Orlando Magic have to build fast as final scrimmage nears

The Orlando Magic struggled again to get their offense moving again consistently in a scrimmage loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic struggled again to get their offense moving again consistently in a scrimmage loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic still have some major issues to resolve and only more scrimmage to resolve it. They have to start building fast as time runs out.

112. 38. Final. 119. 20

The Orlando Magic know they do not have a lot of time. On Friday the games begin to count. The team has to play every game like it matters and their playoff lives are on the line. The reality is they are — especially that first game against the Brooklyn Nets.

It is also true the Magic, just as the other teams in the league, are trying to work themselves back into shape and game-level conditioning. That is a process that does not seem to have a clear-cut timeline. Everyone is moving at their own pace.

But time marches on and the important moment is coming.

There is one truth the Magic understand more than any other — they have to bounce back quickly.

The last thing this Orlando team needs is to get comfortable with losing games, no matter who the opponent is or what their future aspirations may be.

The Magic are focused on themselves and they know they have a long way to go. And not a lot of time to get ready, even under the circumstances.

"“This is not your normal preseason where we have 82 games ahead of us,” D.J. Augustin said after Saturday’s game. “We have eight really important games coming up. We don’t have much time for error. We have to get on it and get focused really quick.”"

The Magic certainly looked like they had a long way to go in the first half, putting up an icy 11-for-50 shooting from the floor. That only made the task harder going up against the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers, even after Anthony Davis left in the first half after getting poked in the eye.

The Magic hung as tough as they could by getting to the foul line. But that was nowhere near enough in a 119-112 loss on Saturday afternoon.

LeBron James looked unstoppable, scoring 20 points to go with seven assists in limited minutes. Anthony Davis too had nine points and 10 rebounds in just nine minutes of play before leaving.

There may have been no stopping James when he is determined to get to the basket. Orlando’s defense struggled early on, spotting the Lakers a 19-point lead in the first half as the team kept missing shot after shot and struggled to handle the Lakers’ trapping scheme.

James’ first dunk off of the left side cut to the basket took the fight out of the Magic from the tip off. The team had no answer for his greatness.

There was no standing up to him, not with the defensive effort he was giving. And it seemed to knock the Magic completely off balance.

Like a grown man playing against boys out there on the court against a Magic team still struggling to find how to win games at this stage of the league’s return.

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"“We have to find a way to do it. We do know when we take our time with executing our stuff and not take any shortcuts, we did pretty well in these first two games,” Nikola Vucevic said after Saturday’s game. “Hopefully we can get to that because it’s very important for us to be good on that end.”"

Vucevic said the Magic still have to get everyone on the same page on both ends after the four-month layoff. While the team showed some great ball movement after settling down after the poor first quarter and a half, there was still a lot of inconsistency.

The team still has to get a lot of the details down.

Especially to start the game.

The team missed an inordinate amount of open shots. The Magic have continued to struggle from deep, making only 7 of 39 3-pointers in Saturday’s scrimmage. And the Lakers pounced on that as the Magic struggled not only to hit shots but keep the Lakers from attacking the paint.

Orlando knows how good it can be. The Magic have shown they can compete against the top teams in the NBA but have failed to prove that they can win consistently.

Despite that poor shooting in the first half, the Magic starters came out in the third quarter and made 11 of their first 15 shots and cut into the deficit, helping the team take a brief lead early in the fourth quarter.

Now they find themselves in a predicament where they must find a way to bounce back from the two losses from the title-contending teams out West and continue to build confidence and rhythm along the way.

The Magic can build off of these losses by focusing more on the defensive side of the basketball and making the extra pass on key possessions.

Coach Steve Clifford added the team is still getting down the finer details of its defensive scheme again. His focus in practice time has been getting them to play so he can try to see the team build some rhythm and conditioning once again.

But a loss is a loss in this NBA. And while scrimmage results are not going to weigh on the team as much. These games ultimately do not count.

These were not bad losses to bad teams too. That is something the Magic cannot afford to do at this point. The Magic lost to two teams that most journalists and pundits have winning the 2020 NBA Championship.

That being said the Magic had a rare opportunity to measure itself against teams with championship aspirations combined with superstar players in Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James.

Those teams came in a bit more focused and sharper than the Magic. Orlando faced one stretch of trouble and seemed unable to recover fully. Some of that is certainly a team knocking off the rust and key players for both the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers seemed more in rhythm.

"“The more games we play, the more guys will get into rhythm,” Augustin said after Saturday’s game. “Just playing hard and just letting the game come to us. That’s all we did tonight. We played against a championship team. There are things we can work on in practice tomorrow to get better.”"

The Magic need to be more focused from the jump as they try to find their rhythm. They need to show they can keep bouncing back and be ready.

They cannot harp over these losses. There simply is not time.

And there is not as much time to wait either.