Orlando Magic highlight their need for attention to detail

The Orlando Magic had two days of practice after their first loss in 10 games. The team spent that time sharpening up some details that got loose during the last week of games.

Jalen Suggs and the Orlando Magic suffered their first loss in two weeks on Saturday. The team is trying to get its details back and move forward.
Jalen Suggs and the Orlando Magic suffered their first loss in two weeks on Saturday. The team is trying to get its details back and move forward. / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
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The discussion for the Orlando Magic during the last week danced around one topic.

This team has a way to play and has found success. They know what they have to do to win on most nights. They know there is a standard they have to play to.

They also know that for much of last week, they did not play to that standard. They did not reach their vision for who they wanted to be and what drove their success. They got away with it.

But that is not the point. Orlando has a formula for success that will matter when the team gets to April and what the team hopes is a playoff bid.

And even though the team defeated the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards to complete a nine-game win streak, the team paid for that against the Brooklyn Nets. So their practice days this week were spent trying to tighten the screw on defensive principles that got loose as the team kept on winning.

The lesson the team is trying to learn right now is that it has to play beyond the final score and play the same way every year.

"Obviously, winning feels great but there is also the other side of what is our standard? How do we want to play? Are we doing the right things," coach Jamahl Mosley said after practice Tuesday. "There are going to be games where you hit the standard and don't win the game but there are also going to be games where you don't hit the standard and win the game. There are so many pieces that we have to continue to look out for but we want to make sure we are always hitting our standard no matter the result of the game."

That is what this young Magic team is chasing. They are chasing a style of play that they can replicate every game and then the consistency to execute it every night.

It was the persistent message after many of these things slipped over the last week.

Orlando is a potentially elite defensive team. Nearing the quarter mark of the season, the team ranks third in the league in defensive rating. But the team's defensive rating jumped from 109.3 points per 100 possessions for the season to 118.9 points per 100 possessions in the last four games.

That is not the kind of defense the team wants to play. And so practice these last two days was spent trying to tighten those details again and return to this identity that has driven success this season.

The team at least can recognize this has happened. Now it is just about finding a correction.

"We could feel it falling off," Jalen Suggs said after practice Tuesday. "We understood what was happening. I think it's a dope challenge to continue to figure out ways to win when our defense is not up to standard. I think we found ways to do that and we're adaptable. Now we get back to our identity and our standard which is excellence on that side and continue to play the right way on the other end."

It is a good thing the Magic found ways to win when their defense slipped up. There will inevitably be ups and downs during the season, of course. And long periods without practice can inevitably lead to defense loosening some.

The win streak hid a lot of these problems. The team has shown adaptability to play however the team needs to play to win. That is a good thing.

But the regular season is still about consistency. It is still about doing the right thing every single play and every single game. And that is the consistency the team is trying to reach and trying to regain.

It is easy to expect things to happen when the results are going your way. But Orlando is trying to play beyond these results. They are trying to hit a standard of play. And that is what the details are all about.

What the Magic have to do is learn how to deal with success and treat every game the same -- the old don't get too high, don't get too low cliche of the NBA.

"Just getting back to attention to detail," Suggs said after practice Tuesday. "I don't think it was anything other than getting a bit satisfied and taking our foot off the pedal a little bit. It was cool to see it happen and unfold where we can slip up and still find ways to win until it comes back to bite us. We've seen that end of it, we've done well and adjusted. Now it's time to get back to our standards, who we are as a team and these two days have been perfect for that.

Mosley said Wednesday's game in Cleveland will be huge to getting the team's identity back. After a few days of practice, everyone should expect a more heightened defensive focus and a return to the stifling defense that has defined the team.

Mosley credited the team for recognizing that slippage. But now they have to take that recognition into action. That is still the challenge for a young team.

In many ways, Orlando is experiencing success for the first time. Few players on this roster have won consistently in the NBA. And certainly not at this level. There is a process and a determination of how the team has to play every game. That is part of this team's learning process.

The immediate challenge though is to push past results. The team is playing for a bigger purpose and for a bigger goal. And that is the standard the team is trying to play to.

Whatever details were lost during the win streak -- in spite of the win streak -- the team has to get back to handle the difficult six weeks ahead and sustain this hot start. That is part of the learning process.

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The Magic have to hope they are able to tighten the screws and return to playing their style in Cleveland.