The Orlando Magic’s offense has hit a crater as the team continues to struggle with its shooting. It is not just about the missed shots, however.
It is not hard to figure out why the Orlando Magic are losing right now. A simple perusing of the box score can accomplish that feat.
In Friday’s 124-97 to the Boston Celtics, the basic stat line told the story. The Magic shot 40.4-percent from the floor and 7 for 28 from beyond the arc. The Celtics shot 51.1-percent from the floor and 17 for 42 from beyond the arc. Even simple math of 17 threes to seven threes tells you the Magic were set to make up a big deficit.
This would not be concerning if this were not the fourth straight game the Magic have faced such a massive deficit. Since Markelle Fultz’s injury, the Magic are shooting just 41.0-percent from the floor and a league-worst 26.9-percent from beyond the arc.
The simple answer for the Magic to end this four-game losing streak and get back on track is to shoot better. The analysis can be that basic. The point of the game, after all, is to make shots. And that is the one thing the Magic are not doing right now.
The Magic’s poor shooting is not about the shots the Magic are taking and missing. It is about all the things that add up to making and missing those shots.
Orlando’s issues right now go much deeper. It is about preparation and organization and being ready to play. It is about moving the ball and finding the open man. The Magic missing these shots starts so much sooner than the shot going up.
"“It’s purpose of play. I thought this morning was our worst in terms of being attentive that we’ve been be it in a ballroom walk-through or a shootaround this year,” coach Steve Clifford said after Friday’s game. “Teams that prepare well, play well. Teams that don’t put a lot into preparation, don’t play well. That as much as anything happened to us tonight.”"
Clifford said the team certainly does not have the offensive team they envisioned at the start of the season. He said for sure this group is offensively challenged. Especially without Evan Fournier and Markelle Fultz available.
Clifford said the team’s defensive struggles started on the offensive end. the team’s inability to hit shots bleeding over into everything that they do.
The frustration only grew with each missed shot. And the team seemed to break its gameplan and way to play. It started from the beginning with five turnovers in the first quarter as the Magic have turned from a low-mistake team into a team making constant mistakes on the floor.
All these things are only putting more pressure on the team to shoot. And the team’s poor shooting is putting pressure on other parts of the team’s game.
Offense affects defense
Just like how the offense is having a negative effect on the team’s defense, the Orlando Magic’s offensive struggles start with all the pieces it takes to build into a good shot.
"“It’s not as much we’re struggling to make shots as much, it’s more our decision-making has to get better for us to have a chance against good teams like Boston,” Nikola Vucevic said after Friday’s loss. “It’s most frustrating because when we do those things — we move the ball, we play for each other and when we have activity offensively and play with energy — we were able to cut the lead to four or six in the third. Then we go on stretches where we take the first look that we can get and don’t make the defense work. A lot of times when you take bad shots, it ends up being easy points for the other team on the other end.”"
The Magic had the game within six with 5:26 to play in the third quarter. Despite all the Magic’s poor shooting and even mediocre defensive effort and execution, the Magic were still in the game.
But Boston went on an 11-0 run to put the game fully out of reach. Suddenly a close game turned into a blowout and the Magic were digging themselves out. This is what happened in the team’s previous two losses.
It would be easy again to blame the team’s shooting. But it is so many other things. It is the team’s flow offensively and the way the team moved and worked together.
The Orlando Magic tallied only 14 assists on 38 field goals. The team as a whole is averaging only 18.0 assists per game since Fultz’s injury, the worst mark in the league in the last week. On the season, the Magic have a league-worst 20.4 assists per game.
The team’s 51.5-percent assist rate is the worst in the league and significantly lower than the 60.8-percent assist rate from last year.
The Magic were averaging only 41.9 potential assists per game entering Friday’s game, according to NBA.com’s tracking statistics. That is the second-fewest in the league. The team averaged 47.9 potential assists per game last year, the fourth-most.
Why are the Magic shooting so much worse? Part of it absolutely has to do with how much less the Magic are passing and moving the ball.
"“We just didn’t move the ball enough,” Dwayne Bacon said after Friday’s game. “We didn’t follow the gameplan as it was written on the board in our walkthrough. We have to realize one of their weaknesses was to run. When we get a fastbreak, we tend to walk the ball a little bit. We have great guys that can get out and run in transition. But we play so slow in transition, we don’t’ give ourselves a chance to get those easy points.”"
Pace on hold
The Orlando Magic did little to take advantage of that perceived weakness in the Celtics too. A sure way to gain offensive confidence is to get to the basket and finish in transition. Not that Orlando was getting a ton of stops.
The Boston Celtics turned the ball over 11 times for just 10 Orlando Magic points. The Magic had just eight fast-break points, going 2 for 7 on fast-break opportunities.
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The Magic have had to put some of its fast-breaking ambitions on hold with Markelle Fultz out of the lineup for sure. The team has admitted it is starting to slow the pace down some without Fultz or a point guard to push things consistently.
But the Magic still need to be opportunistic.
Orlando’s pace in terms of possessions per 48 minutes is down to 98.1 from 100.4 for the season during this losing streak. And the team is averaging only 5.5 fast-break points per game in the last four games, down from 8.5 points per game for the season (the second-worst mark in the league).
The Magic’s offense is struggling for missing these opportunities. The Magic are struggling to find a way to generate offense even when their shots do not fall.
That starts on defense as much as it is about the team’s ability to hit shots. Orlando is not executing at any level.
The Magic are not going to do this unless they are able to get easy sots and unless they are in tune with the gameplan.
More than shooting
Making shots is clearly more than about how well you shoot. It is the way those shots come. And right now, the Orlando Magic are not even creating good shots.
"“You have to play well in the NBA,” Steve Clifford said after Friday’s game. “Everyone has to know what they’re doing. Everybody has to agree to play a certain way on offense and defense. When you put good possessions together, then you get good quarters, then you put good quarters together. That’s what we’ve learned how to do here. Even though we’re shorthanded, we have enough guys who have been through that. That’s what we have to do.”"
Right now the Magic are struggling to put the whole puzzle together offensively. It is not merely about the players the Magic are missing. It is not just about the team’s shooting.
It is all the pieces that add up to the Magic’s offense being successful. The things the team did well early in the season and the way this team needs to play to succeed offensively just are not happening.
Predictably, the team’s shooting is suffering for it.