Jeff Griffith/USA TODAY
Trying to figure out where the Magic and the Warriors are on the path to a championship would take no longer than listening to the two teams after the game, in case you did not catch the actual game.
Mark Jackson was on one side of Amway Center talking about how pleased he was his team did not look ahead to New Years’ Day and Thursday’s matchup with Miami. It was a “taking care of business” type game for his Warriors, who clearly have expected more from themselves throughout this season.
On the other side of Amway Center, it was a disappointed Magic group talking about how they lacked flow and lacked the ability to generate offense like they did in their previous two wins. It was a team still learning lessons about itself and the league. The kind of game that cements the Magic’s place near the bottom, unfortunately.
“There’s a lot of learning to do,” Glen Davis said. “There is so much learning to do. I feel like we make steps and then we take steps backwards. That’s everybody from every direction. It’s about keeping a level of consistency here that we can build on.
“At the end of the day We have to stay tough. Sometimes I feel like we get bored with the journey. It’s a tough process. You can’t get bored with the journey. You can’t get bored with the process of what we’re trying to do.”
The Warriors took a 13-point lead in the first quarter and never looked back, breaking hardly a sweat in the game as they built as much as a 25-point lead for a 94-81 victory over the Magic at Amway Center on Tuesday. Golden State sat its starters the entire fourth quarter, enabling the Magic to sneak the lead under 20 points.
What little offensive rhythm the Magic found — they shot just 38.2 percent for the game, marking the sixth time this month the Warriors have held an opponent under 40 percent shooting and 14th time overall — came at that point when the game was out of reach. The Magic never made a run to threaten the Warriors seriously.
Some of that was certainly attributed to Nikola Vucevic’s first-quarter exit with a sprained left ankle. He came up hobbling about 8.5 minutes into the game and left for the locker room.
Even then, Golden State had the game comfortably at an 11-point lead and were dominating the glass. The Magic’s misses helped create that advantage, but the Warriors still grabbed an impressive 83.0 percent of available defensive rebounds.
Orlando just could not find any room against the packed-in Golden State defense and were forced into bad shot after bad shot. The Warriors were hardly an offensive juggernaut (at least how they normally are) and made shots at opportune times. David Lee finished with 22 points and nine rebounds while Stephen Curry had just nine points and Klay Thompson had 15 poins. Both Curry and Thompson made just one of their five 3-point attempts.
It was a balanced effort led by 17 fastbreak points and 42 points in the paint that did the Magic in. Orlando could not find a way to match those attempts, mustering five fastbreak points in this game on eight field goal attempts following two games in which those fast break attempts were critically important in wins.
Arron Afflalo led the Magic with 15 points, but made just seven of his 18 shots. Jameer Nelson added 11 (4-for-11 shooting) and Glen Davis had 10 points (4-for-10 shooting). It was just not a pretty game offensively with few bright spots to look at.
The flow was just gone.
“It’s real frustrating,” Tobias Harris said. “Shots that normally go in for us weren’t falling. I mean it was a tough not all along for us as a team. Offensively, I thought we’re better than that. We know we’re getter than that. So it’s tough going out there not playing to our potential.”
Maybe it was just one of those games.
Maybe the Magic had one of those nights where the offense just would not work and shots would not fall. The Warriors made their shots and helped bury the Magic despite 17 turnovers (which the Magic just could not convert into transition opportunities).
Maybe it was Golden State just being dialed in defensively like they have been during this now six-game winning streak and finding a way to band together on this road trip to get where the team though it would be from the beginning.
Whatever it was the Magic just were all out of sorts from the get-go and never put up a threat to the Warriors.
“They just outplayed us,” Davis said. “We couldn’t even match their intensity. They just shot the ball really really well. They just did some things out there that we couldn’t handle. Defensively, we just didn’t take the challenge. They are a powerful offensive team. We just got outmanned today.”
Sometimes that is going to happen. Especially when your team is still learning.