Orlando Magic question their effort after loss to LA Clippers

The Orlando Magic's Jonathon Simmons (17) has a shot blocked by the Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan and Sam Dekker (7) in the first half at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic's Jonathon Simmons (17) has a shot blocked by the Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan and Sam Dekker (7) in the first half at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic knew they had a tall task undermanned. But the one thing they need to count on is their energy. It was not there against the LA Clippers.

95. 38. 106. 77. Final

Frank Vogel’s frustration with his team was evident in a three-minute span of the third quarter. His team was trailing by three points in a battle of undermanned teams and he had just subbed in his second unit, subbing in D.J. Augustin, Marreese Speights and Bismack Biyombo.

Quickly, the bottom fell out. Three straight shots from Marreese Speights (with only one make) led to a DeAndre Jordan layup, a Sam Dekker 3-pointer and a Dekker reverse layup. All assisted from Lou Williams.

The latter two plays came from Speights’ slow rotations and poor foot speed. Dekker zoomed past him. Vogel burned his second timeout of the quarter as the Orlando Magic had fallen behind by eight points. The game was slipping away.

And it was completely gone within the next minute. A missed 3-pointer led to a Jordan alley-oop. A turnover led to a Williams floater. A poor rotation led to a C.J. Williams 3-pointer.

The Magic trailed by 10 points and were struggling to recover. The team was staggered, the goodwill of their early 11-point lead gone. The frustration of an impending defeat was looming.

The Orlando Magic never made a fourth-quarter run in the 106-95 defeat to the LA Clippers at the Amway Center on Wednesday. The team gave way.

And, to some in the locker room, the team did not put the effort in they needed overall. The Magic gave the game away again in their estimation. At least, facing some extreme odds with Aaron Gordon, Terrence Ross, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Isaac and Arron Afflalo all out, the team did not give the game the attention it needed.

"“Being down a few guys, we have been down that road before,” Bismack Biyombo said. “For us, we’ve just got to play harder. I think that’s our problem right now. It’s not being shorthanded. We have enough players. We have talented players. We just have to play harder at every position. I don’t think at the end of the day we can lie to anyone but ourselves. We can look ourselves in the mirror and see the job we’re doing, if it’s right or wrong.”"

This similar theme and seeming warning came up throughout the locker room following the defeat. There was enough on the floor to get a win. Playing shorthanded is not an excuse.

It certainly was not in Atlanta where the team lost by seven points and had a lead with two minutes remaining Saturday in the team’s previous game. And it certainly was not against the Clippers. Despite a lull in the second quarter, the team had its chances to win on the home floor.

It came down to simple execution in many ways.

The Magic’s offense never arrived as the team posted a 92.9 offensive rating. Yet the game was tight. The Clippers merely took the Magic’s mistakes and turned them into opportunities. LA converted 12 Orlando turnovers into 20 points. It seemed each mistake got punished.

As it did in that tell-tale third-quarter stretch when the Magic’s energy seemed at its lowest for the game. When the game truly began to completely slip away.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Biyombo said there was no effort at this point of the game. The team allowed the Clippers to push the ball up the floor, even after makes, and score easy baskets. The Magic were late getting back on defense.

And simple things like that are extremely fixable and, especially with the injuries should be a given.

"“We didn’t play with enough energy throughout the game,” Nikola Vucevic said. “We started off pretty well. Then we just didn’t play with enough energy. There wasn’t much excitement. There wasn’t anything going. It was kind of flat out there. It felt like both teams did that for a while and at the end they picked it up a little bit and we didn’t respond.”"

Nikola Vucevic was at a loss to explain why this was the case. The Magic never could get a rhythm to get themselves going. Every big play was met with resistance. Nothing seemed to get the Magic out of their funk.

With all the guys out, this became more evident. Energy was the one necessary piece for the team to overcome their absences. Without that piece, the whole thing will ultimately fall apart.

It is clear from watching these games that against these opponents, the Magic can compete. It is their own poor execution and at times poor energy that has kept the team from winning since Aaron Gordon went out.

Yes, the team’s offense has struggled mightily in those game.s But they still gave themselves a chance to win.

It may take a big effort from some of their key guys, but it is more than possible.

"“We struggled,” Vogel said. “We have enough to score. We just need everybody to play at or near their best and we’ll be OK. Some guys had some good nights and some guys struggled. It was different portions of the game where guys struggled. You can’t do that when you are undermanned and expect to get a ‘W.'”"

At this point, to get out of this rut, the Magic are going to need that baseline effort. The effort they seemed to be missing Wednesday. With the injuries the team is facing, that is the only requirement.

That was the one thing that became a question mark throughout the game.

The Magic played with incredible effort and energy throughout the first quarter, digging out loose balls and creating deflections and steals. They stopped any lob attempt to Jordan at the rim and attacked the glass.

Orlando had the effort early. But it slowly dissipated. As shots stopped falling and mistakes grew, the Magic lost their edge. The Clippers broke down their defense and the floor gave way.

"“Nobody can ever judge somebody’s effort,” Biyombo said. “We have to be willing to go out there and play with effort. Obviously right now, it is not coming our way. But we have to put it out there in order to do what needs to be done.”"

The Magic are slowly becoming whole again. Gordon is likely back for Friday’s game. That will give the Magic some margin for error and a more normal rotation.

But that alone will not do it. They will still be down several key pieces. The Magic are not the team to sleepwalk into any game. They need a full and focused effort. And that must always be a given.

Next: Grades: LA Clippers 106, Orlando Magic 95

The team is admitting to itself that it has not been.