Orlando Magic need to learn maturity to score the big wins ahead

The Orlando Magic had a lot of advantages heading into Friday's game against the Boston Celtics. But they they could not take advantage of them, failing to find their way and giving in to a more mature Boston Celtics team.
The Boston Celtics were able to knock the Orlando Magic off kilter in a blowout win at the TD Garden.
The Boston Celtics were able to knock the Orlando Magic off kilter in a blowout win at the TD Garden. / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

18. Final. 111. 38. Magic Celtics 12.15.23. 128

The Orlando Magic seemingly had a lot of advantages in their favor as they faced the Boston Celtics.

They had three days off and two days of practice. The Celtics were on a back-to-back, albeit without travel. Boston was without Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis, leaving the team without any centers. And the Magic are one of the tallest teams in the league.

Then there is always the factor the Magic are chasing the Celtics and trying to take their spot. They are trying to prove themselves in the Eastern Conference playoff picture and at the top of the standings.

The Magic have shown they can compete with just about anyone in the league. This is a team full of confidence.

But that confidence can still get broken. This team can still lose its way.

There is no shame in losing to the Celtics under any circumstance at their home. Boston is now a perfect 13-0 at TD Garden.

As depressing as it was to watch Jayson Tatum score 30 points or Payton Pritchard drop in threes or Jaylen Brown dunk all over anyone standing between him and the rim, they do this to everyone.

What is disappointing and what the Magic will have to learn and grow is how to be the same regardless of who may or may not be available. It is to dig into their principles and their identity regardless of the outcomes or any struggles underneath the surface.

Too often this season (even in rare circumstances), the Magic have let frustration dictate their effort and attention to detail.

It is not that the Magic should have necessarily won Friday's game at TD Garden even with all of these factors working in their favor. Boston is still a good team and experienced enough to rally together and find a way to win -- which they did 128-111 on Friday night.

It is once again more about the way the team lost and how the team struggled when dealing with adversity and inconsistency. The Celtics have a very strong idea of their identity and they can fill in and play without key pieces. Orlando has an idea, but it is not fully embedded in them.

That is the place the Magic are trying to get to consistently. They have done a lot to get there so far this year. But there are still moments like these in games against quality opponents (especially on the road) where Orlando shows its youth and gives in to frustration.

Orlando's two young stars, Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, both were frustrated by a perceived lack of calls when they tried to drive the lane.

With the Celtics' lack of size, they went to a switching defensive scheme and it ended up bogging down the Magic offense as they hunted mismatches that were not there. Orlando was trying to force its way into the paint rather than move the ball effectively to open shooters.

It was not pretty to watch. The Magic had 21 total turnovers for 26 Celtics points with 11 of them coming from Banchero and Wagner.

With the offense becoming difficult to find, the Magic were struggling to get organized on both ends to find shooters in transition as the Celtics were determined to beat the Magic down the floor before their defense could get set.

"We've got to take care of the ball," Jalen Suggs said after Friday's game. "We've got to be cleaner, got to be crisper in all aspects offensively and defensively. We didn't get back well. We let our offense affect our defense tonight, which we can't let happen."

Orlando was just off on all of these important details. Details that have been critical to their success.

This was a game where the team's lack of organization and veteran composure were abundantly clear.

As they did in losses to the Brooklyn Nets (both of them) and Cleveland Cavaliers -- and even to some extent similar losses to the LA Clippers and Dallas Mavericks much earlier in the season -- the team let an avalanche of scoring put them in a deficit. A deficit that this team just is not designed to climb out of.

The Celtics were cold for the first six minutes of the first and then caught fire, finishing 18 of 42 from beyond the arc. They tallied 18 fast-break points and, despite not having any centers, evened the Magic at 52 points in the paint.

Orlando did not necessarily shoot poorly, but had a long enough drought and turned the ball over far too much to let Boston have control of the game. As the deficit grew and the Magic lost their early lead, they became more frustrated and tried to force their way into the paint more.

Boston closed the door with constant double teams and walls, trusting that either Orlando was not going to hit threes (the team ended up hitting 14 of 35 for the game, but only 4 of 14 in the first half) or would turn the ball over.

There was no way through and no way to take advantage of the team's size. But the Magic had no other way but to keep trying to dig in.

There was no way through.

"Take care of the ball and keep taking good shots," Franz Wagner said after Friday's game. "I thought in the first half we let them dictate the tempo and took some early ones that we didn't need to. We'll look at the film and learn from it. Just keep doing what we're doing. There will be nights like this, we just have to make sure we get better from them."

This was a puzzle the Magic were constantly struggling to solve. And the Magic seemed more determined to try to find the home run play rather than the simple play. And that only made the problem worse as the Magic ended up trailing by as much as 25 in the game. The second half was academic with Orlando never making much of a run.

This is not what the elite teams do obviously. It feels like a sign the Magic are not quite at this level yet.

The Celtics played with precision and focus. The Magic played without that. They looked like a young team that did not quite know what it was trying to do and how to recommit itself.

That this is something that has happened regularly this seaosn is a sign of the team's immaturity.

Markelle Fultz and Wendell Carter's return to give the team more offensive weapons, stability and organization will go a long way. Banchero and Wagner just are not consistent enough in making these decisions against elite defenses. Boston used that to its advantage.

Then again, the Magic probably need their lumps in these kinds of games to learn what it will take to deal with frustration and crack open the elite teams. Orlando still has to learn how to play when things are not easy.

Next. Suggs Heart and Soul 12.15.23. Jalen Suggs is Orlando Magic's heart & soul. dark

A game like this is a reminder of how young this team still really is. And a team like Boston is going to exploit that. That is what the elite teams do.

Advantages or not.