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Pelicans 111, Magic 97: Magic are outclassed and outmatched

Lacking some of their most important players, the Magic’s talent disparity showed in full force.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

On the one hand, even in their depleted state, you want to see the Orlando Magic give their best effort, and it was clear that did not happen on Friday night. On the other hand, you also get the sense that wouldn’t have mattered if they did, not when New Orleans maintained a 20-point lead without really trying. That was the recipe for a 111-97 loss at home.

In the battle of “““““Big Threes”””””, New Orleans came out ahead with the trio of Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Jrue Holiday combining for 70 points, while Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic, and Jonathon Simmons scored a collective 61, but the real problem was how little the Magic got from anyone else. To that point, outside those three, no other Orlando player scored in the first quarter.

The pervasive story that played out on the court was how little threat the Magic’s current players posed on offense. Drive-and-kicks were virtually non-existent, with both insufficient pressure to draw defenders in, as well as a complete dearth of shooters to punish any double-teams. The Magic’s best long-range shooter right now is arguably Vucevic, and he was 0-3 on the night.

The Magic did try to make it interesting on either end of the halfway mark of the game, making runs to make it fairly close in the second and third quarters, thanks to bursts from Payton and Simmons especially. When they attacked the paint, they usually were rewarded, and the simpler the actions the better the results. The moment the ball was in anyone else hands, however, the offense died. When Marreese Speights can’t shoot, and when Arron Afflalo can’t finish in the paint, the Magic quickly run out of options.

In the end, the talent advantage ruled everything. New Orleans rode their superior players to a blowout win. The frustration with the Magic’s injury woes is amplified because the team is not only lacking its most important players, but also its most fun players. Without the likes of Aaron Gordon or Jonathon Isaac, it’s unclear why anyone should watch this team.