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Magic defense just plain foul

27-7.

That was the number nobody on the Magic specifically talked about following Wednesday's loss to the Nuggets. Jameer Nelson opened up his postgame comments saying he was not going to talk about the foul disparity. Jacque Vaughn deadpanned he was going to talk to George Karl and his staff about learning some of the defensive schemes he used in the game to implement with the Magic.

There was no getting around it, the Nuggets committed the fewest fouls in a single game against the Magic in Magic history.

The focus though should be on the other numbers from that game — the 27 fouls committed and the 36 free throws attempts. Denver scored, as Eddy Rivera of MagicBasketball.net noted this morning on ESPN's Daily Dime, 102 points off of free throws (22), 3-pointers (4 makes for 12 points) and points in the paint (68).

If you can do math, that means the Nuggets made just three mid-range jumpers.

So as much as people want to talk about the Magic's poor play late in games and the stagnation of the offense and questions about rotation, the real culprit in the Magic's 10-game losing streak are defensive numbers like these.

Rob Carr/Getty Images/ZimbioWe have chronicled when this losing streak started how the Magic have slipped in their defensive efficiency. They are now outside the top 10, according to HoopData and have a 101.8 defensive rating — good for 12th in the league. But during the 10-game losing skid the defense has been much, much worse.

The team is posting a defensive rating of 114.9 during the 10-game losing streak — a 12.9 percent increase over the team's season average. Orlando has given up more than 100 points in six of the 10 games of this losing streak. The Magic had given up 100 or more points in just six games before that.

The Magic's fall off defensively has been documented earlier on this site.

A big problem defensively has been the Magic's free throw rate too. Orlando's opponents have a free throw rate of 25.4, according to HoopData. That is good for sixth in the NBA. That is pretty good.

But during the losing streak, Orlando is giving up a free throw rate, calculated as free throws attempted over field goals attempted, of 29.0 percent. This suggests the Magic defense is not just bad because it is giving up a lot of points, but also suggests that the team is not playing good defense by fouling too much.

This could be because teams are getting into the paint more, attacking more aggressively or the defense is simply late to rotate. This is one thing where mising Glen Davis is very key. Davis was great at rotating over and bailing out teammates who get beat. Andrew Nicholson, for instance, is often late in that rotation and that leads to either an easy basket or a foul in many occasions.

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Then the frustration begins sitting in as Orlando finds ways to lose, like the team did when Danilo Gallinari got free for a dunk late in Wednesday's game.

The whole team is at fault as defense is very much a team effort. This is not just about missing Glen Davis.

So the thinking is with the way these numbers are going, the Magic are not going anywhere until the defense improves.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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