Poor performances piling up
After winning five in a row, things have begun to get shaky for the Orlando Magic. Since losing to the Los Angeles Clippers last Saturday, the Magic have struggled on both ends of the floor, seeing their offense get bogged and their defense begin slipping.
The issues, which were coupled with an extremely low energy level against the Cleveland Cavaliers, could force the team into another lineup change. Coach Scott Skiles said the team had to look at anything and everything, including a lineup change, despite saying multiple times perviously he didn't want to tinker with his starting lineup too much. "The options [to get the team going] are always the same," said Skiles.
Tobias Harris, who went scoreless for the first time all season, said that they needed to give the Cavaliers credit. "You've got to give them credit; they played a good game tonight," he said. "It was just a poor effort from us, all around a poor game for us. We've just got to bounce back from it, have some short-term memory, learn from it and move on to the next one."
Harris also talked about the struggles of the team for the last four games, saying they have to get back to trusting each other. "Offensively we're not moving the basketball from side-to-side like we should. There are a lot of little things. We're not screening each other to get the next guy open.
"That's something that we have to do, in practice and moving forward. We have to get batter at that, but I think we just need to trust each other a little bit more an try to make a play for the next guy instead of ourselves. We're able to do that; we'll build a little momentum and more energy towards the offensive end."
One of two Magic players to finish in double figures, Nikola Vucevic, called the loss "pretty bad," later adding that it's "pretty embarrassing to lose like this."
"We just didn't play well at all, it was a blow out, something we're not proud of," Vucevic said. "We've got to know that against teams like Cleveland, one of the best teams in the league, we have to bring it all."
While the performance on Friday night, coupled with their previous three games is disappointing, the Magic aren't making any excuses. Coming off their road trip, and having only one day at home, put the odds up against the Magic, but they weren't using that as an excuse for their poor play, something they might've done in previous seasons.
Despite their general success with the current lineup -- the team is 6-3 with the current starters -- things are starting to get ugly again, which could, and should prompt a change from coach Skiles. If not, the Magic's tailspin could continue.
Hezonja comfortable playing point guard
The first month and a half of his rookie season haven't been the best times for Magic rookie Mario Hezonja. From inconsistent shooting, to struggling with coach Skiles' defensive schemes, the talented rookie has struggled to find the court consistently.
Friday night's blowout gave Skiles the opportunity to put Hezonja out for extended minutes, including a lot of time at point guard. "We've been wanting to play Mario some at the one, and we were able to do that tonight," said Skiles.
With C.J. Watson still dealing with a nagging calf injury -- Skiles did say that the veteran point guard was starting to ramp up his work, and could be back within the next week -- and poor play from Shabazz Napier, the Magic could use a spark at the back up point guard spot. Moreover, it's important the team finds ways to get Hezonja involved, so he doesn't completely lose his confidence this early in his rookie year.
Hezonja, who finished with a career-high 12 points on the night, said that point guard was his natural position. "I've been playing it the whole time in Croatia, and a little bit in Barcelona, so I don't have problems with that," said the rookie. "Very thankful of coach for that, and we've been practicing like that for a while now."
Getting playing time is tough, especially for a rookie on a team that's looking to take a big step forward and make a run at the playoffs. He's still going through an adjustment period, and trying to find his true fit with the team. He could see an increase in minutes as the team searches for more consistent offense, but in the end, it's going to come down to how he performs on the defensive end.
If he can get it all on that end, Hezonja could see his playing time increase dramatically, be it at point guard, or elsewhere.