Orlando Magic Grades: One more game to go

The Orlando Magic's season is quickly coming to a close but Goga Bitadze has taken advantage of the time remaining. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic's season is quickly coming to a close but Goga Bitadze has taken advantage of the time remaining. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

84. 38. 101. 147. Final

It is OK if the vibe the Orlando Magic’s Friday night game against the Brooklyn Nets gave off a preseason vibe.

The Magic put some starters back into their rotation — playing Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner and Markelle Fultz for at least a token amount of minutes. But they still seemed to be playing somewhat at half-speed.

Everyone knew the inevitability of this game and the low stakes it was played at — even with the Brooklyn Nets needing one more win to avoid the Play-In and clinch the sixth seed.

It was enough to put any team to sleep. Even a team that had something to play for.

The Orlando Magic again gave their deep bench a long look as their depleted roster played out the string in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

All these late-season games with the bench groups in need are the same thing those preseason games need — some moments of clear-eyed play and cohesion — to turn things around. These are NBA players after all, they just need a bit of organization to look like it.

That is what happened for the Magic as they finally started to chip away at what was once a 24-point deficit. They started to gather momentum defensively. They cut down on their turnovers. They hit shots.

Early in the fourth quarter, Admiral Schofield cut the deficit to 10 points. The Magic had successfully lulled a cold-shooting Nets team to some type of sleep. And every team in the NBA is going to fight.

That was ultimately a pyrrhic victory. The Magic did not have the consistency to keep up and the Nets had the attacking and attention enough to extend the lead back out.

Maybe that is the victory for this group in itself. The Orlando Magic saw their young group play better and more cohesive basketball — certainly better than Thursday’s blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. But they still ultimately fell 101-84.

The Magic were better defensively giving up just 9-for-42 shooting from deep. But they could not overcome their own poor shooting (35.6 percent overall and 7 for 38 from deep) or their turnovers (21 turnovers for 24 points yet again).

Brooklyn opened up a huge lead early in the second quarter, running off Orlando miscues and draining a pair of four-point plays for good measure. The Magic had one stretch of terrible basketball and did not have the players or the consistency to make it all the way back up.

There is no questioning the effort this group gave once again. But the team was playing with a hand behind its back and struggled to get the consistency that would have been necessary to get a win in this one.

Player Grades

. G. Orlando Magic. COLE ANTHONY. B

Cole Anthony made some great plays and some great shots. He got to the paint and tried to create for his teammates. He did a good job hitting shots when the ball swung to him. But Anthony as the main creator and scorer for a whole game has its limitations.

Anthony led the team with 14 points to go with nine rebounds and six assists. He had a team-best +1 plus-minus. But he also shot 6 for 16 from the floor and just 2 for 6 from deep.

It was a mixed bag.

The reality is that for the Magic to win these games while playing so undermanned, they will need a player to step up in a big way. They will need someone to do a lot more. They will need multiple players to do that.

Maybe that is a faulty assumption. Because largely the intensity of the game lacked the last push the team needed to remain more competitive in this one.

Orlando Magic. GOGA BITADZE. B+. . C

No player has embraced his opportunity to end this season like Goga Bitadze. He has gone from trade deadline cast-off to someone who is contributing meaningfully to this Orlando Magic team. He has taken advantage of every moment on the court.

Nobody probably played with more energy and fire for the Magic at least than Bitadze. He scored 12 points and grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds.

Bitadze is not always the most skilled player. But he works well with what he is good at. He provides a solid base and intensity on defense and he plays tough on the interior offensively. He gave the Magic everything he had in this one.

Orlando Magic. CHUMA OKEKE. C. . F

On the opposite end of the spectrum then is Chuma Okeke.

The Orlando Magic’s public rationale for sitting their starters to end the season is to give players at the end of the bench an opportunity to play and reward them for their work this season. That is a golden opportunity for Chuma Okeke who has fallen far out of the rotation. He needs a glimmer of hope.

But that hope just is not coming. Not in the ways that will become necessary for Okeke to stick around and give this team what it needs. Okeke is just not taking advantage of the chance.

He scored only five points but made just 2 of 9 shots for the game. He had three turnovers. He could not really get involved and could not hit the shots he took, sometimes forcing his shot and drives to the basket.

These games should not seal Okeke’s final fate with this team. But things continually point in the wrong direction.

F. Orlando Magic. BOL BOL. C.

No player has fallen harder this season than Bol Bol. The initial promise of his unique style and skill quickly dissipated as teams started to dissect his game and find the holes in it. The Orlando Magic rode him as far as they could and probably too long to give him some developmental runway.

This opportunity to get back into the rotation has not found Bol rediscovering that spark. And Friday’s game had all the signals of Bol’s deficiencies and why he ultimately fell out of the rotation and may not have a place with the team next year.

Bol scored only three points on 1-for-9 shooting. He did block three shots. But he still at times looked lost defensively and unable to track where his man was. His shot selection also left a lot to be desired as he continued to be a walking shot-taker to obviously limited effect.

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The Orlando Magic wrap up their season Sunday afternoon against the Miami Heat.