Orlando Magic’s biggest road block is themselves

Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic have struggled all season with turnovers and it is clearly holding the team back. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic have struggled all season with turnovers and it is clearly holding the team back. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

Final. 112. 170. 105. 38

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley had clearly seen enough in the third quarter of his team’s often frustrating 112-107 loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

The play that prompted his timeout and the line change that would come was certainly not completely the reason the team lost or found itself down 19 points at home to the struggling Hornets. But it certainly felt of the same kind.

The focus and intensity the Magic needed were simply not there. It could be seen as Jalen Suggs struggled to get back out to the 3-point line to contest LaMelo Ball’s 3-pointer, a shot that followed Wendell Carter missing his own open transition three in the corner and a Magic team that was slow to get back.

It was not the miss or the three that had Mosley and the team frustrated. it was that effort. That focus and intensity and attention to detail. All the things that the team repeated ad nauseum throughout the offseason in preparation for what they hoped would be a season of improvement.

Consistently, the Magic find themselves approaching a roadblock. The same roadblock: Themselves.

The Orlando Magic continue to make mistakes and keep themselves from winning games as turnovers again put them in a hole and left them playing catch up.

The Magic understand they will make mistakes. They understand there are still things this team needs to learn and experience they need to gain. Orlando knows what it is building toward and has confidence in what it will become.

The journey of getting there is continually proving difficult.

Turnovers and miscues are continually getting in the way of growth. And the team has struggled to get out of its own way to give itself the chance to win.

That was the case in Monday’s loss where the team committed 22 turnovers for 21 Charlotte points. The Magic put themselves in the hole early, committing six turnovers for nine points in the first quarter alone. The Magic were playing uphill the whole way through.

"“Our guys were starting out we came out a little bit flat,” Mosley said after Monday’s loss. “Part of that is execution and taking care of the basketball. Having energy with the ball moving and energy with sharing the basketball. Without looking at the film, that was a portion of it. Our execution on offense came because of our carelessness with the basketball.”"

Much like the poor defensive communication of last week’s loss to the Houston Rockets left the Orlando Magic chasing and unable to find answers, the miscues offensively Monday led to fast breaks — 18 fast-break points for the game compared to Orlando’s four — left Orlando constantly playing catch up.

The team never could get its footing and seemed out of control and chasing the game.

Charlotte forced those miscues by playing with the urgency of a team on an eight-game losing streak. The Hornets pressured and annoyed the Magic, playing with Jalen Suggs as its ball handler and by the end of the game leaning on Wendell Carter to bring the ball up to relieve that pressure. They forced turnovers and prevented the Magic from ever controlling the game’s tempo.

But the Magic were playing against themselves as much as they were playing against the Hornets. Every run they made got stunted by these kinds of errors and miscues.

This has been the theme throughout the season.

Orlando is 29th in turnover rate at 17.1 percent. The Magic are turning it over on almost one out of every five possessions. Orlando had a turnover rate of 23.2 percent in Monday’s loss.

Everyone had issues with their turnovers but Bol Bol (six), Jalen Suggs (five) and Terrence Ross (four) stood out. Bol and Suggs especially struggled with the pressure the Hornets were putting on them. More than anyone, they seemed to get sped up and unable to execute through the team’s offense.

It was impossible to do much of anything when the team’s lead guard was making such poor decisions and another key starter was getting pushed off his spot and off the ball. At a certain point, the Magic were playing catch-up so much that players forced passes rather than making the simple play.

But turnovers are not what kills the Magic.

Instead, it is the points that come off turnovers. They are 26th in opponents’ points off turnovers at 20.3 per game. In wins, they give up 15.5 per game. In losses, they give up 22.2 per game. That difference is the difference for a team consistently playing in these close games.

It was the difference in Monday’s game as Charlotte punished Orlando for every mistake.

The Magic were caught on their back foot and seemingly could only make mistakes as they tried to climb their way back into it.

It took the team going through that full line change to gain a spark.

The Magic’s bench all had positive plus-minus ratings, with R.J. Hampton especially providing a good scoring spark and punch after Mo Bamba carried that load through the first half.

That group could not play the remaining 21:07 after they checked in early in the third quarter. They were able to keep the Hornets from running away and cut into the lead. It gave the Magic some hope.

But then it was turnovers and miscues again that cost them. Orlando had five turnovers in the fourth quarter. And while Charlotte did not convert on any of those points, those mistakes were all lost opportunities to complete the comeback.

The margin for error was simply too small.

"“Some of it is just bad reads,” Franz Wagner said after Monday’s loss. “Sometimes it’s just discipline trying to make a home run play. Every play is a little different. Sometimes you try to make the right play and your execution wasn’t perfect. You aren’t going to have 22 of those turnovers. It’s a combination of both especially the ones where we don’t seem focused or engaged or just kind of lazy with the ball. Those are the ones we’ve got to fix.”"

That is still true of this team — especially dealing with all the injuries the team has dealt with. Yet, the urgency and attention to detail have not always been there. The team continually seems to get in its own way with these kinds of mistakes.

This is not a team that can lose that focus and give away possession. It is not a team that can beat itself in this way and consistently come out on top.

But that is what the Magic are consistently doing. It remains the biggest impediment to their success. Health and depth will help solve some of those problems — especially considering what the team is missing at point guard and in organizers.

Experience will help too. But only if the team puts in the work and focus to execute at a higher level. The Magic have proven themselves more than capable so far.

Next. Franz Wagner takes command after slow start. dark

The team though cannot stand in its own way. And protecting the ball will take a greater focus than the Magic have shown consistently so far.