Orlando Magic’s next man up finds its breaking point in Indiana

Gary Harris returned to find some energy for the Orlando Magic but the team found its breaking point at last. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Harris returned to find some energy for the Orlando Magic but the team found its breaking point at last. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

123. 100. Final. 102. 38

The Orlando Magic ended their loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday frustrated and disappointed but still proud.

The result was written on everyone’s faces as the team fell just short of a second straight road win. The team has found itself just a play short so many times. It has worn on them.

So too clearly has the mounting injuries that have left the team shorthanded and searching for answers. Everyone is beginning to admit as the team nears the quarter mark of their season that they are just trying to keep their heads above water. The injuries are weighing on them even if there is light at the end of the tunnel.

That is why the tenor in Jamahl Mosley’s postgame press conference Saturday night was hopeful. He expressed how proud he was of his team’s fight and the way they rallied after losing their lead yet again. The Magic put themselves, as they have so often, in a position to win.

Orlando wants to do more than just give it the “old college try.” They are trying to get over that hump.

But they are human too. And there is only so far a team stretch itself before it snaps.

The Orlando Magic finally seemed to be crushed by the weight of all their injuries and the fatigue of an NBA season as they suffered their first blowout loss of the season.

It finally snapped. The weight of so many players having to step up and take bigger roles, the fatigue of lots of miles traveled and the frustration of shots not falling finally caught up with this team.

The Magic were blown out for the first time all season, starting slow and struggling to keep up with the Pacers and their superb ball movement. They fell behind for good in the second quarter and never made a real run, eventually falling 123-102 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Monday night.

For the first time, there was nothing positive to take from the result. Not even a mini comeback that made things look better than they appeared — as occurred in losses to the Charlotte Hornets and Houston Rockets (the last two weeks).

"“I think tonight was just a drop-off in energy,” Mo Bamba said after Monday’s loss. “We always talk about the third quarter being our Achilles heel. Tonight we just didn’t bring it in the third quarter.”"

The Magic really lost the game in the third quarter, losing the period 32-22 and giving up five 3-pointers. Orlando had lost the second quarter by 10 points too, putting the team in a big hole it was struggling to find the energy to climb out of.

The problems for Orlando were universal throughout the game.

The only thing that kept the Magic in the game was turnovers from the Pacers — 12 of their 20 turnovers in the first half. But Orlando could not even really take advantage of that.

They had only 10 points off those turnovers at halftime as the Magic themselves shot only 38.1 percent from the floor and had six assists on 16 field goals. They could not help themselves and the Pacers eventually found their rhythm long before the Magic could.

The Pacers were able to get whatever they wanted early outside of their turnovers and overzealous driving. Indiana scored 58 points in the paint on 29-for-38 shooting in the paint. They would finish the game too with 32 assists on 43 field goals, shooting 50 percent from the floor.

That made up for making only 13 of 46 3-pointers. That was perhaps the one are the Magic were fine defensively. But the Pacers did not have to kick out much until the second half when those shots started to go down.

Indiana had multiple ways to attack all game long. The Magic were trying to find someone else to support Franz Wagner and just struggled to do so.

Orlando had a lot of things it had to do well to win the game and a lot of them just did not happen. From the team’s turnovers — 17 turnovers for 21 points — to the offensive rebounding — 23 second-chance points on 12 offensive rebounds.

The Magic struggled to get stops consistently and struggled to convert on the mistakes the Pacers made. This was part of what helped build Orlando the lead Saturday.

But there was no relief this time around.

light. Related Story. The importance of Bol Bol to the Orlando Magic

There were no solutions and nothing the team could seemingly do to pull itself out. For the first time, the Magic were simply unable to keep up and there was nothing to save them.

"“There is a level of difficulty there,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Monday’s loss. “It will probably sound like the same message I’m repeating it back, the guys who step on that floor have to be ready to go. it’s part of our job to compete and play hard every single night, make sure we can continue to stay together and work. Obviously, there have been games where we have been up and been down. We have to continue to battle.”"

The Magic even lost Chuma Okeke to left knee soreness during the game and Jalen Suggs spent the second half visibly limping and tightening his shoes and ankle braces to try to stay out there. The effort was valiant, but it was time to shut down and get some rest.

The Magic have delayed this event as long as possible.

They have been imperfect and made plenty of youthful mistakes. It never kept them from competing and having a chance to win. They could always feel how tantalizingly close they were to the top of the mountain.

One game does not change that. This was a bad game. Everyone has those.

But it showed again how far Orlando is right now. It showed again how much the Magic are missing right now. They again had to run lineups with Admiral Schofield helping out at center. They are searching for answers on a roster that was not meant to be asked these questions.

The team can keep saying it is about the next man up and keep grinding, but there will be nights like these where the team runs out of answers. Every team has them. It is a wonder the Magic did not have a night like this much sooner. Or more of them considering the team’s injury issues.

"“It’s tough,” Bamba said after Monday’s loss. “At the end of the day, it’s the NBA. Nobody said it was going to be easy. Coach Mose always preaches the next-man-up mentality. That’s something we have to be about instead of talking about. I think we have done a pretty good job of it. We have three days before we play again. Hopefully, we can get guys feeling good against before we play Philly.”"

But the team finally ran out of answers. The Magic finally struggled to find the energy to keep playing through it. The frustration took over, but more than that the fatigue took over. Orlando clearly looked worn down by the weight of carrying a team that was missing so much.

The Magic were certainly happy to have Gary Harris back (18 points, 6-for-11 shooting). But they were missing Wendell Carter. And they are still clearly missing the reinforcements that have been out for so long.

Next. Orlando Magic need a clearer plan for R.J. Hampton. dark

The Magic need some help. This team finally hit its breaking point.