Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, he Orlando Magic came up short in their quest for back-to-back victories to finish out their four-game home stand. After a successful West Coast roadtrip, things were beginning to look up for the Magic. However, since splitting those six games, the Magic have fallen flat: they've lost seven of their last nine, including three of four on this homestand.
This problem continues to come up on almost a nightly basis. After playing extremely well in the first three quarters, the Magic fell flat in the fourth. Against the Cavs, some of that can be attributed to LeBron James, who scored 15 of his game-high 29 in the quarter. He took over, similarly to what he did when the two met in Cleveland earlier in the season.
While James was part of their problems, the Magic did a few other things that hindered to their chances of taking home the victory.
After dishing out 25 assists, and shooting a blistering 59.6 percent through three quarters, the Magic became stagnant, relying on Victor Oladipo to attempt to create with the ball in his hands. Even though he had eight assists on the night, he tallied none in the fourth, and cost the team with a few big turnovers. Overall, the team had three assists on five baskets in the quarter, which is a good rate, but they weren't taking good shots or making good decisions for much of it.
If the Magic continue to do big down in fourth quarters, they're going to continue to lose close games late, which hurt their long-term development.
The Magic's lack of a true playmaker in the fourth quarter hurt their offense. Coach Jacque Vaughn used Oladipo to initiate and played Ben Gordon at off guard because Vaughn likes his "spacing."
Gordon, who scored seven points in six first-half minutes, can help open things up, yes, but not having a true ballhandler out there was the bigger problem for the Magic. They needed a guy like Elfrid Payton or even Luke Ridnour to help initiate the offense and allow Oladipo, who was thriving off the ball, play his more standard role.
Odds and ends
- Oladipo was cleared to play without his protective facemask for the first time. After the game, Oladipo said it was nice not to have to play wearing the mask, and that it's going to take some getting used to playing without it again.
- Vaughn was happy with the team's balance between units, something that he's been wanting of late. He felt as though his guys gave him good contributions, and that because of that, they were able to mix and match their big men with Kyle O`Quinn in foul trouble. Adding in the play on the defensive end, he said he liked it overall.
- Dewayne Dedmon gave the team a big spark off the bench with O`Quinn's foul trouble. He finished with eight points and six rebounds, but was everywhere on the court, even knocking down a jump shot near the end of the first quarter. Dedmon's contract becomes fully guaranteed on January 10th, so it'll be interesting to see what the Magic do with him.