Principles remain the same
The Orlando Magic’s principles still remain the same and that will be important to the team’s efforts by Wednesday.
The Magic want to limit their own turnovers to prevent transition opportunities. They want to control the defensive glass, preventing second-chance opportunities. And throughout his head coaching career, Clifford’s teams have done well to limit 3-point attempts — the team slipped their last year too, giving up the 12th-fewest 3-point attempts per game in the league.
Evan Fournier said he hopes that the Magic’s final preseason game will be a dress rehearsal for the regular season, noting the Magic need to play their brand of defense.
Orlando is running out of time to put all the pieces together and look like a team that is ready for the regular season. If that is truly the team’s goal for Saturday’s game, then they need to show those visible steps before Wednesday.
It probably will not be perfect — Clifford is clearly still installing some aspects of the team’s defense and willing to experiment some during these preseason games. But one thing that should not ever be in question is the team’s effort and intensity, even in making mistakes.
"“I think so much of training camp and preseason is finding your intensity and finding your purpose of play,” Clifford said after Thursday’s game. “[Thursday] was mostly individual help and pick and rolls. There is just so much separation out there. Those are things we have spent a lot of time on so they can be corrected quickly. I think that’s for every team.”"
And in the final preseason game, the Magic have to make good on that.
This team can be a good defensive team. They certainly can be a better defensive team than they have shown to this point. And the goal of being a top-10 defense is almost a requirement for the team to make the playoffs.
So far this preseason, it feels like the intensity on that end has not ratcheted up enough. and the question coming out of the preseason now is whether the Magic can truly flip the switch and hit a regular season gear.
They have to find their defensive intensity because that is central to the team’s chances of winning this season. They have to take pride in it. And yes, they have to have a bit of an ego and confidence about it to succeed.