Orlando Magic cannot find energy with their bench

Apr 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Trevor Booker (35) passes the ball against Orlando Magic center Bismack Biyombo (11) and guard Mario Hezonja (8) in the second quarter at Barclays Center. The Nets won 121-111. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Trevor Booker (35) passes the ball against Orlando Magic center Bismack Biyombo (11) and guard Mario Hezonja (8) in the second quarter at Barclays Center. The Nets won 121-111. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic needed their bench to deliver an energy boost on a tough back to back. Instead, it let them down and cost them a win in Brooklyn.

121. 147. 111. 38. Final

No one ever expects the bench to outscore the starting lineup. After all, the starters are the starters for a reason. They are meant to be the best players on the team and carry the majority of the weight.

Teams seek depth to hedge their bets in a way. To stand as a bulwark against fatigue — no one can play 48 minutes per game, after all — and as a bulwark against injury. It is as much an insurance policy as anything else.

A necessary one. Unless a team has a killer starting lineup, a team needs at least some support from its bench. And even then, there will be games where a team needs an energy pick-me-up from the reserves. They will need something to change the pace.

The Orlando Magic’s bench since the All-Star Break has not been anything pretty. Really, the team’s bench this season has been a disappointment.

Orlando was always going to be a team that needed everyone working together to be successful. That included the bench doing its part to buoy the Magic and make sure their starters were not in too deep a hole.

Too often, that has been the case, especially after the All-Star Break. And it was the case during the Brooklyn Nets’ 121-111 win over the Magic at Barclays Center on Saturday.

The Nets’ bench outscored the Magic 72-16, creating a huge disparity on the scoreboard. Brooklyn took control to start the fourth quarter, going on an 11-0 run that proved to be the difference in the game with the teams tied through three quarters.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The Magic had their bench unit of D.J. Augustin, Jodie Meeks, Terrence Ross, Mario Hezonja and Bismack Biyombo for these minutes against the Nets’ second unit of Isaiah Whitehead, Archie Goodwin, Spencer Dinwiddie, Trevor Booker and Justin Hamilton. Hardly a murderer’s row. But the Nets have been successful off the bench all season. They have taken advantage of these moments all season.

Orlando decidedly has not.

While the Magic’s starting lineup has found ample success (a +3.3 net rating), the bench has struggled. Even this new nine-man rotation lineup with Terrence Ross inserted into the second unit has had little success — a -30.1 net rating in 11 minutes so far. Coach Frank Vogel has tinkered with his rotation but still cannot find the right success, even with a small sample size.

The reality may be much simpler, though. It may simply be the team does not have the players to provide the rest the team needs or the consistency to keep the boat steady at the very least. The lineup combinations do not work for the Magic and there is no way to properly balance the team.

That is a typical reality for a team with 27 wins and 50 losses with five games to play. Orlando is what they are because their players are not good enough to be any better. In this case, the team is what its record says it is.

At various points this season, Vogel has talked about finding better balance with the roster. That may be more coded for his attempt to make sure the team is at least at a base level of skill at all times. That task has been tough. Orlando needs to upgrade the roster — again, the team’s record suggests as much.

More alarmingly for these last five games, the poor bench has allowed the team’s energy to wane.

That energy was desperately needed Saturday. With the team playing a game less than 24 hours before and having plane problems forcing them to get in later than anticipated, the Magic were looking for a reservoir of energy.

Orlando was seemingly a step slow for much of the game. The team was unable to get itself right defensively, relying solely on offense to keep the group in the game. Shots were falling and so it worked for a while. Until the second unit went cold in the fourth quarter. It took Elfrid Payton hitting a jumper to set the Magic straight. By then, they trailed by double digits and never truly threatened the lead again.

Benches are meant to provide this pick me up. They do not play the heavy minutes starters typically do. Oftentimes, they are there to help change the pace to the game. They are there to spell the starters and provide a boost. Their play sets the table for the finish.

Time and time again, the bench is letting the starters down. It is giving the starters a hurried table to finish. And with so much inexperience on this roster and so little winning experience, it ultimately sets them up to lose.

As much as anything, building a winning culture is about being able to rely on players to do their jobs and do them ably. When someone goes down, others fill their roles. There is a consistency that comes from the ability to rely on reserves for the appropriate support.

As much as the focus for the Magic is on closing out games and winning games at the end. Winning games also comes down to pulling the right levers and having stability while the team’s best players are inevitably resting.

The Magic lack this stability and lack this trust. The bench has not earned it. And inconsistency is the mark of struggling teams.

On nights like Saturday, the bench’s play was absolutely critical. The Magic needed the boost the bench can provide. The same kind of boost the Nets got all evening. That is how Orlando finds itself in the situation it is in and trying to build these winning habits.

Winning habits are tough to build when every element is not in alignment.

When Orlando needed the energy, the bench could not deliver. It has not delivered largely in this time period.

Next: Grades: Brooklyn Nets 121, Orlando Magic 111

And it has largely held the team back.