Orlando Magic get a reset before the rush to the All-Star Break

Nikola Vucevic and the Orlando Magic were happy to get a reset to their batteries as they enter an important part of the season. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nikola Vucevic and the Orlando Magic were happy to get a reset to their batteries as they enter an important part of the season. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic got a nice reset to recover from a difficult January as they begin a rush to the All-Star Break that changed their season last year.

The tape never lies. No matter who is playing and no matter what the Orlando Magic, do they will always reveal themselves to their coach and to the world on the tape.

Even coach Steve Clifford knows this. He relies on it.

He may have an initial gut reaction to a game. And sometimes that gut reaction will lead to an impassioned plea to the media or a scathing rebuke. But the real answers lie in the tape.

Clifford said after each game he will jot down a few reactions and notes on an index card, noting things he wants to watch closer on tape. Sometimes the re-watch will confirm some of his suspicions. Sometimes something else will be behind what went wrong — or right — the previous outing.

The tape does not lie.

The one thing the tape certainly showed after the Orlando Magic’s frustrating defeat to the Miami Heat was a team that did not play with attention to detail and precision. It showed a team that has continued a downward slide defensively.

The things that raised Clifford’s ire were certainly present. But more than anything, it showed a team that needed to reset itself and get back to focus.

"“I think we needed a break, to be honest with you,” Clifford said after Thursday’s practice. “In my time, that was one of the more difficult stretches. The six games on the road and then to come right back and obviously we played four really good teams. You can look at it any way. We’ve been really good at not fouling this year and last year, and I don’t think it will continue.”"

Four days between games and a couple of practice will certainly suffice for that.

The Magic just completed a stretch where they played 18 games in 32 days (going 8-10 in that stretch) and 10 games in 18 days (going 3-7 in that stretch). It has been an exhausting journey that has taken the team to the West Coast, seen them deal with injuries to several key players once again and play extremely difficult opponents in the process.

When the schedule came out the team knew this part of the schedule would be difficult and it was going to be a lot about survival.

Now the Magic have had some time to rest, review film, tweak some things and get back to work. Because the next month of the season could very well determine where they ultimately sit in the playoff picture.

It has been a long time since the Magic have had some time to rest, recover, review film and fine-tune their attack. They have not had consecutive days at home without a game since Christmas. And with Christmas in the way, the Magic did not have much time spend on practice for the holiday.

That is needed for a team still trying to learn on the fly and adjust to massive injuries throughout the roster at seemingly every position.

A chance to rest and reset the battery is necessary for the team. The fatigue the team was feeling definitely seemed real — the injuries only adding to it.

A few days off could go a long way.

"“I thought it was really good for us to work on some of our basic stuff and get back to what we do well and work on the details,” Nikola Vucevic said after practice Thursday. “It was a tough stretch for us lately. We didn’t have much practice time. For us, we’re the kind of team that needs that. We have a lot of young guys and even us veterans we need it to get back to do the little things that we’re really good at.”"

If there is a feeling of finally coming out of the darkness with this little breather, it might also because it was at this time in the calendar last year that Orlando started making its push for the playoffs.

Teams have started to separate themselves in the standings. But this is the stretch where teams set themselves up for the rest of the season. Especially as the tension and pressure of the trade deadline goes away.

Teams can lock in for the rest of the season.

That is where their run started last year.

The team finished 22-9 starting Jan. 31 last year to turn a 20-32 record into a 42-40 record and a playoff berth. The Magic played their way into the postseason.

It started right before the All-Star Break too.

Last year, the Magic went 6-1 in February heading into the All-Star Break. That stretch included wins over the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks (without Giannis Antetokounmpo). There were not a lot of playoff teams there, but the Magic took care of their business.

That gave them momentum and confidence for the rest of the season. It carried over into the rest of the season.

This year’s run to the All-Star Break is not so easy but sets up similarly.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The only playoff teams the Magic play in the seven games leading up to the All-Star Break are the Miami Heat (Saturday), Boston Celtics (Wednesday, now on ESPN) and Milwaukee Bucks (one week from Saturday). The team plays four of these seven games at the Amway Center.

Orlando may not need to go 6-1 like it did last year to start making up ground. But the Magic certainly could build some momentum and get their ship steady again.

These next two weeks very well might determine the direction the rest of the season goes and how much the team will have to fight down the stretch.

"“It’s hard to compare different years,” Nikola Vucevic said after practice Thursday. “But I think the period right before All-Star Break, it’s a good time to get something going and going into the break feeling positively. I think we did that last year and it helped us tremendously. That stretch right before the break really gave us hope and made us feel better about the rest of the year.”"

That started with Thursday’s practice.

For sure, the Magic have to get their defense back under control to have any success. Orlando still ranks in the top-10 defensively by defensive rating, but the last four games have been among the worst defensive efforts of the season.

The team is going nowhere if the team does not defend at a high level. That is a big part of things for this team. As Vucevic said, the Magic have to get back to the details that mark their play at their best.

And that is the work the team needs to put in right now and re-establish.

"“To me, it’s how much progress can you make in this week and a half,” Clifford said after practice on Thursday. “It’s always about playing better. I think that people want to talk about all these things. Simply put, that’s the Van Gundy way. It’s all about execution and purpose of play and attention to detail. That’s what our league is.”"

That got lost in the rush of games they just played and the lack of practice time they had to fine-tune things. At one point during the stretch, Clifford said that some of the team’s defensive slippage was simply a matter of needing to get more reps.

Orlando hopes it will be ready when Miami comes to town Saturday to start this closing stretch to the All-Star Break.

Next. Aaron Gordon should skip the Dunk Contest. dark

The Magic hope they have truly reset their battery to make it to the end. Just like they did last year.