Kyrie Irving makes Orlando Magic’s bad day worse

Kyrie Irving hung 60 on the Orlando Magic making what was already a bad day a whole lot worse for this young team. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kyrie Irving hung 60 on the Orlando Magic making what was already a bad day a whole lot worse for this young team. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

147. 108. 38. Final. 150

Sometimes there is nothing you can do.

Good offense can beat any great defensive scheme or any defensive player. How are you supposed to defend a guard who can run straight into a big man and double-clutch a layup over him or spin-off a defender and drain a fadeaway jumper? What are you supposed to do with that?

When a player like Kyrie Irving is in his bag and pulling up every shot you can think of and finishing over and around any kind of defense the team throws at him, all anyone can do is sit back and marvel.

That does not make eating a 60-point effort from Irving — or any player — any easier. That will sit in the Magic’s craw, the same way Joel Embiid’s 50-point explosion a month ago does, as a sign of just how much work the team has to do and how far the team has to go.

It just left everyone’s jaws on the ground.

"“Kyrie Irving. At the end of the day, that’s what it was,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Tuesday’s game. “He was comfortable on the floor. He’s a great basketball player. And that’s what he did tonight and he showed it. You’ve got to tip your hat to him. Tip your hat to the team and what they’ve done. he’s a special player and that’s why he is who he is.”"

Sometimes all you can do is throw your hands up. But this is a potentially major setback — like the loss to the Memphis Grizzlies a few weeks ago — for a team that is trying to build its defensive identity. It is a reminder that while Orlando’s defense has improved, it can still be broken.

The Orlando Magic’s defense let go of the rope in giving up 60 points to Kyrie Irving and 150 points to the Brooklyn Nets. How this young team gets it back and responds will be the key to their growth.

This was a complete team failure in a 150-108 loss at the Amway Center, the largest home defeat in Magic history.

Orlando has done well to show its poise and build up its defense of late. But this was the house collapsing, a crack in the foundation. A reminder of how young this team is.

Irving will rightfully get all the headlines and the Nets were feeding him over and over again since the Magic showed they could not or would not stop him. But Orlando was chasing the game from the start and unable to get any stops anywhere.

Kevin Durant hit a pair of tough jumpers early and it seemed like the Magic let go of their rope. They were scrambling defensively to slow these stars down.

The Nets scored 48 points in the first quarter. That does not happen just because of one player. That was not just Irving’s mastery or Durant hitting big shots.

That was because the Magic lost their focus defensively early. The Nets made 20 of 27 shots (eight from Durant and Irving) and had 14 assists in the first quarter. And Orlando never got its defense back.

Irving got free for 3-pointers, just picking the Magic apart as they tried ducking under screens to keep him out of the paint. If it was not that, Brooklyn ran right back at Orlando.

The Magic were far too loose and the Nets far too comfortable. This is inevitably the result when that happens and the team provides little resistance or does nothing to knock those superstars off rhythm.

The Nets shot 60.2-percent from the floor for the game. Taking out Irving’s 20-for-31 shooting, they still shot 57.9-percent. Durant took only nine shots in the game! Brooklyn had 35 assists on 53 field goal makes. And Durant and Irving tallied 15 total assists between them.

Durant and Irving laid dispiriting blows to Orlando early and the team never got itself back off the mat.

"“I think we just let them get into a really good rhythm early on,” Franz Wagner said after Tuesday’s loss. “Easy threes, on the pick and rolls, getting back in transition. They got a bunch of easy ones at the rim. After that, I think they are really hard to stop once they are in a rhythm.”"

The Magic have prided themselves on being able to bounce back even when facing large deficits. But Orlando has to start graduating beyond that. The Magic should be feeling they are playing consistent enough to prevent falling behind by 30 points — let alone losing by 42.

Related Story. Markelle Fultz making a big impact for Orlando Magic. light

It is good to say a team keeps fighting, but the team should not be patting themselves on the back in blowout losses anymore (if ever they should have). Not after the breakthroughs the team has hinted at.

This was Durant and Irving, two of the best players in the league, playing at their absolute best. Perhaps it is unfair to judge the team on this opponent. This Magic team is simply not talented enough to withstand that.

But nothing should get this bad.

Perhaps, Orlando is still learning how to do that against teams playing at the highest levels.

"“You can’t give in to what Kyrie was doing,” Mosley said after Tuesday’s loss. “You can’t give into the scoreboard. You have to play no matter what’s happening. You learn lessons in wins. You learn lessons in losses. We have to take this one, learn from it, understand what we can do better and bounce back the next game.”"

But the game is over. The team can burn the tape or do whatever to put it behind them.

That task now is to respond to it. Will the Magic take all the gains they have made and the consistency they have started to show and let one bad performance lead them into a tailspin?

After all, after that strong January, the Magic started slipping defensively as they hit the road again. It ended with an embarrassing defensive performance against the Atlanta Hawks entering the All-Star Break where they gave up a defensive rating of 128.7 points per 100 possessions.

That seems sterling in comparison to the 144.2 points per 100 possessions they gave the Nets on Tuesday. Will this be another wave of poor defensive performances or will the Magic resemble the team that had come out of the All-Star Beak blazing?

Will this be a loss where Irving’s brilliance beats them twice and keeps them dispirited or will this be a test of their resolve to reclaim their identity again?

The Orlando Magic have another game Thursday against the Detroit Pistons — another team at the bottom of the standings that is playing its best basketball but still understands what this season is for them development-wise. That will not be a great measure, but it will be a good team to bounce back against. Same with Sunday’s opponent in the Oklahoma City Thunder. It is a chance to pick the team back up.

Orlando will not have another chance to test itself against a playoff-caliber opponent until Tuesday’s homestand finale against the Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry will provide another similar guard assignment to Kyrie Irving. The Magic will get their chance to show just how much they have learned then.

Young teams take these lumps. Inconsistency is the true nature of youth as they learn the league.

Orlando got humbled in a major way. How the team responds will be vital to the team’s development.

Next. Jonathan Isaac ruled out for the rest of the season. dark

This was a bad day. A bad day that was made worse by a superstar punishing his opponent for not bringing their best. And the Magic are still a team that is learning how to handle that.