The Orlando Magic can’t seem to put it all together.
For the second night in a row, the Magic played a strong 36 minutes, holding a double digit lead against the New York Knicks, much like they did against the Washington Wizards on Sunday night. Then, the wheels suddenly fell off the bus.
Energy, execution and tenacity were all on display from the Knicks, while the Magic faded away, their energy, which was so high to open both halves, nowhere to be found. New York was physical with Magic bunch growing increasingly more tired, forcing turnovers and jump shots that came up short left and right.
The performance late in the game was one that’s all too familiar for a Magic bunch trying to find some sort of momentum as the season nears it’s end.
“Every loss is excruciating at this point,” said coach Frank Vogel when asked about his teams recent struggles after three quarters of leading. “It’s not fun. We’re doing some good things, and we’re trying to be encouraged and stay optimistic and positive, but these are two tough losses when you have double digit leads and you surrender them late in the game. They’re just tough losses.”
Sunday night saw the Wizards, behind Bojan Bogdanovic, rain in three-pointers to rally and top the Magic late. Monday saw the Knicks bench, led by former Magic big man Kyle O’Quinn, come in and give a big burst of energy that the Knicks desperately needed.
The former second round pick of the Magic played the entire fourth quarter, notching 11 points and grabbing eight rebounds, four of which came on the offensive glass. The life, and fresh legs, O’Quinn brought to the game helped the Knicks get out to a 21-4 start to the quarter, taking a stronghold on the lead that they would not relinquish.
“Their bench came in and played with more energy and toughness than ours did,” said Vogel. “They imposed their will on the game on both ends of the court.”
The loss brings up more questions for the Magic.
After coming out with such high energy in the opening quarter, and out of halftime, why can’t they keep they up for 48 minutes when things are going well? How can they get better, more consistent production out of their reserves? Will they find the consistency they’re striving for before seasons end, or will it continue to be one step forward, and two back?
“Just execute defensively and offensively,” said Aaron Gordon, who put together another strong performance finishing with 18 points, five rebounds and four assists, when asked about how the team can bring consistent energy for 48 minutes. “If energy is lacking, you need to be completely locked in with that your job is on the floor.”
The entire season has seen the Magic bring inconsistent energy and execution, but it’s reared it’s ugly head more the last two nights. While the playoffs are all but out of the question for the Magic, learning how to win games with consistent performances is something they’re striving for as the season concludes.
Evan Fournier, who led all scorers with 25, didn’t mince his words post game.
“It’s tough, but we deserve it,” said the Frenchman when asked about losing the last two games. “They just played more aggressively... They played with more energy, their execution was better and on our end offensively, it was not bad, but it wasn’t good enough to close the game.”
There’s still time in the season for the Magic to find some way to close out games, but if they can’t play with energy for 48 minutes, they won’t, and that could hurt them even more in the long run.