Amid the highlights, Orlando Magic getting more organized

The Orlando Magic's Nikola Vucevic (9) and Aaron Gordon (00) stop Flamengo's Anderson Varejao, middle, during an exhibition game on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. Flamengo is a professional team from Brazil. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic's Nikola Vucevic (9) and Aaron Gordon (00) stop Flamengo's Anderson Varejao, middle, during an exhibition game on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. Flamengo is a professional team from Brazil. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic are coming together slowly as the preseason prepares to ratchet up in intensity. The team did the little things to power a blowout win.

If Orlando Magic fans wanted to point to a highlight from Friday’s 119-82 romp over Flamengo, they could find plenty.

Aaron Gordon had a few himself, grabbing an early rebound and whooshing past the retreating defense for an acrobatic layup. Or the two-handed alley-oop jam he leveled on the defense in transition. All part of his 29-point effort during the exhibition game.

Mohamed Bamba added a few more. In one instance he took a dribble handoff from Nikola Vucevic, put a crossover on his man and went limberly to the basket for a layup. Or there was the one-handed putback jam he skied for with his massive 7-foot-10 wingspan. And just pick any four of his blocks.

There was a lot to look at that could get the Amway Center crowd excited and hopeful about the upcoming season. It would be easy to race to conclusions and start buying stock in the Magic after this one. It was, of course, just a game against Flamengo.

But something important is underlying those highlights. Something that is vital to the team’s development. Something the Magic actually can take away from an otherwise meaningless exhibition against a non-NBA team.

Slowly but surely, the Magic are getting more organized and more comfortable in Steve Clifford’s system. They are getting the little details down and taking steps in the right direction. As Clifford puts it often, the team is looking more organized.

As one of the key goals for the game, the Magic seemed to pass with flying colors.

"“We were much more organized tonight on both ends of the floor,” Clifford said. “It’s a different level. It’s not the Sixers and all that. But we were more organized in practice the last two days and there was carry over tonight, which is what we are looking for.”"

That is, of course, what is supposed to happen. The team is supposed to understand and grasp the concepts more and more as training camp goes on. The general progress the team is seeing is the biggest positive sign to take away but one that is generally expected.

Clifford again highlighted the team’s high assist total — 28 assists on 44 field goal makes — as a sign of the team’s unselfish play. That is a tangible sign of the team’s understanding of the offense and where they and everyone else is supposed to be.

This term of being “organized” that Clifford has thrown around so often in camp can have several meanings.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

To the players, like Evan Fournier, it seems specifically to mean being in the right place and running through the plays and rotations with the same intensity on every play. It is a statement about consistency as much as it is about execution.

"“It means that every possession is very important,” Evan Fournier said. “You can’t take any possession off. When you have one coverage in the pick and roll, it should be the same every single time. There should not be any possession where you switch things up or do things your own way. It has to be the same approach every time. That has really been the focus under Coach Cliff.”"

That was evident throughout the game as the team scrambled and switched effectively most of the night. One guy got beat, the next guy stepped up and the team filled in around until he recovered. The team seemed on a string defensively and it showed in how difficult it was for Flamengo to execute most of the night.

Flamengo shot just 31 percent for the game. Their best offense was getting to the foul line, which was still a problem for the Magic but not as pronounced as it was in the preseason opener Monday.

There were still coverage breakdowns and open shots the team gave up. Flamengo got its share of offensive rebounds — although hardly the same amoung the Philadelphia 76ers did Monday. There will be plenty to tweak and improve upon for the next game.

But even considering the opponent, there was a clear difference in how the Magic looked in Monday’s preseason opener and how the Magic looked in Friday’s second game.

"“We got better definitely,” Fournier said. “As a new team with a new coaching staff and new players, every day is important to build habits. We had three good days. Even though it was not a NBA team in front of us, I thought we did the right thing pretty much every time on the floor. The intensity was there and the focus was there. It was a good day for us.”"

The final week of the preseason will provide a firmer test. There are obviously three more NBA teams on the schedule and games coming in rapid succession. There will now be little time to pause in practice and work on corrections. The team will have to implement its fixes much faster now.

And then the regular season begins a week from Wednesday.

Taking this step and showing this kind of organization was critical to the team’s ultimate success and ultimate goals heading into that big day.

All the big highlights the team made and the ease with which the Magic won are based on these simple underpinnings of knowing where to be and working together. If anything, even when the opponent gets better, Friday’s win was a formula for how the Magic can win.

"“We took a step forward this week,” Nikola Vucevic said. “We had a couple of good practices. We looked better tonight. We executed well on both ends of the floor. I know it was not a NBA opponent, but I thought we did what we were supposed to do. Like we said earlier, the goal is to get better each day, each week, improve on the stuff that we need to. I thought we did that. We have to keep building. Obviously, we’re still far away from where we want to get.”"

Like after the weeklong of practices. The next step is to do it again.

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Because getting organized and finding success in the preseason is not about doing the right things once. It is about doing them over and over again. Play by play. And game by game.