As the clock struck zero for the final time on Friday night, the Orlando Magic's eight game marathon of a preseason had finally come to an end. After a rocky start that saw the team lose two of its first three games, the Magic put together a strong finish, rounding out the preseason with five straight victories. While they had some stretches of really good play, they had equally as many stretches with poor play that nearly cost them in many of their exhibitions.
Following their 10-point victory on Friday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, head coach Scott Skiles said he wasn't sure if happy was the right word to describe how his team played this preseason. "We won some games. Tonight is a hard one to judge," he said.
Over the course of the month, the Magic put together some solid play, and showed improvement on both ends of the floor. Going into the game against the Grizzlies, the Magic ranked seventh in opponent field goal percentage, and ninth in opponent three-point percentage, drastic improvements over their league worst marks last season. While the improvement is a welcoming sign, the team knows they have a lot of work to do.
Skiles, who said he and his staff still have to decide on a starting lineup for the season opener on Wednesday, said his team just needs to keep improving over these next few days. "We need improvement in all areas, just like a lot of teams right now. We just have to come back and have three days to get ready for a really good team."
Tobias Harris, who showed off improvement on both ends throughout the preseason, said he thought his team made some great strides during the preseason. "Everybody is buying into the system. I think the biggest thing for us is the defensive end of the game, and I think we;re doing a good job each and every game and every practice at working on all those habits and making it a strong point for us," he said. "I think it's going to be the biggest thing for us going forward, and we've done a pretty good job of that so far."
While Harris was pleased with how his team has progressed up to this point, he knows they're going to have to make more big strides heading into the season. Harris said he felt as though the team was at a "six or a seven" on a scale of 1-to-10 on where they want to be. "We made some great strides, but at the end of the day, we have some great ways to go," said the teams second leading scorer in the preseason.
Like Harris, Victor Oladipo was pleased with how the team has progressed, but knows they need to take it day-by-day. "We've just got to take it one game at a time," he said. "I think we've still got some things that we need to work on, things that we've got to figure out. Other than that, we're in the right direction. At the end of the day, we've just got to keep on working to get where we want to be."
With the amount of fluctuation in every roster during the preseason, it's sometimes hard to gauge just how much a team has grown. For the Magic, the preseason saw them put together some impressive performances against both key players on teams, and guys fighting for roster spots and their next meal.
Magic coaches and players know that they've made strides, and have good building blocks for the upcoming season. They also know it's going to take a lot more work to get to where they need to be if they want to compete for a spot in the playoffs come the end of the season.
Preseason is a time for improvement, and as the Magic close theirs out, they know they're in a position to turn the corner and meet some of the lofty goals they have set for the upcoming season.