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Orlando Magic's once-strong three-point defense is slipping

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Orlando opponents have caught fire from beyond the arc in the Magic's last nine games, a big reason why the team has won just twice in that span.

E'Twaun Moore
E'Twaun Moore
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic have dropped seven of their last nine games, but due to the overall weakness of the Eastern Conference, they're still only 1.5 games back of the Charlotte Bobcats for the East's final playoff seed. A struggle to defend the three-point line has keyed Orlando's downturn.

In their first nine games, the Magic held a 4-5 record and the league's sixth-best overall defense, allowing 98.3 points per 100 possessions. Defending the three-pointer well was their calling card, as they allowed just 31.1 percent shooting on field goals attempted from beyond the arc.

But in their last nine games, the iron has been unkind to them: Magic opponents have shot 41.3 percent on threes in that span, and the Magic overall have yielded 107.3 points per 100 possessions. Both of those figures are fourth-worst in the league in that nine-game span.

Opponent three-point accuracy is but one problem facing the Magic in this rough stretch: they're also yielding more three-point attempts than they used to. For example, consider that in its first nine games, Orlando allowed only 4.2 corner three-point attempts per game. But in its last nine games, Orlando has yielded its foes six corner three attempts, on average, per game.

The issue isn't entirely due to unlucky bounces or catching opponents on particularly hot nights: the Magic are simply giving up more threes than they ought to.

If Orlando is to return to its winning ways, it'll need to tighten up its three-point defense. Coach Jacque Vaughn need not necessarily overhaul his defensive scheme or personnel; it's simply on the players to show more awareness than they have of late, and to commit more fully to closing out hard and taking the trey away.