Orlando Magic face the challenge of bringing home-court energy on the road

The Orlando Magic have been a downright dominant team at home. Their record on the road is predictably worse. The problem is how much worse it has been.
Anthony Black and the Orlando Magic are still trying to figure out how to get their strong play to travel.
Anthony Black and the Orlando Magic are still trying to figure out how to get their strong play to travel. / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

At the Amway Center, the Orlando Magic feel like an unstoppable juggernaut.

They run the floor and drain threes. They terrorize teams on defense. They play with tons of confidence and energy.

Every play at the Amway Center just builds on the momentum. The plays energize the crowd and then the crowd energizes the players. And then Jalen Suggs and his teammates put the crowd into overdrive by egging them on.

There is no place like home for the Magic. Their offense is stunning and they dominate.

Everyone sees the best of who this Magic team can be on their home floor. The next stage of development and maturity for this young team is a simple one:

How do the Magic get that to travel? How do they take that success on the home floor and bring it with them on the road? How do they look like juggernauts away from home?

These are the typical questions you ask of young teams.

Even last year, Orlando established a bit of a homecourt advantage with a 20-21 record overall. That means the team was 14-27 on the road. As is always the case, most teams aim to win their home games and make up the difference on the road.

Orlando is still figuring out how to be as successful on the road as they are at home. And that is truly about getting back to the team's principles.

"I think the one thing that it is a high level of communication," coach Jamahl Mosley said after practice Thursday. "The one thing that we continue to do is play hard. We play hard and for each other defensively. But on the road because of the atmosphere and because of the environment, we have to be more connected. You have to communicate with each other at a high level when the building is loud and people are screaming. You have to make sure people are connected on the floor."

That connection has been missing. Look no further than the Orlando Magic's 128-111 loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday at TD Garden.

The Magic were off to a seemingly solid start, taking as much as a seven-point lead and taking advantage of the Celtics' lack of size. But then things started to shift. Orlando was already turning the ball over a ton even in the early stages of that game and the team's usually reliable bench got trounced, 47-33.

Worse still, the Magic's defense was nowhere to be found after the first six minutes of the game. Orlando ended up giving up a 129.3 defensive rating, the second-worst single-game defensive rating of the season for one of the top defensive teams in the league.

Understanding that defense is the driving force for this team is undoubtedly the key Mosley has pointed to for his team's success away from home.

That is one area where the loss to the Boston Celtics -- as well as the two losses to the Brooklyn Nets, the other worst defensive performances of the season, and both on the road -- are seeming outliers.

Orlando gives up 109.5 points per 100 possessions for the season, the third-best defensive rating in the league. Predictably, that number drops to 112.5 on the road, seventh among teams on the road.

That significant of a drop though has major impacts. While Orlando is still seventh in the league in net rating overall at +4.3 points per 100 possessions thanks to a better-than-expected 113.8 offensive rating, the team has a -6.0 net rating on the road.

That is in large part thanks to the offense faltering to 106.5 points per 100 possessions. Compare that to the Magic's play at the Amway Center, where the team averages 120.0 points per 100 possessions.

This difference is the starkest change between the Magic at home and the Magic on the road. They have to find a way to get their confident play on that end to travel.

It would seem that happened to some extent Friday when they scored 111 points in the loss to the Celtics. The Orlando Magic also posted a 113.3 offensive rating, the team's second-best offensive performance on the road this season (trailing only the win over the Indiana Pacers, the best road win of the season.

It rings true then that the key to the Magic's success is ultimately about their defense playing well. Orlando is not going to be successful trying to make up ground and outscore their opponents. That is not their style.

The message about road success is still a simple one.

"You have to allow your defense to create the offense," Mosley said after practice Thursday. "I think a lot of times on the road, you get away from easy baskets. We have to focus on getting stops to be able to get out and run. We don't want to always hang our hat on the offensive end when shots are going in or out. We want to make sure that we continue doing what we do defensively and that is our energy, our effort and our level of communication."

Those were all the elements missing from Friday's game.

Orlando still managed 52 points in the paint, but it was a struggle to break a determined and focused Boston defense. The Celtics knowing they did not have a center to protect the rim did a good job blitzing screens and pressuring ball handlers when they were not switching to prevent Orlando from getting downhill.

The Magic's turnovers -- 21 of them with a season-worst 21.4 percent turnover rate -- were the biggest culprit for the Magic on Friday. Orlando was simply too loose with the ball and not precise with their execution.

It had a trickle effect throughout the rest of the game as the Magic had to play on their back foot and keep their defense from getting set -- the Celtics also put a lot of attention toward beating the Magic down the court and getting into their offense early before the Magic could set their defense.

Nobody expects a team to be dominant on the road. Orlando is not necessarily bad on the road either -- the team has a 5-6 record in road games. But the disparities between the Magic's home performances from their road performances are statistically clear as much as they are visually clear.

The Magic have found a way to solve some of their second-half issues after they struggled early in the season to hold onto leads late in games and in the third quarter. That was something that happened both at home and on the road.

The turnaround seemed complete after they beat the Celtics at home in the In-Season Tournament, using a 17-0 run in the third quarter to take control for good.

This has been a season of constant evolution and growth.

Next. Magic games to watch 12.16.23. 3 Orlando Magic games to watch in season's 2nd quarter. dark

The biggest challenge for the Magic as they continue to grow and evolve appears to be finding a way to get their success at home to travel on the road.