Prior to the Orlando’s preseason finale on Thursday, Steve Clifford said he wanted his team to look “more like the Magic.”
Unfortunately, the Magic in some ways still resembled the team he saw in the last two preseason games rather than the first two.
The Magic, who did move the ball better than they had been, continued their ugly trend of giving possessions away as they fell to the Heat, 107-98. After starting the preseason 3-0, with all three wins on the road, the Magic finish at 3-3, with all three losses at home.
The Magic entered averaging 16.8 turnovers per game and, in the final tune up before the regular season opener, committed a preseason-high 22 against the Heat. Oddly, the Heat also had 22 turnovers, but shot 50 percent from the field. The Magic, who began the game with the fifth worst shooting percentage of the preseason at 41.7 percent, shot 42.9 percent from the field. For years a team that has struggled to get to the free throw line, the Magic got there 27 times on Thursday, which is encouraging, but made just 18 (66.7 percent).
As for the positives? The biggest was that Evan Fournier was back on the court after missing a game and a half because of back spasms. Fournier had what was easily his best and most efficient game of the preseason, shooting 5-for-8 from the field for a team-high 16 points.
Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross were also back on the court after sitting out while recovering from ankle sprains. Vucevic had 14 points on 6 of 12 shooting but was also the Magic’s biggest turnover culprit with five in 25 minutes.
Nikola Vucevic is a smoooooth operator!— FOX Sports Florida & Sun (@FOXSportsFL) October 17, 2019
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Ross struggled from the field, scoring just seven points on 3-for-11 shooting. The one three he made of his seven attempts came at the buzzer of what was an ugly third quarter for the Magic....
For the second time in six preseason games, Mo Bamba converted three three-point attempts in a single game, another encouraging sign. Bamba, who also showed great hustle on the defensive end, finished with 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting (3-for-5 from three).
Aaron Gordon, who entered the game shooting 3-for-26 in the last two games combined, failed to solve his shooting woes. Gordon was aggressive in looking for his shot and got good looks, but simply didn’t convert. He went 3-for-12 from the field for just seven points.
Markelle Fultz was unable to connect on his first three-pointer of the preseason, missing his lone attempt from deep in the game. He finished with five points on 2-for-7 shooting, and added five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Fultz closed the preseason averaging 6.7 points and 4.0 assists while shooting 31.5 percent from the field in 19.9 minutes per game. Overall, despite the poor shooting, I consider the preseason a huge success for Fultz. He played every game, he showed less hesitation with his shot than I was expecting, and he looks confident in his game. Fultz showed great ability to penetrate, draw defenders and find the open man, which keeps defenses on edge and adds an element to the Magic offense that had been lacking in recent years.
Wes Iwundu, seemingly the odd man out on the roster when the regular season begins, continued to make his case for Clifford to expand his traditional nine-man rotation. Iwundu hit both of his three-point attempts, one of which was plus the foul, and had seven points in 13 minutes. In the preseason, Iwundu shot 6-for-10 from three. For a team in dire need of outside shooting, that’s hard to ignore.
Michael Carter-Williams, after getting tangled with Heat rookie Tyler Herro, got the rare (and seemingly unwarranted) preseason ejection....
Jimmy Butler scored 13 of his 23 points in the third quarter, where the Magic committed seven turnovers and were outscored 33-26. Duncan Robinson (middle name Ginobili?) scored 11 of his 17 points in the third for the Heat, who improve to 4-0 with one game remaining in the preseason. Herro, who entered as the Heat’s leading scorer through three games at over 16 per while shooting over 50 percent from the field and from three, was limited to eight points on 3 of 8 shooting.
It was a frustrating conclusion to the preseason for the Magic. After such a promising start with road wins over San Antonio and Detroit, and a gritty defensive performance in a victory over Atlanta, the Magic struggled mightily on the offensive end in lopsided losses to the Celtics and Sixers, and continued their sloppy play against the Heat.
You never want to make too much out of preseason play, but there is certainly plenty for the Magic to work on before they kick off the season against the Cavs on Wednesday. Hopefully when the games start to count, we see a more efficient and disciplined Magic offense.