Offensive consistency will be key for Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic have at times looked sharp offensively in their scrimmages. But they need to continue to execute and, most importantly, make shots. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic have at times looked sharp offensively in their scrimmages. But they need to continue to execute and, most importantly, make shots. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic have shown the ability to make shots in these games but are going to find a way to execute their offense consistently.

With the first two scrimmage games in the bubble complete, it is clear the Orlando Magic still struggle to find consistency on the offensive end.

While there was the expectation offenses were going to struggle, the way the Magic struggle is a little different. The team is still scoring points, but they are struggling to hit open shots and have gone through long stretches with an inefficient offense.

The kind that left the Magic withering and struggling at the beginning of the season, not the fast-paced ball movement that vaulted the team to the best offense in the league after the All-Star Break.

With only one scrimmage game remaining, the question of whether or not the Magic will be able to find any form of consistent offense needs to be answered.

With four months off, most people expected there to be a sloppiness to the play in the scrimmages. More specifically, most teams were expected to need time to get their timing down to execute their offense and their rhythm to hit shots.

The Magic have been able to execute their offense, but have not been able to make open shots.

In the first game against the LA Clippers, there was optimism because there was a group of players who seemed to be in rhythm.

Aaron Gordon (55.6-percent shooting), Nikola Vucevic (61.5-percent shooting), and Michael Carter-Williams (54.5-percent shooting) played very well in the first scrimmage.

For the rest of the team, it was only the first scrimmage game, and the offense flowed well. There was optimism that Orlando was going to be able to build off this game. Outside of a stretch in the second quarter when the Clippers took hold of the game, the Magic were successful offensively.

Orlando scored 90 points in the 40-minute game. But the team shot only 42.1-percent from the floor and 5 for 28 (17.9 percent) on threes. It was hardly a standout offensive game.

It was a preview for Saturday’s scrimmage, where the Magic struggled to show the same progress offensively.

In the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Orlando Magic shot 11 for 50 (22.0 percent) and 2 for 22 from beyond the arc (9.1 percent).

Coach Steve Clifford said after practice Sunday that he was generally happy with the team’s ball movement early, but the team missed shots it will have to make when the games count. Then frustration set in and the team struggled to get the kind of ball movement necessary to move the offense.

Outside of the team’s ability to get to the foul line, it was a disastrous quarter of basketball.

Luckily, Orlando adjusted.

The Magic were not able to make shots early but came out in the third quarter on fire. They came out like a different team and made 15 of their first 25 shots and three of their first eight threes during that stretch.

It was enough to lift the team back into the game, briefly taking the lead in the fourth quarter with at least a few of the starters still playing. The Magic scored 65 points in the second half Saturday and shot 23 of 49 (46.9 percent) in the second half.

Despite that second half, the Magic stil only shot 34 percent from the field and once again could not hit from outside, making only 7 of 39 3-pointers.

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The majority of the team struggled with the exception of D.J. Augustin and Mohamed Bamba who shot 85.7 percent and 66.7 percent from the field respectively.

Perhaps this had some to do with the Lakers’ swarming defense early. Or perhaps it had something to do with five straight days of practices and activities, including a hard practice Friday night before the noon tip-off.

Either way, it was not the ideal visual for a team preparing to play regular-season-level games in six days.

Orlando is still putting all the pieces together as it tries to prepare for the beginning of the season. Soon the Magic will have to integrate Markelle Fultz back into the fold as a starter. And Jonathan Isaac’s impending return will also force some adjustments as players throughout the roster get back into rhythm.

But either way, the Magic are going to have find a way to make shots to succeed.

That has been a problem for this team the past several years. The Magic have shown the ability to get open shots in these games but are going to find a way to execute their offense consistently. And from there they have to do the simplest act and make those shots when they get them.

If they are going to continue struggling to shoot, they have to continue attacking and not give in to frustration. Orlando already does a good job protecting the ball — 17 total turnovers in the two scrimmages. And the team has done a good job getting to the foul line — 26 free throws against the Clippers and 44 against the Lakers.

The Magic have to stick with their gameplan and bide their time until their rhythm and pace return.

The Orlando Magic are going to have to use their final scrimmage against the Denver Nuggets on Monday to tune their offense and try to find a way to get themselves into a rhythm before the opening game against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.

With the seventh seed on the line, Orlando cannot afford to shoot themselves out of games, or it is going to cost them in the long run.

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The Magic were on a tear before the season was paused. Although no one can expect them to reach that level of play, Orlando is going to have to find a version of themselves that resembles that offensive flow if they want to achieve any sort of success in the bubble.