Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY
A feverish comeback and a new mentality for the Magic came to end exactly how they dug that hole for themselves.
Here was Glen Davis on a straight, stand-still post up against Memphis' strong interior defense trying to be the hero with the Magic down four points and a chance to really put the pressure on the Grizzlies not to blow a 22-point lead and lose another home game at FedExForum. With the defense standing and watching, waiting maybe to dig in on Davis and force a turnover. There were options on the perimeter with a Magic starting lineup that played virtually the entire second half.
Davis though buried his head in his defender as he often does and threw up a running hook that hit harmlessly off the back iron. The Grizzlies collected the rebound and set up Zach Randolph in the post and he got an and-1 that about put the game away.
For the second straight night, the Magic spotted their opponent a huge lead and an inordinate amount of threes. For the second straight night, they saw their offense stagnate and shots inexplicably fall off. For the second straight night, they made a run a little too late to make things interesting.
The team does not stop fighting, but they are still struggling to get a full 48 minute effort. The 94-85 loss to the Grizzlies at FedExForum on Monday showed that.
Orlando opened the game shooting 33.3 percent in the first half. The team failed to make a basket until there was less than seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, watching Memphis go on a 14-0 run to open the quarter and seize control of the game completely.
The Grizzlies, a team averaging just more than four 3-point makes per game, hit 10 on the evening including six of 12 in the first half. Memphis was the team controlling the pace — it was slow — and forcing Orlando to react to it on both ends of the floor.
Orlando struggled to just find an offensive rhythm. The shooting numbers were poor, but it was deserving considering how the ball got stuck on one end of the floor and how little the ball was moving. It took a while for the Magic to attack the basket with any energy or control — there were missed layups from key players once again — or to get the ball moving. The team's inability to get that ball movement killed the flow and rhythm of the team.
It also did not help that the Grizzlies locked down the glass, giving up only three offensive rebounds for the entire game. All three of those boards were absolutely key for the Magic during the comeback and were signs that the Magic were coming to life.
Vaughn stuck with and relied heavily on his starting lineup in teh second half as they were the only ones really providing much fluidity on offense.
Andrew Nicholson was key in the third quarter as he got his offense going and established himself in the post. Nicholson finished with his fourth career triple double, scoring 19 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking four shots. Glen Davis added 16 points and nine rebounds, albeit on 14 shots. Jameer Nelson also had 19 points and five assists.
The Magic defense came alive more and locked down the boards as the shots started falling. They began to dictate the tempo and control the game. It only seemed like a matter of time before the Magic could overtake the Grizzlies.
When you dig that kind of a hole though, bad luck feels even worse. The Magic cut it to 10 points for the first time at the end of the third quarter only to see Jamaal Franklin bury a 3-pointer falling into the Magic bench to end the quarter. The Grizzlies added three more to start the foruth quarter on a Zach Randolph and-1.
That was back to a 16-point game. The hill was just too big to climb for the Magic after the slow start. This is not a team that can rely on its defense entirely to get it through those offensive droughts. And 3-pointers are falling for opponents while the Magic cannot buy a bucket.
Orlando just is not consistent yet and not playing the full 48 minutes.
Eventually the shots will begin to fall and some of the troubles these past few weeks will be covered up again. Right now, the Magic seem to be coasting and starting their runs too late in these games.