Magic can't keep the ball moving
After dazzling everyone with their passing exhibition against the Detroit Pistons last Monday, the Orlando Magic have struggled to find a rhythm on the offensive end. In Wednesday's loss to the Golden State Warriors, it wasn't any different, with the team posting just seven assists in the first half and 11 through three quarters. If not for a 10-assist fourth, the Magic could've been looking at over a 2-to-1 ratio on made baskets to assists.
It's puzzling how a team whose offense depends on good ball and player movement could become so stagnant so quickly. Orlando hasn't been playing as a team its last few games, and it's shown in the results.
Who and/or what is to blame, though? Are the injuries, which have already claimed 45 games for an array of Magic players, hurting the team's chemistry? Is it selfish, and sometimes erratic, stupid play?
Following the game, guard Evan Fournier put his two cents in. "Yeah, they made shots, but we don't lose the game like that," said Fournier. "We lost the game because we play selfish. We don't move the ball, we just stand there and look at each other. We have to play better than that. If we keep playing like that, we're not going to win any games. It was so much fun to play in a game like Detroit. I think we only had, like, five assists at the half time, there's no way."
Fournier's strong words continued when he said that if the team didn't play better, it's going to "a long-ass road trip." Orlando plays each of its next six games away from Amway Center.
I asked coach Jacque Vaughn about how tough it was for him and the team not always having everyone healthy and the limited practice time the team has had.
"Yeah, unfortunately I ruined the taste of some turkey dinners tomorrow with some of the play that we had, but it's a part of this process. We have to have those guys play together. I can try to continue to get them to practice together, but I think the overall theme, and I hope the guys saw it, is that there's not one All-Star on this team. Not AAU, or college, there might be some All-Stars, but no one's made an All-Star team here. So, our success is going to be found in us playing together and playing as a unit and hopefully we saw that as a team tonight."
Vaughn touched on it there, as did Fournier: the Magic just have to play as a team. They can't have one guy in Victor Oladipo, who's struggled since returning from injury, attacking the basket and trying to do it all himself. They have to move the ball, and find the open spaces to drive and kick the ball to open shooters, and they have to find a way to get Channing Frye involved more. Frye, who only took four shots Wednesday, is the team's best three-point shooter, and can open up so much on the offensive end, as he showed in the game against the Pistons.
It's a process, and this team is going to have nights where its gets blown out, but if its continue to play like this, the blowouts could come more frequently, which no one wants. Maybe the Magic need to make another change in the starting lineup. Reinserting a guy like Elfrid Payton could give them life, and he could get them going early with his willingness to move the ball. It would also allow them to move one of Oladipo or Fournier to the bench and give the bench unit a much needed scoring punch.
Getting Frye involved
I touched on it above, but the Magic have to get Channing Frye going. After a 19-point performance against the Toronto Raptors on November 11th, Frye has scored in double-figures just three times, one of those being the aforementioned game in Detroit. In the other six games, Frye scored no more than nine points, and has seen a low number of field goal attempts in many of them.
Frye, who thrived with the Phoenix Suns in the 2014/15 season, is a matchup problem for many teams, if used correctly. He's a seven-footer who steps out and shoots the three-ball at over 42 percent, a luxury very, very few teams have. Frye is deadly in the pick-and-pop, but the Magic haven't really used him in that role yet.
They've run some nice plays for him, setting down screens and back picks to get him open, but it's not enough. They've gotten him some good looks on trail threes as well, but those don't come often, as the defense is usually already on him.
After one of his first games this season, Frye said that he needs more shots, he got them for a stretch. Now, he's not, and it's showing in the Magic's offense, and their regression from the three-point line.
With more time they're going to find ways to get him more involved, but, with the limited amount of practice time the team is going to see in the near future, it might be a while. I would imagine Coach Vaughn is going to try to get his guys to find Frye more. It's just a matter of them finding him in places he can be successful.