Orlando Magic need to find their poise and find a point guard

The Orlando Magic again lost a winnable game thanks to high turnovers and poor organization late in the fourth quarter. They are clearly missing a point guard to calm them down and get them going late in games.

Paolo Banchero has been forced into the point guard role with the Orlando Magic's injuries and the team has struggled to get going because of the odd fit.
Paolo Banchero has been forced into the point guard role with the Orlando Magic's injuries and the team has struggled to get going because of the odd fit. / D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
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41. Final. 115. 38. Magic Warriors Final 01.02.23. 121

Every game now there seems to be some Zapruder film that comes out trying to dissect Markelle Fultz's shot or some aspect of his game. There is something to try and get a glimpse of the Orlando Magic starter who has been out for all but one game since Nov. 2 -- now two months -- with left knee tendinitis.

Already wondering eyes have been thinking about the trade deadline and a bit more seriously about Fultz's future. In another month, the Magic may have to make some difficult decisions about their roster.

And for the last two games, Fultz's return and the answer to a lot of these questions seems closer than ever. He was listed as QUESTIONABLE for the past two games and at least nominally a game-time decision before he ultimately got scratched from the game. He has already been ruled OUT for Wednesday's game in Sacramento.

Regardless of what anyone thinks about his flaws or his future with the team, his presence is certainly missed. And that absence feels deeper and greater than ever before as the Magic continue to struggle since ending their nine-game win streak in early December.

The Magic miss Fultz. As they continue to struggle with turnovers and with their poise late in games, they desperately need a point guard -- an organizer, facilitator and playmaker -- to ease the burden on their two young stars. There is just a lot on their plate and they are not equipped to handle the pressures that come at the end of games.

Orlando again found itself in a tight game against a team with a championship pedigree. And again, the Orlando Magic seemed to play themselves out of it, falling to the Golden State Warriors 121-115 at Chase Center.

The Magic turned the ball over 18 times (for 18 Warriors points) and went through an extended drought in the fourth quarter as the Warriors executed and pulled away.

Orlando trailed by two points with 5:07 left after a Paolo Banchero turnaround fadeaway jumper. It was nearly the same margin they faced in Sunday's loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Golden State proceeded to score the next seven points starting with Stephen Curry answering a Paolo Banchero turnover with a step-back three over Goga Bitadze.

Orlando fought back to get within five with three minutes to play, but that run ended with an ill-advised 3-pointer from Banchero and a miscommunication that resulted in Stephen Curry finding Klay Thompson underneath the basket for a layup. The Warriors were able to break down the Magic's defense and the Magic were unable to get quality shots.

It is the difference between a team with a point guard and chief organizer and a team with point going up against a young team that is still trying to figure everything out.

Orlando has been largely operating without a point guard for the past two months. The team has used Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner for a lot of the regular point guard duties. But with injuries hitting the roster harder, it feels like the team has put the ball in their hands even more.

Both turned in killer scoring performances. Banchero scored another 27 points to go with six assists. Wagner had 25 points to go with another three. But the two also combined for nine turnovers -- five for Banchero and four for Wagner.

And a lot of these turnovers were simply bad turnovers. Banchero had at least two where he was trying to push the ball ahead in transition and had passes intercepted before the team could even initiate the offense.

There were still all of the mistakes of the team trying to squeeze the ball through pressure and into tight corners. But that does not even get to the 16 deflections according to NBA.com's hustle stats (one shy of the Magic who were also surprisingly active despite an inconsistent defensive effort).

"That's why they are both All-Stars to me," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Tuesday's loss. "They are trying to make those around them better. They show up trying to play the right way every single night knowing that the defenses are tilted toward them. They continue to play trying to make their teammates better as well. They are trying to play as hard as they can on both ends which is what we've asked each individual on this team to do."

That duo is doing all they can. But there is still that something intangible missing. So intangible perhaps, that it is clear they need to ease their burden.

The Warriors found a way to disrupt the Magic's offense and keep them on the perimeter. If not for an uncharacteristically strong shooting performance in the second half, things might have gotten very ugly.

Banchero and Wagner carried a heavy load for the team. The ball was in their hands a lot and they are making a lot of the key decisions. But it always felt like the team was climbing uphill.

The Magic never really seemed settled offensively. And there were several key stretches where it felt like the Magic had built some momentum only for a bad shot decision or a turnover would derail them. There were a lot of possessions where the ball just stagnated as Banchero or Wagner tried to create action and something going toward the basket.

Both Banchero and Wagner are more than capable of starting the offense. They are scoring enough to carry the team to a chance to win.

But something is missing late. The team is not getting good shots. All the flaws in the Magic's offense seem to get highlighted as Banchero and Wagner have to force their way.

Orlando needs to get the ball to its best players in a position to score. Instead, they are having to find a way to get themselves going. The Magic are missing that player to set the table.

They are missing that player to calm them down in the storm of a close game, to get them organized and into that ideal shot. It is a skill set that comes from experience and knowledge as a point guard and team leader. As a quarterback, if you will.

The Magic have been missing that. Both Banchero and Wagner have grown as playmakers and creators. But as good as they have been, they will get a lot better when they have another player capable of setting them up.

That is something the starters have missed without Markelle Fultz and the bench has missed without Joe Ingles.

This shortcoming is holding the team back. And now teams are exploiting it more and more as the Magic find their footing. They are dropping games they may need later in the season.

The team has clearly shown it is good enough to compete. This team is good enough to make the Playoffs.

"I think there was a big portion of our timely turnovers that led to big-time runs from them," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Tuesday's loss. "They came up with a lot of those 50/50 hustle plays and shots at the end of the shot clock. Our guys' will to stay poised down the stretch I was very proud of. You have to give Golden State a ton of credit for how hard they played. They have an elite shotmaker and Hall of Fame player in Steph Curry and that's what we got."

But they are missing the poise they need to close these games out. They are missing some organization. It is clear how much better the Magic can be.

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They may get Fultz back soon. Until then they are waiting and trying to figure out how to find that calm, poise and maturity a point guard typically brings.