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The Magic made the first basket of the evening, then gave up the next 15 points. Orlando tied the game by the end of the first quarter, but struggled to consistently find the bottom of the net after that.
It was just that kind of night for the young Magic. And when the offense was struggling the defense was sure to get pulled down with it as frustration mounts. When the offense struggles, defense is sure to follow down with it. That is just how these things go with young players.
Particularly when John Wall is running at the defense at full speed, where his most dangerous, and Trevor Ariza is draining threes at an alarming rate.
Put those together and the Wizards were able to put together a dominant 98-80 win over the Magic at Verizon Center on Monday.
Washington worked the Orlando's defense, gaining more confidence and cohesion as the night moved on and confidence grew and grew. John Wall had 16 points and 13 assists midway through the third quarter. He was not needed for much more, but got his teammates involved.
Trevor Ariza had a breakout performance with 24 points on on four made 3-pointers and 8-for-9 shooting from the floor. He was not missing. And neither were many of his Wizards teammates. Washington shot 45.2 percent from the floor but made nine of 13 3-pointers. More importantly, they had the Magic defense off balance, getting to the line 29 times for 23 makes.
That was a lot to overcome, particularly with how Washington was frustrating Orlando offensively and the shots that were being missed.
The Magic shot 39.0 percent from the floor and made only 3 of their 15 3-pointers.
Glen Davis was 1 for 8 and had a tough time working around the solid Nene in the post. E'Twaun Moore was also 1 for 8. Victor Oladipo was 4 for 12 from the floor, but had his flashes of brilliance in attacking the basket on his way to 13 points, six rebounds and one turnovers.
The bright spots offensively were Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless.
Afflalo just continues to shine offensively with 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting. He was a consistent and reliable offensive option throughout the night.
Vucevic did a lot of work in the third quarter as Orlando tried to keep the lead within a reasonable distance. He scored 10 points to go with eight rebounds, making five of his 11 shots.
Harkless scored 15 points off the bench, making 7 of his 13 shots.
The game was just a matter of making and missing shots. Orlando missed some very makeable shots and could not hit the tough shots needed to survive and grind out a win. Particularly with the defense struggling to contain the Wizards dribble penetration and kick-out game, without fouling too.
Glen Davis summed it up well in the postgame. This just was not a good game for the Magic. Not a good way to start off this road trip that is for sure.
Learning to grind out competitive games when the offense is struggling is something teams have to learn to do. It is something veteran teams know how to do well. That is what separates the good teams from teh bad ones. The Magic are decidedly still learning this skill.
Games like this will happen until that skill is learned.