The Orlando Magic sported the worst record in the NBA following their heartbreaking loss this past Friday. But don’t tell that to the Washington Wizards, red-hot Minnesota Timberwolves, three-time defending Eastern Conference Champ, and the league’s top-ranked defense in Boston.
Against some stiff competition, the Orlando Magic have exploded, looking more like the team we saw in early November, than the one in late December.
However, this time the Magic are using defense to stymy their opponents. After allowing 67 first half points to The King’s men in Cleveland, the Cavs scored just 37 in the second half! The Magic had the opportunity to win the game, until a controversial call derailed those ideas.
Against the Celtics, the Magic outscored the best team in the East to the tune of 32-12 in the third while holding the C’s to 1-for-11 shooting coming out of the halftime gate.
So who are these Magic?
These are the kids we criticized for energy, diving for loose balls.
These are the kids we lamented for giving easy baskets scoring 62 in the paint.
This is a team led by solid minutes from Khem Birch, Shelvin Mack, and Mario Hezonja.
While Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon lead the team with their usual scoring outputs right around the 20-point mark, it’s the role players taking the energy and the defense of the squad to the next level.
And Elfrid Payton is dangerously taking the next step towards resembling a starting NBA point guard. While he was part of a squad that gave up 40 points to Kyrie Irving, his aggressiveness and decisiveness showed throughout. He made a living in the lane against dogged defenders in Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.
So as we approach the trade deadline (February 8th), the questions must be asked:
Is the Magic’s improving play going to lead to a higher sale value on Fournier, Payton and Hezonja, or can this team do enough in the final six games before the break to deserve a second look heading into the offseason?
Aaron Goldstone answers these questions and so many more.
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