From the opening tap the Magic were sluggish. Missing defensive assignments, fouling Clippers players left-and-right, and missing some open, and some very poor shots.
The writing was on the wall early, and it never turned around.
“I told one of the assistants 90 seconds in, you could just tell looking at them,” said coach Steve Clifford following the loss. “Body language, worry about the wrong stuff. You can’t play like that. Not in this league, not against a good team.”
After holding the Clippers to 22 points in the opening quarter, things quickly derailed for the Magic. An inability to hit shots consistently, issues with fouling on defense, and the Clippers flat out playing better, more complete team basketball knocked the Magic down, and out.
The hits kept coming for the Magic, as the Clippers piled it on them, knocking down three-pointers left and right in the second half, and seeing an even more deflated Magic team on the court. Every time the Magic seemed to find a bit of energy, be it from a block from Nikola Vucevic, a put back dunk from Mo Bamba, or a fast break layup from Wes Iwundu, the Clippers answered, and in a big way.
“Obviously really disappointed in effort level, body language, purpose of play,” said Clifford. “Playing with discipline against a team that draws fouls, we went out and fouled. The first quarter we were good, but after like that we never practiced.
“Just like I told the guys, we haven’t been like that. Not even close to being acceptable, not for a professional basketball team, not if you’re prideful. We have one day to clean it up before we play in San Antonio, which is doable in this league, but for one of the first times in this stretch we’ve got going, we had the wrong, wrong attitude.”
Clifford felt as though the Magic had logged a couple of good practices leading up to the game, and that the teams shootaround went well on Friday morning. The lack of effort and readiness surprised Clifford, and is not acceptable, especially for a team who has had two days off playing against a team that lost the night before.
Their practices didn’t carry over, and they simply got their asses kicked.
“I think we have guys that badly want to win,” said Clifford. “There’s been some tough times here. I think we have some guys that have been through that. Part of the thing that has to happen so we can have success is we have to change in regards to an every night readiness and maybe that’s going to be harder to do than I thought.
“You don’t sit guys down and say do this, this and this and have a chance. I do believe that we have guys that badly want to win and turn it around, so I think that we will.”
The poor effort has been a consistent for the Magic over the last few years, and will have to change rapidly if they want to turn things around.
Friday night was another one of those all too familiar nights for the Magic, and they’ll have to put in the work, and get things kicked into the correct gear if they want to win games anytime soon.