Orlando Magic need to reduce unforced errors to realize their gains

The Orlando Magic continue to show signs of life but often cannot get out of their own way. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic continue to show signs of life but often cannot get out of their own way. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

38. 114. 118. Final. 99

There are moments in every game where everything looks like it is clicking for the Orlando Magic. Or, if not clicking, that the team is doing the dirty work coaches have preached to the team all season long.

Those bell plays remain the calling card for the team and a sign of their buy-in and continued competitive spirit. The team is doing a lot of good things. But they remain hidden, buried in mistakes often o ftheir own doing.

The Orlando Magic found themselves down by 15 to the Utah Jazz after giving up a 15-0 run in the first quarter and slowly had to crawl their way back into the game.

The best highlights of the game were all part of the comeback that helped the Magic get the deficit to three points to start the fourth quarter.

It was Jalen Suggs diving on the floor for a loose ball he tipped away and tapping it to Cole Anthony for a dunk. Or another play where Cole Anthony saved the ball underneath his own basket only to step into a 3-pointer as the Magic set up their offense. Or another play where Suggs got to the ball for a breakaway jam.

It was seen in the defense the Magic played to keep the deficit at a manageable amount and make the game close for two quarters.

The Magic do good things for long stretches. Orlando has proven it can fight and get itself back into games, even against very good opponents.

Just not long enough.

The Orlando Magic continue to show some loud signals of their potential and hope to keep building. But their self-inflicted mistakes continue to keep the team from taking steps forward.

As has been the case all year, the Magic go bad for long stretches too. And this is often where they lose games as they are unable to stop the bleeding quick enough. They find themselves but often when the hill is too big to climb.

Orlando will get beat at times because of poor shooting and execution. The team may get beat at times as it tries to learn through new situations. But the increasing problem are problems the Magic can prevent.

Turnovers and offensive rebounds have been a growing problem. And in a 114-99 loss to the Utah Jazz at Vivint Arena on Friday, they hit the team hard.

At the two decisive moments — the 15-0 run that gave the Jazz the lead in the first quarter and the fourth-quarter run that put the game out of reach — it was the two mistakes the Magic made and could have prevented that cost them.

"“I think turning the ball over,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Friday’s loss. “They came out and turned the pressure up. We ended up turning the basketball over too many times for transition baskets, easy baskets. Our ability to take care of the basketball, 18 turnovers for 24 points is too much to rally back from in these games.”"

The Jazz indeed forced 18 turnovers for 24 points. They recorded only eight fast-break points, but Utah was in control of the game and played comfortably throughout. If not for Utah’s own turnover issues, the first quarter might have gone much worse.

Utah actually had more turnovers in the first quarter than Orlando. But the Magic’s miscues felt more impactful, piling up with every miss.

During that 15-0 run in the first quarter, the Jazz forced four turnovers as the Magic were unable to get out of the way. In the fourth quarter, Orlando committed fourt urnovers for seven points. Utah forced three turnovers, scoring twice immediately in transition on them.

The Magic, already struggling to make shots allowed these mistakes to hurt them.

"“Sometimes we get a little bit sped up,” Wendell Carter said after Friday’s loss. “Really speaking for myself, the four or five that I had were all unforced. I need to do a better job leading us in that direction of taking care of the ball especially down the stretch.”"

Carter was a big part of the Magic’s comeback, scoring 22 points and grabbing nine rebounds. He had 11 of those points in the third quarter.

But he also had four turnovers and many were indeed unforced, like when the Jazz straight up caught him from behind while executing a dribble handoff and took the ball from him.

This was a turnover that was from a team not playing with force and aggression. The Magic spent a good chunk of the game scrambling to get back.

Cole Anthony scored 18 points and shot 6 for 12 from the floor. But his seven turnovers were killer for a team constantly trying to climb back into the game.

Turnovers have been a creeping problem for this young team for a while now.

The Magic currently rank 26th in the league with a 14.8-percent turnover rate. They were at 18.0-percent on turnovers in Friday’s game.

Orlando has generally done well to prevent those turnovers from turning into points though. The team ranks 19th in the league with just 16.5 points off turnovers allowed per game.

The fact the Jazz got 24 points off turnovers was the sign of the below-average performance for the Magic on that front.

It was not just turnovers that cost the Magic in this game — just as it has not just been turnovers all year.

The Magic were still in the game in the fourth quarter. And they did not give up too many turnovers in that final frame. But they struggled with their pick and roll defense throughout the quarter. Big men Udoka Azubuike and Hassan Whiteside had free reign in the paint as the Magic ommitted bodies to defend the 3-point line.

Orlando’s lack of defensive attention to detail cost the team at the critical moments of the game.

"“Just having each other’s back,” Carter said of the team’s defensive struggles in the fourth quarter. “Sometimes, including myself throughout the game, I got caught up in my own stuff. I caught myself and understood I had to be there for my brothers and my teammates. If we can do a better job of that down the stretch, especially n the fourth qaurter, when it was a winnable game, we will have a better chance of winning games.”"

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They are going to be in this situations a lot. And turnovers can derail good opportunities to win.

It will take a team effort to clean up the other mistakes that are holding the team back.

The Magic again struggled on the offensive glass, giving up 11 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points. This too has been a recurring problem for the Magic, especially of late.

Orlando ranks 18th in the league in defensive rebound rate (72.4-percent) but 25th in second-chance points allowed per game with 13.8 per game.

In other words, there are a lot of things the Magic can control themselves. They can be better at preventing turnovers. They can be better attacking the glass and preventing second-chance opportunities.

These are chances given away. And for a team with such a small margin for error, they can be difficult to overcome.

A good team like the Jazz is going to press their advantage and make a team like the Magic pay for these extra opportunities.

Eliminating these two shortcomings will give the Magic a lot more chances to win.

Orlando has indeed done a lot of things well. There are more and more positive moments getting built. The Magic are doing a better job playing with pace and using their defense to generate offense. Things are becoming more consistent.

Limiting these mistakes will go a long way to bringing the kind of consistency the Magic are seeking.

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Right now Orlando is playing well enough to give itself the chance to win more often. But the team is not playing mistake-free enough to pull out wins when the opportunities are there. And most of these mistakes are self-inflicted.