For the third time in their last five games, the Orlando Magic were beaten handedly, seemingly never having a chance to even think about a victory.
Wednesday night’s 129-90 loss at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs was the Magic’s second largest home loss in franchise history, the most lopsided loss of this season. The Spurs, who couldn’t miss all night, also broke the Magic’s franchise record for highest opponent field goal percentage at 64.9 percent, breaking the New York Knicks record of 63.3 percent that had stood since November 7th, 1991.
From the opening tip, it was clear the Magic had no energy, and weren’t ready for the strong right hook the Spurs would hit them with early on.
“Everything,” said Steve Clifford when asked what he wished his team had done better defensively. “Run back to start. They had 21 fast break points at halftime, and they’re 30th in the league in fast break points. We just weren’t ready to defend, or fight, at all.”
San Antonio took it to the Magic early, and often, stifling any action they ran on offense, and leaking out for easy points in transition. Bryn Forbes did the damage early, knocking down all five of his shot attempts, including a set of transition three-pointers in the opening quarter.
In the second, it was Marco Belinelli and Davis Bertans’ turns to light the Magic up, combining for four of the Spurs’ five made deep balls in the quarter. By then, it was too late for the Magic, who already found themselves down by almost 20.
“If you’re going to give up that many fast break points, you’re going to lose,” said Clifford. “Give up 21 fast break points in one half, you’re going to lose, no matter who you play. They played great, and we played terrible.”
The Spurs knocked down 12 three-pointers for the game, the 13th time the Magic have given up 12 or more three-pointers in a game this season.
Their inability to get anything going on the offensive end likely attributed some to their struggles defensively, but to not put any effort in on that end, like they did tonight, is worrisome. Coach Clifford said he thought his team had a good shootaround on Wednesday morning, and thought they’d come out with better energy, and play much better than they did.
“They’re on a hot streak, and we didn’t do anything to cool them down,” said Aaron Gordon. “We missed coverages. That’s unacceptable and our defensive energy wasn’t there.”
Evan Fournier echoed much of what his coach had to say when asked about the defense, saying they could’ve done “everything” better.
“Be more aggressive, be more aware. Getting to the ball more. Hit people. Everything.”
As has been the case this season, the team did not make any excuses for the way that they played. Not having Nikola Vucevic, who missed the game after his first child was born on Monday, was not a reason for the team playing with no purpose, or energy on either end.
They know that they can’t come out and play like they did Wednesday night if they expect to be able to and make a run at the playoffs like they all want to.
“That won’t work for a team trying to make the playoffs,” said Fournier regarding the teams lack of energy.
Jonathon Simmons, who rolled his right ankle in the third quarter, echoed what Fournier had to say, claiming that the team needs to come with more consistency in the league, because it’s “a mans league.”
Building consistency is an important step for the Magic if they want to find a way to make it into the playoffs. It’s been something they’ve fought for throughout their first 30 games, but still don’t completely have.
Coming out and playing with a lack of energy on both ends, and failing to run back, or try real hard on the defensive end, can’t happen on a consistent basis either, or the team will never be able to reach the goals they have set out for them.
With four of their next five games at home before embarking on a six-game, 11-day road trip out west, the Magic will need to stockpile some wins.
The only way they’re going to do that is with a better purpose of play, higher energy, and better attention on the defensive end, which they lacked from the tip on Wednesday night.