Orlando Magic lacking fight, and everyone knows it

The Orlando Magic's Bismack Biyombo (11) guards the Chicago Bulls' Justin Holiday (7) while he passes the ball to teammate Robin Lopez (42) during the second half at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. The Bulls won, 112-94. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic's Bismack Biyombo (11) guards the Chicago Bulls' Justin Holiday (7) while he passes the ball to teammate Robin Lopez (42) during the second half at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. The Bulls won, 112-94. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic came out lifeless against the Chicago Bulls, leaving everyone wondering where is the team’s fight. A recurring problem for this team.

38. Final. 112. 24. 94

The theme surrounding every question and every response asked of coach Frank Vogel after the Orlando Magic’s 112-94 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday centered around the same theme. The Bulls outplayed the Magic in nearly every way, opening up as much as a 30-point lead. Orlando was beaten through and through.

Former Magic coach and FOX Sports Florid analyst Brian Hill opened the postgame show saying he did not see enough fight on either side of the ball from the Magic. A pretty damning statement that came from the team’s own telecast.

When asked to assess the game afterward, Vogel said the team has to play above its station right now to compete. With all the injuries the team is facing that much is true.

And so it must be frustrating for him to say the next phrase he said. That his team did not compete well enough on the defensive end.

The team had given itself up before the game had seemingly begun.

Time and again, this lack of fight — or whatever you want to call it — showed up. Orlando fell behind 12-0 right off the bat, unable to stop anyone even as their own shots failed to go down. The Magic got back into the game and gave up six unanswered to end the first quarter, to trail by seven. At the end of the second quarter too, Orlando gave up five unanswered to turn a manageable six-point deficit into a bigger 11-point deficit.

Then the Bulls just opened the floodgate. The Magic provided no resistance to it. Chicago ran past Orlando quickly in the third quarter and made it a 30-point lead. Most of the second half felt like a formality. There was no run to come.

The Magic have no excuse for these consistently lifeless efforts. Just a week ago, Orlando Magic players openly questioned their own effort after a loss to the LA Clippers. Yet, the team continues to fall into these traps and repeat the same mistakes.

It speaks to something much deeper in the team. An intangible aspect of the team or something that is missing. It is something that has continued on from last year too. This lack of fight was a characteristic of this team as they faced blowout loss after blowout loss.

It is a stark contrast from other young teams trying to make their way up in the NBA.

Take the Los Angeles Lakers. On this same night, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Houston Rockets. That came a few days after the Los Angeles Lakers took the Golden State Warriors to overtime. They fought hard in those games. And that energy has been consistent for the team even without the talent to win these games.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The Lakers play that underdog role and give themselves a chance for special nights. When as the last time the Magic had a real special night like that? A night where they played with supreme energy to play above their station?

And knowing full well that they are undermanned, why are the Magic not playing this way now?

Since Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon went out with an injury, the Orlando Magic have fallen behind big early in Atlanta to the Atlanta Hawks, they questioned their own effort against the LA Clippers and they fell behind big early to the Detroit Pistons. The early deficit to the Bulls was merely the continuation of a pattern. The team, down on talent, is not playing with a high enough energy to overcome their shortcomings.

No one is expecting the Magic to win every game down so many players. Without their top two scorers, the Magic’s offense has gone in the tank. Orlando does not have the shooters to space the floor properly. There are going to be hiccups, long lulls and losses. That is inevitable when the talent gap is so big.

But the one thing that should not happen is for the team’s effort to be down. Especially early in the game. That is the team’s chance to establish itself and give itself the chance to win the game. It is their chance to set the tempo for the game. Instead, Orlando has the tempo dictated to it.

You cannot win a game in the first quarter, but you can certainly lose it.

Consistently right now, Orlando is digging itself too deep a hole. The Magic are finding that energy far too late. If they find it at all.

Orlando never found the energy against Chicago. Before the game, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel wrote the Magic could learn a lesson from the Bulls. Despite a 3-20 start to the season, the Bulls have not given up on their season. They attacked with aggression and moved the ball confidently. This was a team working together to be better than their individual parts.

They played with the energy and fight an undermanned team needs.

The Magic decidedly do not. Even with their efforts to move the ball, far too many possessions left them trying to force things. And their defense was unable to be the backbone the team needed. The hole just got bigger and bigger.

On defense is where fight and determination are seen most. It is easy to give in or wait for help on defense. It takes effort to play good defense. Even when a player makes a mistake, there is still the opportunity to recover or help your helper. That is the part the Magic do not do consistently.

That is the fight that is missing.

Vogel said on several occasions the past week, Orlando was close. They were unable to put together a good offensive game and a good defensive game together. They would have one without the other. Or they would have one except for a small stretch and that was not enough.

Orlando’s margin of error is too small for efforts like Wednesday night. The one thing the Magic have to accomplish every night is to have the fight and effort. They cannot let teams beat them up.

Next: Grades: Chicago Bulls 112, Orlando Magic 94

But that is what is happening time and time again. And everyone knows it continues to happen.