The Orlando Magic suited up just eight players on Friday night against the Washington Wizards. That lineup included only one point guard (Markelle Fultz) and one center (Bol Bol).
And it went as you would have expected prior to tip off.
Coming off a disastrous game against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night, the Orlando Magic had five players (not including Moe Wagner who is out for two games) suspended for their game against the Washington Wizards. And it showed on the scoreboard, as Orlando was worn down throughout the game for a 119-100 loss at the Amway Center.
The Orlando Magic look like a tired and undermanned team as they succumbed to a disheartening defeat against the Washington Wizards at home.
Franz Wagner led the Magic in scoring and assists with 28 points and eight dimes. Paolo Banchero had another rough shooting night, making just 7 of 24 shots on his way to 21 points. No Magic starter had a plus/minus of more than -14, with four worse than -20. Kristaps Porzingis dominated dropping 30 points and grabbing 13 boards to lead the Wizards.
Orlando went 5 for 27 from beyond the arc. And despite winning the turnover battle by 15, they never really looked like they belonged on the court. They just could not build the confidence to get over the hump and their energy slowly dissipated with the Wizards putting the hammer down and going up by 30 points in the third quarter.
The NBA split up the suspensions levied Thursday to help the Magic field a roster. So unfortunately for fans, it will be more of the same in their next game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, although the team is slated to have more bodies back, especially at those two positions of need at point guard and center.
Points of concern
Since winning eight of nine and going on a six-game winning streak, the Orlando Magic have now dropped three straight games.
During that time, the Magic have faced a multitude of problems to say the least. But two things stick out for the squad moving forward.
First, nine players suspended from the Detroit Pistons game have handicapped the team. Coach Jamahl Mosley and the leaders in the locker room need to help the team move on.
Basically, the Magic have (possibly) sacrificed two games for not staying on the bench. And with a challenging schedule coming up, the Magic could certainly find themselves with 30 losses before 20 wins if they are not careful.
For any young team, that could spell disaster as the losses pile up nearing All-Star break. But if the Magic want to play competitive basketball toward the end of the year they will need to put this past them and focus on the road ahead.
Scrapping out wins, or simply being head strong and surviving the storm are the only viable options. Either will suffice, and only time will tell if they can pull through.
Second, Paolo Banchero is clearly going through a rough patch and the Magic must make sure that the load does not get to be too much for him during this time.
For Banchero, it has mainly been his foul trouble and shooting. Banchero’s struggles Friday — 7-for-24 shooting, another three personal fouls and five turnovers — are emblematic of his struggles for the past week.
Against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, he only logged 22 minutes and had more fouls (5) than points (4). Against the Detroit Pistons, he had another five fouls and shot 33 percent from the field.
It is hyperbolic to say Banchero has lost his touch or anything of that nature. But it is clear the league has been put on notice and will attempt to stop him more than anyone on the team.
So in turn, the rest of the Magic, when they all return to the lineup, will need to contribute. Especially moving into next month.
Immediately speaking, the other three players (among the eight suspended for stepping off the bench) will be unavailable for the Orlando Magic’s next game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
Getting Wendell Carter and Mo Bamba back will certainly help the team beef up the interior, which the Magic struggled with going up against Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford. Having Cole Anthony back will help organize the offense some.
The Magic should not be counted out as they will have a whopping nine players available for Wednesday’s game. That will help give the team a needed boost of energy. But they will need a complete 180 in their attention to detail especially transition.
Following Wednesday’s game, Orlando will face a murderer’s row in the first part of the new year.
Eleven of the 14 teams on the team’s schedule next month has a winning record, including seven straight games of .500 teams who all happen to be from the West. That includes a West Coast road trip.
It is important for Orlando to keep its head above water during that stretch considering the NBA regular season is already approaching the midway mark.
If the Magic can survive next month then they would surely have enough time to rally the troops and compete for a play-in spot.
But for now, they are at a crossroads.
After their scorching mid-December run, they have pretty much given away their last four games.
And when you have such a tough schedule like they do next month, those wins would have provided a much needed cushion for this young team.
Nonetheless, Orlando will need stay optimistic and play with the intensity that revived their season just last week.
If they do, they can grow and improve through the coming stretch of games. If not, they are right back in the lottery conversation which they have worked so hard to escape.