The Orlando Magic were gifted a day off after Wednesday’s postponement. The team is hoping that it will refresh them and allow them time to get organized.
Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford closed the court at the AdventHealth Practice Facility on Wednesday. Outside of players going through rehab who needed the on-court work, he did not want his players hitting the court.
The Orlando Magic got a momentary breath thanks to Wednesday’s game against the Boston Celtics getting postponed as several Celtics go through the league’s health and safety protocols and Clifford did not want to push his guys too much.
If players came in, they were getting treatment and taking a break from the mental grind of this pandemic season.
The hope is that the time away will allow players to get refreshed physically and mentally for the grind that is still ahead.
The team needed a day off badly.
"“There are definitely more factors when you are playing a schedule like this besides the pandemic, the mental side of things, how we’re all just living and then the condensed schedule,” Clifford said after practice Thursday. “Everyone is playing it, nobody has an advantage. This is different than anything I have been through. how guys rehab, how guys sleep and how guys eat are always an important part of the league. But it is even more critical now.”"
Clifford said the team looked fresher in practice than they have in a while. He was happy with the team’s energy, although he said they still did not do much contact and anything new installed was done in a walkthrough.
There was still a ton of work to do, of course. And no practice time can get wasted.
The Magic are struggling since Markelle Fultz’s injury. In the week since that game, the Magic have dropped all three games and have struggled to stay connected to the lead. Their offense is scoring less than a point per possession and their defense has given up a ton of 3-pointers.
Orlando has had to shift roles and playing groups. And so Thursday proved to be a time for the Magic to get playing groups together and go over some of the details the team has not had the time to work on because of the compressed nature of the schedule.
Clifford said the biggest thing ailing the team aside from the injuries is the lack of organization. The team has not been in sync offensively or defensively. And a lot of that has simply been from the team not having enough time to practice and prepare for those situations.
This was precious time to review things the team has seen that it has not had the time work on before.
"“To me, when I watch it, the film tells you everything. One thing we’re not is we’re not super organized right now,” Clifford said after practice Thursday. “When you look at and evaluate your team, execution starts with simple organization. Then when I look at how much we’ve practiced and what we’ve worked on, it’s like anything. Most of the things we’re not doing well, we haven’t practiced much. That’s not their fault. I’m responsible for that.”"
Some of the adjustments the Magic are hoping to make is to play with Aaron Gordon as the point guard more often and to get the ball to Nikola Vucevic earlier in the shot clock. A lot of their comfort and execution in doing that will come with experience and repetition. That was the focus of practice to try to emphasize the things the team is doing well and expand them.
That is the biggest thing the Magic needed to accomplish with their practice time. Not only to refresh the bodies but get used to playing with each other again.
The games will continue though. The team got a chance to breathe but the ringer will continue. Orlando will not have consecutive days off again on their schedule until Feb. 3. And this upcoming road trip is still daunting.
The team has had lighter practices and more days off than usual because of the compressed schedule. Clifford noted Tuesday that he is playing 10-man rotations even though he dislikes playing that many players just to keep players’ legs better.
They are back on the road now.
The Magic posted video Thursday of their plan taking off for Boston. Both teams issued an injury report Thursday and the game Friday appears to be on.
Evan Fournier is listed as out on Thursday’s 8:30 p.m. injury report with those back spasms on that injury report. Mohamed Bamba is also out as he has entered the league’s health and safety protocols. Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports (and the Magic’s PR account retweeted) that Bamba was put into contact tracing because of a non-team member.
For the Celtics, Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye, Daniel Theis and Javonte Green are all questionable as part of the league’s health and safety protocols. But Boston will have enough players to play with the players not listed on the injury report. Celtics star Jayson Tatum is still out as part of the league’s health and safety protocols.
The Boston Celtics, as a team, has not played since a 116-107 win over the Washington Wizards last Friday.
Both teams should feel some level of freshness. And Steve Clifford is expecting Brad Stevens to throw in a few extra wrinkles. He recalls how the Celtics came to Orlando with several players out last year and walked out with a 109-98 win.
Aaron Gordon said the key for the team is to get back to its principles. The team needs to play better defense, sharing the ball and playing mistake-free basketball. If the Magic do that, they should put themselves in a position to win. Even if they are still getting their sets down.
"“Every day we get off is helpful, just with the amount of games we are playing in such a short time span and recovery time,” Gordon said after practice Thursday. “When we’re not on the floor, we’re recovering just to get back on the floor. It was really big to have that day off to rest our bodies.”"
The grind of games though still has some sense of normalcy. Vucevic said it is not unusual to play games every other day. Although certainly the speed at which these games have come and the lack of practice time is a new challenge.
The Magic seem to feel good about the time they got off. They certainly hope it translates to more consistent basketball and gets them back in the win column.