Leading the game with just fourteen seconds left, Elfrid Payton inbounded the ball from the sideline. Tobias Harris couldn’t handle the pass, Mike Conley scooped up the ball, and Jeff Green sent the game into overtime, where the Grizzlies would eventually secure a 108-102 victory over the Magic.
That sequence at the end of regulation in Monday’s loss cemented the tone for the week, and dragged Orlando even further into the depths of despair it has found itself in this month. A few nights earlier, the Magic blew a 19-point lead to the Charlotte Hornets before losing in overtime. Then, on Tuesday, they squandered a 16-point lead against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The month of January has been one to forget for the Magic, which has a 1-11 record in the month. Over the last 29 days, Murphy’s Law has been the team’s heartbreaking theme; everything that can go wrong has gone wrong. In the last week, one of Orlando’s biggest problems has been finishing games.
It’s something that’s badgered the team all month long, but was much more pronounced in the last three late-game losses. Against Charlotte, Memphis, and Milwaukee, it was a tale of two halves for Orlando. Across the board, the Magic saw dramatic dips in performance when the second half horn sounded.
Where to start? The team was more careless with the basketball -- they turned the ball over 6.3 times in the first half v. 9.3 in the second -- and have been less willing to share the rock (15.3 assists v. 9.7 in the second half). Over the last week, the Magic shot about ten percent worse in the second half on fewer field goals than the first half. Rebounding on both ends of the floor suffered a significant drop after halftime as well, with the team grabbing 55 percent of available rebounds in first halves and to 44 percent in second halves.
These things combine to magnify the Magic’s recent offensive struggles. Ultimately, they culminate in losses, which Orlando has been piling up in droves.
But despite all the problems Orlando has run into in this month of abysmal play, it’s still only a few games out of the playoffs. The trade deadline is a few weeks away. If what Scott Skiles throws onto the court between now and then can’t turn things around, maybe a roster shakeup will do the trick. (It may not be worth it, though) If not, things might get much worse before they get better.
The Magic limped into the back-end of the season against the Hornets last week. It’s only been three games since, but, in some ways, considering the leads Orlando’s given up in that time, the losses have been even more frustrating and heartbreaking than before.
For their sake, hopefully they don’t close out the season like they’ve been closing out games, or else this second half could get ugly.