Kirby Lee/USA TODAY
When the Lakers came to Orlando about a month ago, confidence was oozing from this Magic team. They were running on the break and dictating tempo. They were moving the ball and hitting shots. They were confident and had swagger about them.
After the Magic visited Los Angeles, you would hardly know that was the same team with the same players.
The team that just completed an 0-4 West Coast swing and was officially eliminated from Playoff contention (as long a shot as that might be) does not have that same sureness about it. The confidence is gone and there seems to be few positives to take from each loss. Not from a team perspective.
Orlando fell behind again and fought back to make things close. Just never close enough to take the lead or score a win. The Magic's defense let them down as Jordan Hill turned in a career-best performance and Nick Young paced the Lakers off the bench for a 103-94 win at Staples Center on Sunday.
The Lakers beat the Magic to several loose balls — except for Dewayne Dedmon — and made the big shots they needed to hold off the Magic.
Orlando's perimeter defense seemed a step slow containing dribble penetration from Kendall Marshall, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young and Kent Bazemore. Their half-court offense worked smoothly, particularly using the pick and roll. Los Angeles' shooters kept Orlando more than honest.
Los Angeles shot 46.3 percent from the floor and scored 46 points in the paint. They made their jumpers too, hitting 6 of 16 3-pointers. The Lakers just made shots when they had to and got offensive rebounds as the game got tight at the end.
Nick Young more or less iced the game to give the Lakers a nine-point lead with a desperation pull-up 3-pointer from the top of the key as the shot clock expired. It was one of the times the Magic played some decent defense. That one time it did not matter.
Hill scored a career-high 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Young had 26 points off the bench. The Lakers had just seven offensive rebounds to 13 for the Magic, but each seemed to come at a big time. The Magic's margin for error is simply too small.
Orlando made its runs to keep the game tight. After falling behind early in the first quarter, the Magic made a run in the second quarter to take the lead briefly. The Lakers went on a 15-2 run right after that, going back to their big lineup, and taking back control of the game. It seemed Los Angeles was up anywhere between six and nine points for the rest of the game.
Yet, every time it seemed like the Magic would get over the hump and make that push, a mistake would show up and prevent them from doing so. Orlando committed 20 turnovers leading to 21 Los Angeles points.
Several Magic players had good individual games. Tobias Harris scored 16 points off the bench, adding nine rebounds. Victor Oladipo had 21 points and 10 assists (against eight turnovers), shooting 6 for 11 from the floor. Kyle O'Quinn had a solid 14 points and seven rebounds. Even Andrew Nicholson had seven points off the bench for the Magic.
Dewayne Dedmon was extremely active too, bringing a lot of energy to the Magic. He had five points and three rebounds in 10:37, but a lot of his play came from tipping rebounds and contesting rebounds to give his teammates the chance to get back into the play.
There were good efforts for sure.
Individually, they are fine. As a team? The Magic have struggled to put all the pieces together.
Even in a game where Orlando was getting the offensive looks it wanted, the team just could not put it all together. The team was moving the ball pretty well and looking to make the extra pass. Things were flowing well. Except for the turnovers, of course.
The problem was on the defensive end where the Magic struggled to get stops on consecutive possessions. When you are trying to dig out of a deficit, that can be killer. That was what the Magic needed to eke out a win in this game. It just did not come. Not at the times it needed to.
The Magic are still searching for that winning formula. There are small positives that come out of each performance. Things are not all bad.
But that feeling of running in place remains. Maybe a return home helps. Maybe this just is who the Magic are.