Jonathan Isaac’s injury decreases the Orlando Magic’s margin for error

The Orlando Magic faced tons of adversity in Washington, D.C. as Jonathan Isaac went down with a knee injury early in the game. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic faced tons of adversity in Washington, D.C. as Jonathan Isaac went down with a knee injury early in the game. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

As injuries continue to pile up for the Orlando Magic, they must continue to focus on the detail as their margin for error continues to become smaller.

With a slow and disappointing start to this NBA season, the Orlando Magic sit in the eighth spot of the Eastern Conference with a 16-20 record, just one game behind the Brooklyn Nets for seventh and two games ahead of the Charlotte Hornets for that final playoff spot.

The franchise and fan base have a hit a point of no moral victories. This may not be where fans imagined they would be nearing the midpoint of the season. But it would be wrong to say that there have been no bright spots although there have not been many.

Jonathan Isaac has been the biggest bright spot for the Magic so far this season by leading this team on the defensive end. He has been able to lead the team in blocks and steals by averaging 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals. He was well on his way to being on an All-Defensive team and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

Even offensively, Jonathan Isaac was averaging a career-best 12.0 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game. He was shooting a career-best 50.9-percent effective field goal percentage.

It was truly a career year and everyone seemed excited for what Isaac could still grow into as the season went on.

But early in the Orlando Magic’s 122-101 victory over the Washington Wizards, Isaac hyperextended left knee and will be re-evaluated in 8-10 weeks. Isaac will not get evaluated again until late February. There is certainly a possibility Isaac could be done for the season. The Magic will map out his recovery first.

Isaac’s injury is bad, no doubt. The team will be without one of their best players.

But his absence in this moment is made worse because of all the other injuries the team is facing. Michael Carter-Williams is out with an AC joint sprain in his left shoulder. Al-Farouq Aminu suffered a setback in his recovery from a torn right meniscus. Pair that with Aaron Gordon‘s continued recovery from ankle soreness, and the Magic are suddenly thin it seems everywhere.

As injuries continue to pile up for the Magic, they must continue to focus on the detail as their margin for error continues to become smaller.

The Magic will miss Isaac on both ends of the floor. But there will be a greater void on the defensive end of the floor. He creates a margin for error for other players to play more aggressively on that end and make mistakes.

Then more often than not, Isaac would be able to make up for those mistakes by being in the passing lanes and getting blocks from behind.

Coach Steve Clifford admitted after the Orlando Magic’s 109-96 loss to the Utah Jazz that players are still learning their coverages and how to play high-level defense without that Jonathan Isaac security blanket.

They figured it out to defeat the Miami Heat 105-85 on Friday, holding the Heat to six points in the fourth quarter. Against the Jazz, several breakdowns early in the fourth quarter cost the team the game, turning a one-point deficit into an 11-point one fairly quickly behind a barrage of Jazz 3-pointers.

Now the Magic have to play more disciplined and have to focus on the details because this is still not an excuse for the Magic to completely fall out, the Magic still have the talent to compete and win games.

Players are now going have to step up again, but this time the eyes will be on Aaron Gordon as other players including Jonathan Isaac stepped up when he was out with his injury. Gordon has had a slow start to this season, but this period without Isaac will be his chance to step up and remind people how important he is to this Magic team.

As a team, it will take everyone stepping up too. Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross will have to be more efficient offensively. Gordon will have to lock in more defensively. Nikola Vucevic will have to be sharper in his defensive coverages. Players like Khem Birch and Wesley Iwundu will have to step up with more minutes available.

And everyone will have to be sharper defensively. They will have to be more tied together and willing and able to give second and third efforts to limit opponents.

The Magic have to be ready to play without their defensive anchor.

There will be struggles at times, but that does not mean that it should be an excuse to start dropping games at an alarming rate. The Magic still have enough talent to compete with teams and have to continue to have a sense of composure as they did against the Wizards and Heat.

The biggest takeaway from this injury was the margin for error Isaac created with his elite defensive skill is gone.

But Orlando must maintain composure and take it one game at a time. The Magic can maintain themselves in the standings as they did when Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic were out.

Next. Orlando Magic's defense nearing a breakthrough. dark

The Magic will be tested and this stretch will show how good their defense is.