Orlando Magic's bench thankful for stability too

The Orlando Magic are starting find some stability in their rotations now that they are looking much healthier. That includes their bench which is trying to regain its form from the start of the season.
Joe Ingles and the Orlando Magic's second unit is also working to get back up to speed as the team gets healthier and settles its rotation again.
Joe Ingles and the Orlando Magic's second unit is also working to get back up to speed as the team gets healthier and settles its rotation again. / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

At long last, things seem to be settling down for the Orlando Magic.

Their injury report has been clean for the last several weeks. They had had the same starting lineup for the previous five games and seven of the last eight games.

That is a kind of stability the Magic have not had very much this season.

Stability was a vital part of the Magic's nine-game win streak in November, just as injuries and illness disrupting the lineup was a big part of why January was such a struggle for the team.

The Magic have long bet on their continuity. But there is something more to it. They need those players on the court together to establish the continuity and comfort they thrive on.

Everyone is starting to see it build and crest as the team has put together wins again -- going 6-4 in the last 10 games. That is as much about the starters finding continuity as the bench group regaining some of its form.

Everyone is starting to get comfortable playing together and finding the rhythm of a regular rotation again. That includes the reserve group, who are trying to regain the form that made them so deadly to start the season.

"I think we've been good all year when we've been in that stable unit," Joe Ingles said after shootaround Saturday. "I think we've got a really good idea of me and [Moe Wagner] playing together in pick and roll, getting Cole [Anthony] involved, getting what we need from Gary [Harris] and JI [Jonathan Isaac] off pin downs and different actions. Obviously, that comes with time playing together. Just getting back to that rhythm now. We know what we do together. Mixing in with Cole, with JI, with Gary what they like has been good for us this year."

The Magic typically run a 10-man rotation and have settled on using Anthony, Harris, Ingles, Isaac and Wagner as their main secondary rotation. Franz Wagner will often spell Joe Ingles at the start of the second quarter and run with the second unit.

Still, there is no doubt that the bench has been a strength for the team.

The Magic are fourth in the league, averaging 41.8 points per game off the bench. Through Dec. 1, the Magic averaged a league-high 47.2 points per game off the bench. From Dec. 2 through Jan. 20 -- when Franz Wagner returned from his injury -- the bench averaged only 40.3 points off the bench per game.

Since Jan. 21, the Magic are averaging only 35.0 points per game off the bench. This area has not quite settled down, with the Magic's starters now fully intact.

Some of that is reworking Isaac and Harris back into the group. A big part of it is Anthony's struggles from the floor -- he is averaging 6.3 points per game on 42.0 percent shooting and 37.5 percent from three in his last 10 games.

But the Magic are hoping to feel the bench come alive again. Orlando got 48 points off the bench in the win over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday. This was after they averaged just 27.7 points per game off the bench during the team's three-game win streak.

Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner get a lot of attention -- and Wagner has been on a big scoring burst lately as one of the anchors of that second unit -- and Jonathan Isaac's presence in the closing lineups has further shown how big the bench can be for this team.

Still, production off the bench is a big thing too.

Overall, the Magic's second unit of Cole Anthony, Gary Harris, Joe Ingles, Jonathan Isaac and Moe Wagner has a net rating of +8.2 points per 100 possessions (108.7/100.5 offensive/defensive rating split) in 94 minutes across 15 games. They have taken some pretty important steps forward.

The second unit with Franz Wagner in for Joe Ingles has a net rating of +23.1 points per 100 possessions and a 111.0 offensive rating with an 87.9 defensive rating in 69 minutes across 16 games.

Those groups are still establishing themselves.

But the Magic's bench groups remain solid despite the recent scoring struggles. In the last 10 games, the bench lineup with Joe Ingles has broken even at 102.1 offensive rating and 102.2 defensive rating. The lineup with Franz Wagner has a +22.8 net rating in 15 minutes across four games.

Like everything else, everyone expects the Magic to improve as they get more comfortable with these new rotations and playing groups from the start of the season.

"I think coach, for the most part, has done a pretty good job trying to keep that second unit together," Ingles said after shootaround Saturday. "Especially early on, especially, we had a lot of success with that. There were injuries and sickness or whatever, which is a part of this business.

"The last four or five games, getting a bit more stable and just getting back to that rhythm we had at the beginning of the year is pretty good for us. I think we have the best bench in the league. I think we play well together. We have the right mix of offense [and] defense. Guys know their role in the second unit. It's been effective."

With everything stabilizing throughout the roster, maybe the Magic will start to turn things around soon. Orlando hopes its stability on that front will return the bench to its scoring ways as the Magic head to the All-Star Break and the playoff chase ahead.

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Stability and consistency should help everyone. And even though the Magic have largely kept their bench groups intact, they have needed some time to get back to form.