Orlando Magic are still learning the Jamahl Mosley way

The Orlando Magic are displaying a high-pressure defense as they learn their new coach. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic are displaying a high-pressure defense as they learn their new coach. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

It was late in the game for the Orlando Magic. Much of their work was already done as the Cleveland Cavaliers held onto a double-digit lead.

Their frustration boiled over in the third quarter as their shots refused to fall and the Cavaliers attacked their interior defense. It is Summer League, there is still a ton of work to do.

Orlando was still going for the win. The competition never stops. Neither does the pressure.

There was Jalen Suggs and G-League standout defender Hassani Gravett chasing after Cleveland’s guards. there the Magic were trapping Isaac Okoro at the top of the key even with the result all but determined.

This was the way the Orlando Magic played Monday in their win over the Golden State Warriors. This was how the Magic were playing in Wednesday’s 94-84 loss to the Cavaliers.

The Orlando Magic are still learning their new coach in Jamahl Mosley. He is preaching a high-energy, high-pressure style that starts on defense.

If this is any indication of how the Magic will play under Jamahl Mosley, then this is the identity the team is taking on. As everyone expected from his time with the Dallas Mavericks, the Orlando Magic are going to try to be a high-pressure team that gets into their opponents throughout the course of the game.

And the Magic have sent every signal that they wanted to get their young players as much experience in their new system as possible before training camp. That is part of the reason Mohamed Bamba joined the team for practices before the games began. It is why Wendell Carter has started tagging along too and Jonathan Isaac and Gary Harris are in Las Vegas too.

Everyone wants to know more about the way the team is going to play and how it is going to function.

This Summer League is a clue. And while there is certainly still a lot of work to get the finer points down for this style of defense, the Magic are making their presence known through their pressure.

This will be part of the foundation the Magic take with them beyond Summer League. And there is still a lot of work to do.

"“We didn’t shoot the ball well in the third period,” Mosley said after Wednesday’s game. “That’s where we have to understand as we get better each day is you have to hang our hat on the defensive end. Shots are not always going to fall but we have to sit down and guard the 40 minutes of Summer League and the 48 minutes of the regular season.”"

Mosley said after the game the tape would reveal where the team needed to improve. He surmised that the team gave up that big run in the third quarter and started to chase the game a bit too much rather than focus defensively.

He said the team needs to be more tied together defensively when shots are not falling — Orlando shot just 39.0-percent from the floor and 13 of 37 from beyond the arc. Defense is very much what Mosley wants as his team’s backbone.

The pressure though is something that will still take some getting used to, especially coming from three years under the more conservative defensive stylings of Steve Clifford.

This is their distinguishing trait so far.

Orlando wants its players to get after opponents and compete. That competitive edge has been the most noticeable thing of the Magic to this point.

Cole Anthony knows he is not known for his defense and it is something he is focused this offseason on improving. But he has been focused on fighting through screens and staying in front of his man. His defense looks much improved even if there is still lots of room for improvement.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Jalen Suggs has stood out for his offensive output. But his defense has shocked too. He has helped the team increase its pressure defense, getting steals and blocks in the process — including that game-saving block against a 2-on-1 fastbreak in Monday’s game.

Orlando had six steals and forced 12 turnovers in Wednesday’s loss. There were certainly a few more defensive plays that got called as touch fouls even though the team was in the right spot. Orlando was at its best when the defense could get set and dictate the tempo.

Still, there is plenty of room for improvement.

Franz Wagner had a big bounceback game from a nervous opener, but he struggled to body up Evan Mobley and force him out of the paint. R.J. Hampton showed an improved shot, but he lost his man a few times defensively, giving up a few backdoor cuts.

The issue with pressure defensive is that it requires strong rotations and scrambling behind the pressure. The team needs to be ready to help and able to close down driving lanes if the pressure or trap fails. Cleveland was able to get downhill and to the basket too many times as they broke the pressure and trap Orlando was trying out.

This is a different kind of defense and one that takes some getting used to and cohesion. Clearly, the Magic are still building that.

But Mosley has already begun to put his imprint on this team. That is clear. It is clear from the way the team is moving the ball and shooting freely from deep. It is clear in the way the team competes and the energy they are playing with.

There are still plenty of growing pains in the process. This young group is going through them and showing flashes of what they can be and what they will be.

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Part of Summer League for this team is certainly about laying this foundation down and for Mosley to begin putting his style into work.