Rebounding, transition the secret to Orlando Magic’s early success

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Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic has carried over his play from the bubble, putting up All-Star numbers to lead the Magic to a fast start. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic have gotten off to a strong start, largely due to a strategy that has bolstered their play on both sides of the ball.

The Orlando Magic started the 2021 season strong, winning their first four games, including an opening night nail-biter against the defending conference champion Miami Heat. While their other wins against the Washington Wizards (twice), Oklahoma City Thunder, and Cleveland Cavaliers (twice) do not jump off the page, they are necessary if the Orlando Magic want to return to the postseason.

To be successful in the NBA, you have to take care of your winnable games and split matchups against opponents that are as good or better than you. That is the recipe for regular-season success.

The Magic have had two less-than-playoff-caliber performances in their 10 games – on New Year’s Eve against the Philadelphia 76ers and in Houston against James Harden and the Houston Rockets, their first game following the loss of Markelle Fultz.

Even in their other two losses against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks, they showed mettle, particularly on the defensive side of the floor. Much of their struggles have come scoring the basketball, their percentages inside and outside the arc dropping 10 percentage points in losses.

And in their victories, they have leaned into one of their biggest strengths, so subtle that it can be hard to notice live: above-average offensive rebounding paired with minimal transition opportunities for their opponent.

Balancing both, at the highest levels of basketball, is a testament to Steve Clifford’s ability to strategize a gameplan and his team’s ability to implement it.

This gambit, particularly for the worst shooting team in the league thus far, has manufactured wins. And now with Fultz out, being able to manufacture points off the offensive glass while preventing easy baskets in transition back at them will be vital.

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