Off to one of the best starts in the league, the Orlando Magic saw it all come crashing back down to earth on Friday night.
After posting a strong 6-2 start, and being one of the best offenses in the league, the Magic fell back to earth, and hard, against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night. Their 105-83 loss was a reminder that, even if you get off to a hot start, it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t signify that you’ve made it, and are there to stay for the long haul.
Friday night’s loss just shows that, simply put, the Magic still have work to do. While they may be off to one of the best starts in the league, it doesn’t put them into the upper echelon of teams. All it signified was they were playing good basketball at the time.
Against the Bulls the offense struggled, and the defense followed suit. With shots not falling from the opening tip, the Magic were unable to clamp down on the defensive end and let their defense give them life, and hopefully some momentum on the offensive end.
Instead, the energy level died. The team didn’t move the ball at the high rate they had, and they seemingly refused to push the pace, one of their biggest keys to the hot start.
They couldn’t get a stop, and the physical, motivated Bulls made them pay.
“Winning is not easy in this league,” said Frank Vogel when asked if this showed that the team still hadn’t done anything. “Every night you’ve got somebody that’s hungry regardless of their record or pedigree and you gotta bring it and gotta play well to get a W.”
In years past, that was a role the Magic played. A young team trying to find it’s footing and grow as a unit and build. This year, the Magic saw first hand just what can happen when you don’t bring it all night.
“We didn’t play with the same energy tonight,” said Nikola Vucevic, who finished the night with 14 points. “A lot of times we dribbled too much before we made a play, so the offense was stagnant and we didn’t get anything going. We got cold and didn’t get many good looks and took a lot of shots at the end of the shot clock.”
The offensive struggles could, in some part, be linked to the fact the Magic had only one healthy “true” point guard.
With both Elfrid Payton and D.J. Augustin dealing with hamstring injuries, Shelvin Mack was the only healthy Magic point guard. With that, the likes of Jonathon Simmons and Evan Fournier were tasked with handling the ball.
While Mack didn’t play poorly — he finished the night with two points and eight assists — the offense clearly wasn’t the same with him as the only point guard. They struggled to get into sets, and, more often than not, found themselves watching one player pound the ball into the hardwood before hoisting up a poor shot.
Despite only having the one point guard, the team isn’t using that as an excuse.
“Yeah, it’s a factor,” said Vogel. “It hurts your rhythm a little bit... It’s not an excuse. We’ve had our starting point guard out the whole season and we played really well and with a goos rhythm offensively and we just have to make sure we come back and find that on Sunday.”
Following their other losses this season, the Magic have bounced back in big ways, knocking off the Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Pelicans in dominating fashion. Sunday night agains the Boston Celtics will give them yet another chance to show their growth, and that they can bounce back.
“We get back to work tomorrow, watch film, and see what we did wrong,” said Vucevic when asked how the team keeps this poor performance from becoming a trend. “Work on what got us playing well in the first eight games.”
The Magic did a lot of good things that they can definitely get back to with the right work, which starts with their practice tomorrow.
“There’s no reason to panic, it’s just one game,” said Vucevic.
While it’s only one game now, another performance like Friday night’s could see things begin to slowly spiral out of control, something the Magic don’t want.