Orlando Magic’s first step is complete in return to play

The Orlando Magic had a successful first scrimmage that left plenty to build upon moving forward. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic had a successful first scrimmage that left plenty to build upon moving forward. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic completed their first step, playing a scrimmage against the LA Clippers. Now they look forward to building upon their first performance.

77. Final. 90. 38. 99

The first basket inside the NBA’s campus setting came at the foul line. Aaron Gordon came crashing down the lane and picked up a foul.

It would take a little while for the teams to combine for their first field goal. That came when Nikola Vucevic rolled through the lane and hit a short hook shot as the defense rotated back to him, drawing the foul in the process.


It was normal and yet it was not.

Nikola Vucevic stepped to the foul line and that is when he said the energy of the building, or lack thereof, got to him. What felt like a regular basketball game became eerily quiet.

Vucevic said that is when it really hit him that something was different. The building became silent as he stepped up to the free-throw line. That might have been the most jarring part.

Aaron Gordon agreed, saying he too noticed how quiet the building got at the foul line especially. Even elsewhere, he could hear everything, putting a premium on communication as teams try to round into form.

The NBA was off and running with its first scrimmage inside the Disney campus.

"“for me, it was just kind of to see where I’m at conditioning-wise, my rhythm,” Vucevic said after Wednesday’s game. “Just get a feel for my game and to go against somebody else. I felt pretty good actually conditioning-wise. My rhythm was better than I thought it would be.”"

As expected, parts of the game were rough and players looked a step off defensively throughout the game. Everyone was at different spots in their game. Both the Orlando Magic and the LA Clippers ebbed and flowed throughout the game.

The Clippers used an 11-0 push in the second quarter with both bench units in to take the lead. Paul George’s 3-pointer gave the Clippers a 10-point halftime lead that they held on to for the rest of the game in a 99-90 victory.

But the score did not matter. What mattered was getting back onto the court once again and beginning the process to find their rhythm.

This was just the next step in that process before the games count next Friday.

Finding their rhythm

Facing the frustration or the lull of that second-quarter downturn, the Orlando Magic came out firing in the third quarter.

They turned inside to their All-Star in Nikola Vucevic to lead the way. He scored seven of his team-high 18 points in the third quarter, adding 10 rebounds in addition. He did that with the same methodical play that paced him to an All-Star berth last year and had helped him recover that form through February and March.

It was something that just felt a bit more normal.

The Magic did a good job working the ball inside to Vucevic where he was able to get shots in the paint to go down. They then were able to feed him on the outside as the LA Clippers defense tried to collapse the paint more.

Orlando made at least one adjustment, solving the Clippers’ lockdown on the paint through the second quarter and finding shots on the outside. Orlando won the third quarter 28-22 and the second half 48-46.

Not that the score mattered. What mattered was getting that toe in the water and showing improvement as the game went on. Something the Magic likely can claim.

"“Overall, I thought we did OK,” Michael Carter-Williams said after Wednesday’s game. “We did some good things out there. We have to clean some things up obviously. We made adjustments at the half that coach wanted us to do offensively and defensively. It was good that we were able to adapt.”"

Aaron Gordon too seemed to have a spring in his step. He scored 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting to go with seven rebounds, pulling out a solid crossover step-back to freeze Kawhi Leonard at one point in the first half. He was solid working the ball int he mid-post just like he was before the league went on hiatus.

He found several cutters and shooters on assists as the defense reacted to him. The Magic’s offense had a lot of moments where it flowed well and the ball moved in and out of the paint.


It was at least one respect where the Magic looked a bit normal.

Still a long way to go

There is still a long way for the team to go. And even the players who played well in Wednesday’s scrimmage would admit to that.

The team’s defense needed to be tied together more. And the Orlando Magic had that long stretch in the second quarter where they forced a lot of shots in the paint and on the perimeter without moving the ball.

Coach Steve Clifford said players’ conditioning level was a person-by-person thing. Some players were clearly ready to handle more minutes while others were still working their way back into game shape.

Evan Fournier missed all of his five shots and struggled on both ends of the floor to find his rhythm.

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And, at the end of the day, the Clippers were able to lean on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who both looked pretty in rhythm, to outscore the Magic’s starters. The team still has its weaknesses.

But the important part of Wednesday’s game was to find something to build upon. There was enough good and the bad was all things the Magic can continue to work on.

"“This is a game that is a lot about rhythm,” Gordon said after Wednesday’s game. “It’s a game that I love to play. It’s a game that I have come close to mastering. I’m just going out there and flowing, being in the moment and attempting to make every moment a masterpiece. It just puts me in that mindset. Mind equals matter and some of the shots dropped.”"

Orlando was still able to score 90 points in a 40-minute game, after all. The team found plenty of offensive rhythm even with plenty more to build for.

The Magic certainly want to get their defense more tied in. Their lack of chemistry and conditioning was seen most on that end where players were diving into the lane too much and with late rotations. They were even caught a bit flat-footed at times going after rebounds.

To be sure, this was not a regular-season-worthy performance. The Magic still have a lot of work to do to clean up to get to that point.

"“We definitely need to use this week to tweak things and get into better rhythm on both ends,” Vucevic said after Wednesday’s game. “I was happy with how I felt out there. I thought I played a solid game as well. It’s always good to start well and get a positive feeling going forward.”"

Next. Orlando Magic will get status check in first scrimmage. dark

The Magic took their first step. They got that eager part out of the way and have taken the floor against someone else. They will now get back to work to get ready for the next scrimmage, hoping to get better and build upon things.