Another uninspiring effort
After being handled by the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz in their last two games, the Orlando Magic looked to have a chance at a bounce back against the two-win Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. That wasn't the case, however, as the Magic got thoroughly outplayed by Philadelphia on their way to a 96-88 loss. While some of the struggles have come in the first half, many of them have come in the second, and despite getting off to a good start in the third quarter against the Sixers, the Magic didn't have much of anything good the rest of the way.
To their credit, the Magic were moving the ball around, but there were times when it became too much, and some when it just wasn't enough. Their defense was unable to get stops, and things just began to snowball, something that the team has struggled with immensely this season and last.
Victor Oladipo talked about those problems after the game
"When one thing happens, like when we have bad body language, or we get upset with each other, or wonder 'why this?' and 'why that?', we start to point the finger and everything just keep getting worse." Oladipo also said he feels like it's his job to help his team and not let them get too down and allow them to bounce back and get right back up. He also talked about not letting things get to the team and begin to pile up. "When one thing goes bad, just making sure it doesn't begin to pile up," he said.
Oladipo wasn't the only one who was clearly dejected after the game. Forward Tobias Harris, who had his right hand wrapped up after hurting his pinkie, said multiple times that Orlando's play lately is "embarrassing" and that he feels bad for the fans who pay to come and watch them play. "People pay good money to bring their families to the games and we're not even putting on a good enough show for them," he said. "Tonight, it's just, it's a very bad game for us. We've got to get this thing going."
After playing 19 of their first 28 games on the road, many thought a homestand would be just what the Magic needed to begin to turn things around and make a potential push for the eighth seed in the lowly Eastern Conference. Instead, we're sitting here scratching our heads and wondering where the team that played so well on their first West Coast road trip went. Maybe they can get it going against the Celtics on Tuesday, but if not, it could continue to snowball and get much, much worse for the Magic.
Shaking up the starters
No, we're not going to take someone off of NBA TV's The Starters. instead, a change was made to the Magic's starting lineup. Out were Evan Fournier and Channing Frye, in were Elfrid Payton and Kyle O`Quinn. It was a move that coach Jacque Vaughn characterized as trying to get some more defensive continuity, and while the defense did look a bit improved, there were still a lot of issues, especially offensively.
With most of their firepower in their starting lineup--their leading full-time bench scorer is Ben Gordon, who averages 7.5 points per game--Vaughn was hoping moving Fournier and Frye to the bench would give the two units some more balance. The move proved to give them slightly more scoring, with the two finishing with all 20 of the bench's points, 16 of which came from Fournier.
Moving Fournier to the bench seems to be one move that makes sense, with Payton being the team's point guard of the future, and Fournier certainly seeming like a guy who would thrive in that role. That being said, maybe it was a little bit too soon for Payton to be moved into the lineup. He needs to be there, yes, but he's not looking for his offense, and even if he's able to break teams down with his driving ability, it's like the Magic are playing four-on-five on the offensive end due to his poor shooting. Once he's more comfortable within the offense and willing to take his own shots, especially wide-open, high-percentage looks, he should be in there, but for now, he might be best coming off the bench.
Frye, on the other hand, is a bit of a surprise. Orlando brought him in to space the floor and open up things for Payton and Oladipo, and while he's struggled, he's still going to be able to do a lot of things that can help the offense. Yes, his defense has been very subpar, and it's been disappointing, but he can open up so much. But, for a team who struggles almost equally as much on offense as they do defense, benching one of your better offensive players seems less than ideal.
The moves have positives and negatives, and with more time could work out, but night one wasn't a great one. It seems as though Vaughn and company plan on continuing to try this new alignment, and will see if they can iron out their rotations somewhat to have a better balance on both ends of the floor.