Orlando Magic hope their practice reset gets them right

Cole Anthony's role for the Orlando Magic is among the players likely to change as the team begins to enter its next phase. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Cole Anthony's role for the Orlando Magic is among the players likely to change as the team begins to enter its next phase. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

Breaks in the NBA schedule are rare.

Exceedingly rare.

There just are not many opportunities outside of training camp and the All-Star Break to get multiple days of practice. For a young team especially — and a young team bringing players back from injury — these are valuable times to grow and develop. A chance to firm things up before the difficult schedule ahead — that West Coast trip is looming starting Saturday.

The fact this is coming during a three-game losing streak is critical too. Orlando needed the chance to reset themselves.

The Orlando Magic are eager to get back to action tonight and hope that a few days of practice have helped them reset to get back on the winning track.

With a tough back-to-back against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies starting tonight before the team heads out West, the Magic needed to get their ducks back in a row.

"“I thought we had a pretty good run in December,” Cole Anthony said after shootaround Wednesday. “Our last three games, I felt as a team like we weren’t ready to play any of those three games. That’s why we came out and got cracked in the mouth the last three games. It was good for us to kind of reset, everyone let their emotions get back to a level. We have a great chance to go get a win tonight.”"

That is an understatement.

The Magic found themselves climbing uphill in each of the past three games, giving up 113.0 points per 100 possessions while scoring just 92.1 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter of each of the last three games.

There is a lot the team needs to work on and improve to get back to where the team was during its winning stretch just a week ago.

During the team’s winning run the team was fifth in defensive rating in the first quarter at 105.2 points per 100 possessions and sixth in offensive rating at 116.4 points per 100 possessions. The team is obviously a far cry from that — for further reference, the Magic were seventh in defensive rating (109.5) and fourth in offensive rating (117.2).

This team has shown what it is capable of. As several players said over the last few days, the last three games have seemingly drained the team of its swagger. And that is what the team is hoping to regain.

The Magic’s practices were spent getting up and down the court and playing, but also spent on re-establishing the team’s principles. Anthony said the team worked on cutting and moving and making sure the ball does not stick on offense and on packing the paint and making the extra efforts defensively.

The things the team did seemingly so easily during the winning streak.

"“It was perfect for us,” Mosley said after shootaround Wednesday. “Our ability to sit down and teach the things that we’ve continued to talk about. But just being able to get that restart and refresh — our guarding the basketball, how we’re guarding pick and rolls, understanding where our presence is at in the paint, defensive rebounding, offensively continuing to move the basketball and trust the pass. All those things we got to refresh on.”"

That will be important because the games will get tough.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are a team that plays hard and proved just what that would get them with a 150-point performance Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics. They had five players scoring 20 points or more, 20-for-40 shooting from deep and 70 points in the paint.

It was a heck of a performance, done without their likely All-Star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He missed the game with a non-COVID illness but is not listed on today’s injury report and appears likely to play Wednesday.

The Magic know how dangerous the Thunder can be.

They dominated the first 2.5 quarters of their game back on Nov. 1 before the Thunder stampeded back with a 31-20 fourth quarter to win the game. They did that by turning the Magic over, getting out in transition and living in the paint while the Magic shriveled.

Orlando did not have the same flow and confidence that helped stake their lead in that game.

But the Magic have come a long time ago from that evening.

"“I think there is more continuity,” Mosley said after shootaround Wednesday. “I think there is more chemistry in which guys are playing and understanding of where they are supposed to be on the floor. Obviously, we are mixing guys in and out of lineups. I think there is an understanding of what we are trying to accomplish with our guys.”"

This team has come a long way. They showed that just a few weeks ago in building a little winning stretch. A glimpse into their potential.

But the last week has shown just how quickly everything can slip away. It has shown how much work it will take to find the consistency the team seeks.

And so practice this week was about getting back to that consistency and getting back to that level. That is obviously not an easy thing. The Magic had three days off around Christmas and came back flat in three straight losses last week, halting the momentum from their win streak.

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That makes this next stretch of games heading into that difficult road trip key for the team to regain its swagger and move forward from this reset.