Orlando Magic are learning from team’s failures

The Orlando Magic are still learning and growing and have to see every failure or struggle as a chance to grow and improve. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic are still learning and growing and have to see every failure or struggle as a chance to grow and improve. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

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The Orlando Magic should be constantly learning. Everything is a lesson for a young team and for a rebuilding franchise.

There are experiments and lineups being tested and ideas the team wants to see play out. There are little successes the franchise can celebrate and losses the team is willing to accept.

It was always this case, but as the Magic lost their seventh straight game and continued to slip to rock bottom in the NBA, their future can still be bright. The franchise’s focus can still be on a bigger picture that is out there.

They are learning what their roster may need and what they need to be even through this difficult stretch.

What is important for the team is that it continues to put the work in on the court and that it continues to make the experiments and the data the team is surely collecting on the court worthwhile. Every game is a data point and not something the team can push aside.

That is what made efforts against the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks so frustrating. The Magic learned very little from lifeless efforts. There was nothing to take — or very little — and teach the franchise what it needs to one day be a contender.

The baseline for this team is effort and focus and a desire to be better. The results may not be in the offing, especially with an injury-depleted roster where whole position groups seem to be out of the game, but the team needs its chance to make and learn from mistaks just as the franchise needs to be able to examine those mistakes and what they mean for the bigger team.

Everything is a lesson. And it is important to remember that as the Magic go through their season.

The Orlando Magic are still building their lessons and their ideas as they watch this roster even through its failures.

Friday’s 107-96 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse felt like an important to time to remember this. To take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what this team is perhaps trying to build and remember that everything is important when it comes to building this team’s future.

Yes, it was the team’s seventh straight loss. A marker that the team is surely frustrated by and does not want. But it was again the how of this loss and the process in which the team played that mattered more.

Orlando made up for the lackluster effort in Wednesday’s game, actually outrebounding Cleveland 40-33 thanks to an 11-5 advantage on the offensive glass. There were still poor moments — especially the basket the team gave up to Evan Mobley at the halftime buzzer where he answed a Cole Anthony basket by going the length of the floor in five second sto score past Paolo Banchero — but they were fewer.

It came down again to turnovers — 18 for 21 Cavaliers points — and the mistakes the Magic made that had them climbing uphill. That was among the elements that cost Orlando and the team had to fight through.

"“I think as a team we played a pretty solid game outside of a bunch of careless turnovers,” Cole Anthony said after Friday’s game. “They are a good team. They made us pay every opportunity that they had. We have to lcean that stuff up and we might have a better chance to win the game next time.”"

The Magic did not lose because of their effort. And the team was seemingly back to playing its scrappy style that defined much of the team’s first quarter.

Cleveland took a double-digit lead because of turnovers in the second and third quarters, at one time expanding the lead to 20 points. But the Cavaliers never buried the Magic.

Orlando was back to at least putting in a solid effort that made its opponent uneasy. Even if the Magic never threatened the lead, never getting it back to a single-digit deficit until there were about 3.5 minutes to play.

"“I think we have to stay positive after a night like this,” Moe Wagner said after Friday’s game. “We found a way to come back. There were a lot of self-inflicted mistakes out thehre in that third quarter and in the first half as well. The way we came back in the fourth quarter says a lot about the chemistry and characteristics of this team. It’s on us to carry that iwth us into the next couple of weeks.”"

The team still has to find a way to be more competitive and stay in games. But that is the “why” that is more instructive. That is the purpose of seeing what these lineups could do and what it teaches the team.

The Magic most obviously need shooting. That is the painfully obvious thing that this season has put on display.

Orlando made only 8 of 23 3-pointer compared to Cleveland’s 16 of 42. The Magic have been more selective with their 3-point shooting this year. And often the team has been able to make up for this by being forceful getting to the foul line.

Orlando though only got to the line for 12 attempts, making eight. Paolo Banchero, a workhorse getting to the line, took only four attempts. The Magic simply could not build the advantage at the line to make up for their lack of 3-point shooting.

That is something the team has learned about itself this year. Orlando is in the top five in free throw rate this season and that is a clearly important path to the team’s success in individual games. But it also speaks to hhow the Magic have to be able to dominate the paint and scoring on the inside because of that lack of outside shooting.

Or even trust in the outside shooting. Orlando will often force shots at the rim because the 3-point shooting is simply not there.

The Magic finished 54 points in the paint on 27-for-46 shooting. Franz Wagner especially struggled to shoot on the inside, finishing 6 for 17 from the floor and 1 for 7 through the first three quarters.

This too hints at some of the Magic’s overall issues and something it is learning, especially with Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony back in the lineup. There is an adjustment going on.

But Orlando has to do a better job making life easier for the key players. The Magic still seem to get themselves stuck in the mud and rely too much on isolation play to break down defenses without consistent passing out of it.

But this too is valuable. It tells the team where Wagner and Banchero need to improve. It tells them where Markelle Fultz is still getting comfortable with his teammates — of note too, Bol Bol had just three shot attempts as he has begun to struggle finding his fit with this new group.

These are all valuable lessons and valuable things for the team to learn. The Magic can see through these failures where the team has to develop.

It can see it defensively too where both Bol Bol and Franz Wagner have struggled guarding quicker players on the perimeter, suggest the big lineup has indeed started to become a bigger drain, especially without Wendell Carter as a backstop.

These are all valuable things to learn. These are all sometimes obvious things about this roster.

The Magic are still trying to build consistency and a consistent way they can play. They still need to see what this team looks like healthy — for the first time Fultz and Anthony played alongside each other.

Orlando’s struggles hint at what the team wants to be and what the team wants to become. And so their failures and struggles will tell them what they need to get to become that team. They need to know what does not work as much as they need to learn what does.

Friday’s loss in Cleveland was a reminder of this. The Magic need to play hard, and they accomplished that after several bad outings. But they are learning through their struggles and failures.

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At least everyone hopes they are and there is not a plan to roll back what is not working anymore.