes. While some might take a down-to-the-final-minute road loss against the best team in the conference as a sign of growth for the young and still-rebuilding Magic, the ninth-year vet didn't seem especially interested in praising baby steps after the game.

"Tip your hat to them, but you know, again, everyone's like, 'Oh, we're close to winning,'" Frye said after the game, as captured in an NSFW Vine by Deadspin's Tim Burke. "But that's still f****** losing."

It's a bit of a harsh takeaway from a game that the Magic had a chance to knot up in the closing seconds, with Harris — who finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in 39 minutes — getting a decent look over James Johnson in a play very similar to the one on which he beat the Philadelphia 76ers last week. But Harris' shot missed, Patterson did a heck of a job boxing out Vucevic and Terrence Ross skied for the rebound, allowing Toronto to exhale.

It wasn't just the loss itself that left a bad taste in Frye's mouth, but also the way Orlando let the game slip away; while he had his best outing in a Magic uniform after signing a four-year, $32 million contract with Orlando this summer, he scarcely touched the ball in the second half, as Toronto committed to preventing the 6-foot-11 shooter from hurting them after intermission. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Magic offense bogged down, with Orlando scoring just 17 points on 7 for 20 shooting in the deciding fourth quarter.

"It's just frustrating because you know [...] I just loved the way we were playing the first two quarters," Frye said after the game, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. "You know, winning is hard. It's not going to be easy. For us, we were taking good shots. Some of them weren't going in, but we were taking the right shots. And I think that sometimes we kind of panic, like, 'Oh, man, we haven't made a shot in three times.' Those are the right shots. I've seen you make these in practice. They're going to go in. Stick with our percentages.

"So it's a learning experience, but at the end of the day, we have an L and they have a W. We'll get better tomorrow, and come out and compete."

Orlando will look to get back on the good foot in Manhattan, playing the second game of a road back-to-back against a New York Knicks squad that's also 2-6 and also struggling mightily to consistently score and get stops in the early going. Getting a chance to run against a woeful Knicks defense that's allowing 108.7 points per 100 possessions, the league's fourth-worst mark, could help the Magic get on track, but only if Orlando's prepared to take advantage of the opposition's in-game adjustments, an area where Frye felt the Magic struggled on Tuesday.

"For me, it's just going to come down to making sure that the guys know that, hey, we've got to trust each other, that teams are going to change their defensive schemes up," he said, according to Robbins. "'OK, no more Channing? Let's make Tobias shoot. No more Tobias? Let's make Luke [Ridnour] shoot.' During the course of the game, more guys are going to have opportunities to make shots. We have to ride those guys until they change up their defense."

When Magic general manager Rob Hennigan backed up the Brinks truck to Frye's doorstep in free agency back in July, he was looking for a calming veteran presence that can help steer a young locker room toward positive habits and a refusal to settle for "good enough" nearly as much as a knockdown shooter capable of distorting defenses. That steering process figures to be slow and arduous, though, with plenty more L's than W's along the way; after spending the bulk of his career competing for playoff berths with the Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns, it'll be interesting to see how the 31-year-old Frye deals with what promises to be a steady diet of defeats.

"I mean, again, I just don't like losing in general," Frye said after the game. "And sometimes I understand why we lose, and some games, I'm like, you know, maybe, it's a good team. But [Tuesday night] it felt like we should have stuck with what we were doing [...] We're learning, and that's something that that next-level team is going to take."

And in the meantime ... well, that's what the money is for, Channing.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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