Can the Orlando Magic keep up the intensity?
The Orlando Magic are far from the team Steve Clifford wants them to be. Through the first quarter of the season, the team ranked 24th in the league in offensive rating (105.7 points per 100 possessions) and 17th in defensive rating (108.9 points allowed per 100 possessions).
Coach Steve Clifford often said before the season — and during it — the team’s goal was to have a top-10 defense and a top half offense. They have not achieved either. So it would suggest the Magic have a whole lot more work to do.
If there is good news, it is how the team played after that rough six-game run. From Nov. 3 until Nov. 26 (13 games), the Magic were 11th in offensive rating (109.9 points per 100 possessions) and 13th in defensive rating (107.5 points allowed per 100 possessions).
That is getting closer to where the Magic need to be. But is not quite all the way there.
The biggest takeaway of this Magic team through the first quarter of the season was just how small the team’s margin for error really was. Any lapse in attention or focus can lead to some negative results.
The Magic are still walking a fine line. And it is still hard to see the team playing with the same intense level of focus. The Magic have yet to put together a true 48-minute game.
So far, at least, that has been fine for a .500 record. The Magic are able to bounce back and get themselves into close games. They give themselves a chance to win. That is a positive step.
But it is hard to keep the strong level that seems necessary for the Magic to win for long. And especially in the course of an 82-game season.
And the biggest question remains for this Magic team: How do they respond to a losing streak? Will they be able to pick themselves up off the mat and recover to limit those streaks and find wins again.
So far, this team has been able to do so. They are much more resilient than previous iterations of this group. But we thought that about the 2016 team… and the 2018 team early on. That proved to be untrue.