Orlando Magic hoping for light on the other side to end the losing streak

Steve Clifford is trying to hold the Orlando Magic steady and confident as players inch closer to returning. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Steve Clifford is trying to hold the Orlando Magic steady and confident as players inch closer to returning. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic are in a dark tunnel right now. A six-game losing streak has dropped the team out of the hot start they had longed for so much. It has dropped them below .500 and momentarily out of the playoff seeding — although still in the play-in tournament.

The play on the court has looked bleak. The Magic have had one of the worst offenses and defense in the last six games — since Markelle Fultz got injured two weeks ago. Players have been commenting about how they have needed to find their way to play without him and how they needed to play better quite simply.

The Orlando Magic seemed encouraged by their pair of games in New York — a close loss to the Brooklyn Nets and then a blown game against the New York Knicks. The latter loss seemed to gut the team a bit more.

They were in need of some reality and confidence and perhaps a pick-me-up.

Maybe they will get it from some good news. A small light at the end of the tunnel.

Orlando Magic is hoping to get key players back from the injured list soon.

Coach Steve Clifford said Evan Fournier, Michael Carter-Williams and Al-Farouq Aminu participated fully in the team’s practice Tuesday.

It was a non-contact practice — Clifford said the team reviewed some defensive adjustments on tape and then ran through some offense — and Clifford said he did not anticipate any of those players being available for Wednesday’s game. Fournier was at least upgraded to questionable.

But that is a good sign to see. Fournier has been out since suffering back spasms in the Magic’s Dec. 31 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Carter-Williams has been out since the Jan. 4 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Aminu has not played since injuring his knee in Dec. 2019, missing almost a year after two separate setbacks recovering from a torn meniscus.

The Magic could undoubtedly use the reinforcements. They are eager to get some of these players back and provide more solidity to what they are trying to execute on both ends.

The Magic will never be whole with Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac out. But these players will undoubtedly help whenever they are back.

Orlando’s goals are still in front of them and achievable.

"“I think that this is a league where you have to handle both success and disappointment. The reality is we are 6-8. It doesn’t matter how we got here,” Clifford said. “If the season ended today, we’d be tied for ninth and we’re half a game out of fifth. We have everything to play for. The biggest factor is figuring out a way to sustain consistent play at both ends of the floor and on the glass.”"

Clifford has warned not to look at the standings too early in the season. That might have been more of a tool to avoid getting too happy with their 4-0 and 6-2 record. As the team has shown in the last three weeks, things can change very quickly.

But despite this sizable dip, Clifford is right to point out the optimism. Teams 6-13 are separated by one game at this early stage of the season. There is a lot of sorting to do as the season nears the quarter-pole.

The Magic’s fast start gave them some cushion for this fall. It just cannot last much longer and the team knows that.

"“I love adversity, I have been through it my whole career,” Khem Birch said after practice Tuesday. “We have been through adversity ever since I have been in Orlando. It’s a little setback. Every team goes through this. We are going through it early. We can’t dwell on it, we’ve just got to move on. We’re all positive right now despite us losing.”"

The reinforcements are coming for the Magic. But they are not here yet. The team still has to find its way to play and find a way to scratch out wins. The games do not stop.

The team is putting a little bit more focus on sharing and moving the ball and playing more through their best players like Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Terrence Ross. Passing has to become contagious.

James Ennis said the team was bummed about the loss. But they are keeping a positive attitude. The team seems more determined than ever to get out of this hole.

"“We’ve just got to be ready when the game starts,” Ennis said after practice Tuesday. “Our energy, our focus, our will. Sometimes shots are not going to go in, but we’ve still got to fight on the defensive end, get stops and get out and run and get easy layups and make easy plays and see the ball go through the rim. We’ve just got to defend. We’ve got to get deflections and scramble. If we play good defense, it will translate to our offense.”"

The Magic had their second-best statistical defensive game Monday. As Clifford said, the team played well enough defensively to win on Monday. If the team can find a way to translate that defense into offense, the team can find its way to play again.

And soon the team will have a fuller complement of players. Hopefully soon.

Orlando Magic are bearing the weaknesses of their build. dark. Next

The Magic hope that they can keep the ship steady until then.