Now that the season is over, it is time to review the last five months. This is our yearly look back at what went right and what went wrong during the 2013-14 season.
When the Magic defeated the 76ers on Feb. 26 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, there was a sense of calm and joy in the locker room. At least for a team that had just won its 18th game in February.
It had been nearly three months since the last time the Magic could celebrate a road victory — and that came when Luol Deng short-armed a layup near the buzzer. The questions about why the Magic were so bad on the road were beginning to mount and it became a constant storyline throughout the season. Not that the Magic had any legitimate playoff hopes before then, but the road record dashed even a hint of those thoughts.
The win over Philadelphia brought a relaxed locker room and the belief that things were going to get better on the road. The Magic would not be world beaters, but they would be respectable at least.
Nope. That win over Philadelphia was the last road win. Road win No. 4 in a season where the team finished with a franchise-worst road record by two games. That is two games worse than the expansion team. An expansion team is somewhat understandable. This? This was unexplainable.
As good as those numbers I shared with you from the Magic were at home, they were so much significantly worse for them on the road.
The Magic scored a pitiful 92.9 points per game on the road, shooting 42.8 percent from the floor. Their offensive rating on the road was 96.2 points per 100 possessions. The Magic’s offensive rating on the road is a six percent decrease from their offensive rating at home. Their defensive rating on the road rises to 106.5 points per 100 possessions, a three percent increase from their defensive rating at home.
When I look at those numbers, I see a team whose offense dives off a cliff with a team that has an as-expected drop in defensive performance away from the comforts of home. It was alarming and distressing and a question no one seemed to be able to adequately answer.
After all, how could the team that scored major home victories and looked like they could beat anyone on the parquet floor look so helpless and hopeless away from home. The players were aware of it — not just from the media — and it seemed like every road game with an opportunity to win (the few of those that happened) was met with the fear of what will happen to cause them to blow it.
The Magic’s loss at Utah in March was the last real chance for the Magic to get a win. They blew a late lead and watched Trey Burke drain a 3-pointer in the corner to win the game. That was typical of a Magic road game.
How does this improve? How could the Magic have gotten better?
Experience sure would have helped. Maybe some veteran urgency or experience in those road games would have helped. Maybe a change of luck would have helped. Shots bouncing one way or the other would have helped. Confidence is a fickle thing and the Magic had it at Amway Center but not away from it.
For Orlando to get where it wants to go as a team next season, there will obviously have to be some major improvements made on the road. That is how the good teams separate themselves. And the Magic have to make some inroads there to continue their growth as a team.