Leading up to and including the matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the recurring problem for the Orlando Magic in games was a lack of defense. Part of it was a matter of inconsistency, but also a lack of energy and intensity. Nevertheless, it was an issue that bothered head coach Stan Van Gundy after the Magic lost to the Cavaliers and it forced the team to look itself in the mirror - coaches, players, no one was left unaccountable.
One would imagine that the return of Rashard Lewis from suspension would help Orlando, defensively, but it was clear an improvement was needed from every player on the roster. Since the Magic's loss to the Cavs, the play on the defensive end has been better.
In this case, the numbers speak for themselves.
|Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||Opponent Points|
|New Jersey Nets||80.9||35.9%||12.9||72|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||101.1||45.8%||21.7||94|
Tomorrow's matinee game with the Toronto Raptors will be an excellent test for Orlando's defense, for the simple fact that Toronto leads the NBA in offensive efficiency (115.2 points per 100 possessions). The Raptors were able to drop 116 points on the Magic - granted, without Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, and Mickael Pietrus - in their previous meeting on November 1st, so it'll be interesting to see if Orlando will be able to slow down a potent Toronto offense this time around. If last night's game against the Boston Celtics was any indication, the Magic appear to be fit and ready for the challenge.
And if one wants to see how NOT to play defense, keep a close eye on the Raptors (last in defensive efficiency, at 116.4 points per 100 possessions) - a team, as John Hollinger of ESPN Insider notes, "is on pace to rank among the worst defenses in NBA history."