Where do you want to start after Sunday’s 133-103 Orlando Magic loss to the Philadelphia 76ers?
Do you want to start with the defense — or lack thereof? The way the Magic struggled to keep the 76ers out of the paint on their way to 72 points in the paint on 46 attempts and 64.9-percent shooting overall.
Do you want to start with an anemic offense that struggled to get into the paint and to its sweet spots only to miss open 3-pointers when they got them or flail at the rim? The Magic had a decent 44 points in the paint but made just 12 of 40 3-pointers as they were unable to get the lid off the basket.
How about the turnovers? The constant problem for a young Magic team playing without any natural point guards at the moment. Orlando had 16 turnovers for 26 Philadelphia points and gave up 26 fast-break points on 9-for-10 shooting.
If you want to go beyond the game, there is frustration building there too. Markelle Fultz, listed as QUESTIONABLE for the game Saturday, did not make his debut. The Magic opted it seems at the last second to hold him out of this back-to-back to give him a few more days of rest.
That might be OK if the Magic were still competing and showing signs of progress.
Instead, Sunday seemed to be a new rock bottom. It was the team’s worst loss of the season. A game where Orlando gave a good fight for a quarter but were already a sinking boat, unable to get stops or defend much at all.
That is about the only good thing anyone can say after that one.
The Orlando Magic suffered their worst loss of the season Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers and are seemingly having to remake themselves as they wait for health to arrive.
The Magic were not expected to be world-beaters this year. The mantra to “level up” was only asking the team to point toward winning. And, yes, the team is seemingly facing an unprecedented wave of injuries, ailments and long recovery times.
But this is not it.
This is not who the Magic imagined they would be on any level. This is the kind of game that a team serious about growing and developing one day into a championship team cannot have. The kind of game that makes clear this is not the group to take that leap and may be actively holding back the team at large from the progress it needs to make.
There is nothing to learn from a blowout loss like this where effort, intensity and focus are clear issues for the team. It does not even matter who the opponent is in this case.
Orlando is back it seems to the drawing board trying to find answers as they hope some health and good news will come down the pike.
"“It was more effort based than anything,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Sunday’s game. “Understanding yes we’re bodies down and we’re losing guys left and right. But at the end of the day, guys who are on the court have to make sure they are willing to step in there and play, play the right way and play for one another.”"
Mosley said he has never seen a team hit with injuries and illness for this long as this team has. It is clear the pressure of filling in is weighing on players. But nobody wants to use that as an excuse. No one should use thhat as an excuse.
As Mo Bamba said after last Monday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, they have to stop talking about the next man up and start being about it. That was certainly not the case in this pair of games against the 76ers.
That might be the most concerning thing. Orlando has not had the baseline of playing with constant effort and intensity, even through the team’s mistakes.
The disappointment of the last two games was the contrast between these two teams.
The Magic could not or should not use injuries as an excuse in these two games. The 76ers were without their top three scorers in bothh outings. They were able to rally and play with energy, intention and focus to shut down the Magic.
Yes, Philadelphia is a much more veteran team. The Sixers are not relying on first- and second-year players. But the Magic still should have been better. They still have capable defenders.
After taking a seven-point lead in the first quarter, the Magic gave the lead away fairly quickly thanks to a string of turnovers. And as the second unit came in, things only got worse.
Not that it mattered.
Orlando’s starters — particularly Franz Wagner — could hold their own, but there was no defensive intensity or focus. Soon that floor would fall out on them. Especially once the team’s offense inevitably dried up.
Defense travels and as Mosley said after the game, the Magic had none.
"“We didn’t play any [defense],” Mosley said after Sunday’s game. “That’s the reality of it right there. We gave up threes, we gave up paint. Understanding you’ve got a team on a second night, you’ve got to make sure you come out ready to play.”"
For the second straight game, Bamba got worked on the glass from the center position before he left the game at halftime with back spasms. He had only one rebound and provided almost no paint presence as the Sixers paraded to the rim.
Bol Bol had many of the same problems. His offensive brilliance and peculiarity can be outweighed by his poor awareness on defense quite often.
The rest of the roster had its issues too. This was not just about two players. But the Magic were testing their depth in an important part of the season and have found it is struggling to come together. There was no defense in the paint and everyone seemed late in their rotations or completely in the wrong spots.
That can be seen clearly in the team’s passing too. Orlando wants to get the paint and the rim and then to the foul line. But the team is becoming an isolation team that struggles to move the ball and get good shots.
The Magic might be getting open shots, but they are not quality feet-set threes. So many of the details the Magic need to execute on both ends are missing. And these are little things that are not unachievable.
This game was about Philadelphia and its brilliant play. But it was continually about the Magic and their shortcomings. The same shortcomings that have been part of the problem throughout the first quarter of the season.
"“I think there is an overall confidence in this team that if we take care of our things we have a chance to beat anyone on any given night,” Moe Wagner said after Sunday’s game. “We know what our things are and if we lock in on these, we are going to be a winning basketball team. But that’s an everyday thing and obviously a process. We need to keep going after days like this.”"
The Magic’s rebounding has cratered since Wendell Carter started missing games. His presence will help on the interior.
Getting Markelle Fultz back in the lineup will help with the team’s organization and ease the burden that is clearly weighing on young forwards in Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero.
Having more of these players back will give the team depth and confidence to play the roles they envisioned. This was never meant to be a team that could sustain this number of injuries. No team is.
Still, the Magic need a baseline of effort and energy to accomplish anything. And that has not been present after such a blistering and encouraging start to the season.
Orlando is hoping for its restart with players returning to the lineup. It should not take that to get this team going again.