In many ways, Sunday night was an encapsulation of all the problems Orlando’s faced this season: the inconsistency, the wildly different styles of play, and ultimately, the disappointing result. What looked like a shootout early ground to a halt in the third quarter when the Magic couldn’t even muster double-digit points, leading to the 111-95 loss to the Lakers to start the crucial road trip. Serge Ibaka led the Magic with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Nikola Vucevic added 19 himself. Julius Randle led the Lakers’ balanced attack with 19 points.
As Orlando has done many times this season, the first quarter started with virtually no defense to be found. For both teams, it was all about the skilled big men, as Ibaka, Vucevic, and Randle combined to score 27 in the quarter, including one three-pointer for each. With 34 points of pure offense on the side of the Magic, you’d imagine they’d have a handy lead by the end of the quarter, but the defense was even worse on the other end, leading to Los Angeles’s 40 point-outburst. Right away it was clear that the Magic would struggle with the Lakers’ pick-and-roll attack, especially when Randle was able to generate 4 assists in addition to all his scores. The other bugaboo: turnovers, by which the Lakers were generate over a third of their points in the quarter. The Magic trailed 40-34 after 1.
The second quarter looked much closer to the kind of game the Magic wanted to play, when the game slowed down and the Magic were able to force some misses. L.A. only shot 1-11 from long distance in the period, and just under 35% overall. While Orlando’s shooting percentage wasn’t great either, they were able to generate points from the line, going 7-11 on free throws. The Magic did an excellent job sharing the ball in the first half of this game, assisting on 18 of their 23 field goals, a big part of their long-distance success. That passing and defense was the formula to the Magic’s only winning quarter of the night, which narrowed the halftime lead to 62-60.
The good news of the third quarter was that the defense continued to improve, holding the Lakers under 20 points. The bad news was that the offense was about the worst its been all season, shooting just 2-20 in the period on the way to a mere 9 points. Orlando missed their first 10 shots from the field, their only points coming thanks to 3 free throws between Aaron Gordon and Bismack Biyombo. Gordon in particular had a very bad night for the Magic, going 0-5 throughout the game to score just 2 points. Orlando looked totally out of sync, trying to isolate repeatedly to generate offense, failing to find open guys, and continuing the turnover problems from the first quarter. All of that combined to make one of the most frustrating quarters all season for the Magic, leaving them trailing 81-69.
The Magic still had a chance to make this a game again, but the Lakers quickly put the game out of reach early in the fourth with a 16-7 run. Brandon Ingram in particular was unstoppable, hitting 12 in the quarter to seal the deal and tie his career high of 17. For their part, the Magic were able to find their offensive groove, but it wasn’t enough without some serious defensive efforts, and those were nowhere to be found. At 16-23, and with a tough January schedule ahead of them, Orlando has precious little time to find themselves before its too late.