The Magic drafted Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton for their defensive acumen and playmaking. They were not going to be scorers, not initially at least. That part would take time.
Still, the point of the game is to put the ball in the basket. You need to score to win. And when you miss opportunities to do so — through turnovers and missed free throws — winning is going to be difficult.
That is a lesson to learn for young players in Summer League. It is difficult to generate offense.
The Magic shot 37.3 percent for the game, negating a big rebound advantage of 46-32, shot 12 for 20 from the foul line and committed 17 turnovers for 15 Celtics points. Despite strong defense, Orlando could not put the ball in the basket. That could be a weakness when the games start counting a few months from now.
On Thursday, in Orlando’s 76-67 loss to Boston at the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League, that was clearly a problem. So too was the fact the Magic were short a big with Dewayne Dedmon suffering an ankle injury and being held out a precaution. That shifted Aaron Gordon to the power forward position for much of the game and led to the Magic putting out some weird lineups.
The strong defense, which gave up just 32.4 percent shooting, was not enough. Not down the stretch of a tight game with Marcus Smart unveiling the height of his powers.
Smart hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Celtics an eight-point lead with about five minutes to play. He then clinched the game, seemingly, with a vicious crossover to split a double team and a spin move for a lay in that drew audible oohs and ahhs from the assembled spectators at Amway Center.
Smart finished with 19 points and five assists on 5-for-14 shooting.
Magic fans should not be too upset though with their point guard selection. Elfrid Payton held his own plenty and was a stat sheet stuffer once again, nearly recording another triple double. Payton recorded eight points to go with 10 assists and nine rebounds. He had seven turnovers as well, but they were aggressive turnovers while trying to attack the basket. The things you do not mind as a player is finding his way at this point in the offseason.
Payton was really very good. He was able to read the pick and roll well and get into the paint. Payton is not a strong scorer at all yet and he was often looking to pass. But even with the defense having this knowledge, they could not turn him away. He still made the right pass most of the time and found someone who could be in a position to score. When he finally did take a shot in the second half, things started to open up.
“I’m just trying to help my team any way that I can,” Payton said. “Defensively, scoring, passing, rebounding, whatever it is, that’s what I try to do.
“[I'm] way more comfortable, but I’m still learning. There has been a couple times that I was a little too unselfish trying to force a play that isn’t there instead of taking the floater for myself.”
But, as has been repeated ad nauseam, Payton is not known for his offense. Not yet. It is still a major shortcoming of his. That will not change overnight by any stretch of the imagination.
The poor shooting seemed to infect everyone. The Magic just had a difficult time finishing their possessions with made baskets. Gordon made just three of his 10 field goal attempts, missing all three of his 3-pointers and making just one of his four free throws. He was more active on the glass with eight rebounds, but was a virtual non factor offensively.
Romero Osby had a nice start to the game, but ended up missing five of his seven field goal attempts in the end. Kadeem Batts was the only starter to shoot better than 50 percent, but as a center, he had several put backs that just would not fall for him.
Seth Curry was solid off the bench with 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting and 4-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc. He was a lone bright spot of efficiency for this team on the offensive end.
It just remained a struggle to put the ball in the hoop.
That is a problem Orlando will continue trying to resolve as the offseason goes on heading into training camp. It is hard to read too much into summer league stats. These players have a lot of work to do before October and training camp comes around.
The search for offense will continue in side gyms and practices until then.