Orlando Magic need to lower turnovers to round into Playoff form

The Orlando Magic have built a solid resume to lift themselves into the playoff picture. One area though still shows their youth -- their turnovers. And this is the battle they need to round into form ahead of the Playoffs.
The Orlando Magic are one of the rare high-turnover teams competing for a playoff spot. It is not the number they commit it is the opportunity lost that hurts them.
The Orlando Magic are one of the rare high-turnover teams competing for a playoff spot. It is not the number they commit it is the opportunity lost that hurts them. / Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

During Sunday's game against the Toronto Raptors, the Orlando Magic seemed to break through and solve a lot of their focus and intensity problems in the second half. The ball moved seamlessly to open shooters (even if those shots did not fall) and the defense dominated throughout the game.

Orlando knows it still has problems to resolve, but everything seems to be working well and the team seems to be hitting its stride during this all-important eight-game homestand that began Sunday night.

The team knows it can still get better. And Cole Anthony pointed to one area:

When players are open they have to shoot, even fighting the urge to pass one more time and being unselfish. Overpassing is one of the biggest problems for the team on occasion and one of the big reasons why turnovers have remained something of a nagging problem for the team.

Anthony remembers the ball swinging to Carter during Sunday's game and his hesitance to shoot, resulting in a pass and then a cut leading to a turnover. Those are the kinds of mistakes the team knows it needs to eliminate.

If the Magic want to fix their turnover issues, it starts with confidence and aggression. And this willingness to shoot.

And turnovers are at least a nagging problem for the team as they look ahead to the Playoffs.

"At times we all as a team can get pass happy, which I don't think is particularly a bad thing," Anthony said after shootaround Tuesday. "At some point, you've got to say I'm going to shoot that joint. Everyone is coming into our own. We all want to see the person next to us succeed. At times that can bring a level of selflessness. We'll be all right."

Turnovers are not a persistent problem, but they are one that has nagged this young team. And as the Playoffs approach, their ability to protect possessions in any way and reduce turnovers could determine their postseason success.

Orlando is an excellent defensive team in the half-court -- the team is fourth overall in defensive rating. The way a lot of teams may try to beat the Magic is by trying to beat them in transition before that defense gets set.

The Magic rank 26th in the league in turnover rate at 15.2 percent. That is the worst mark among all teams in the postseason picture. It is one of the big reasons why the Magic's offense struggles (also the worst among postseason teams).

Orlando's defense covers a lot of that. Teams score only 16.4 points off turnovers per game. The Magic's defense does recover and is still tough to crack. But this is one of the few defensive areas the team struggles with.

Even in Tuesday's romp of the Charlotte Hornets, the Orlando Magic had 17 turnovers leading to 20 points for the Hornets. The Magic had a 19.1 percent turnover rate -- it was even at 20.0 percent at halftime when they built as much as a 41-point lead.

As the playoffs approach, Orlando has to look to trim up its turnovers and value possessions far more. Especially considering how the team has lowered its possession count lately.

"There are combinations of why," coach Jamahl Mosley said after shootaround Tuesday. "Some of it is at times spacing. Some of it is trying to make the right play not at the right time. A lot of those things we just have to continue to clean up with lines of communication, understanding where we want to be in our offense and then intentional with their decision-making."

Despite the team's 11-3 record since the All-Star Break, turnovers have become a bigger issue. The team has a 16.8 percent turnover rate -- the second-worst in the league -- since the All-Star Break. There is a lot to review and a lot the team is still trying to figure out with its turnovers and these kinds of miscues.

Opponents still score only 16.4 points of turnovers per game since the All-Star Break. So the increase in these miscues has not hurt the team on the stat sheet.

But everyone knows this will come back around in the Playoffs. It is an area the team has to improve.

Even games where the Magic feel like they do well with turnovers, their rate has been pretty high -- they had a 15.3 percent and 15.5 percent turnover rate in the two games against Toronto (ironically the lower rate came in a game where they gave up 34 fast-break points to Toronto).

Perhaps this is an area where pace-neutral stats do not tell an accurate picture. Orlando had 15 turnovers in each game against Toronto. Most of the Magic's games seem to sit around 15-18 turnovers. And they only had 13 turnovers against the Indiana Pacers, a pretty sizable loss against another team that likes to push the pace.

Turnovers may not be a huge problem in that it does not lead directly to points against them. There may be a lot of dead-ball turnovers that allow the defense to set up -- the Magic only give up 8.1 steals per game, the seventh-fewest in the league.

Orlando's turnovers are not harming the team. Instead, it seems the Magic use their turnovers as a chance to learn how to be better.

"What we'll do in film sessions a lot of times is when a turnover happens in a game we'll rewatch it and get their thoughts of what they saw in that moment," Mosley said after shootaround on Tuesday. "A lot of times guys see something differently that the defense may not have been presenting that they did not see or they thought something differently. I think it is good to get their views of what's happening and clean it up. To hear what they see on the court is very important."

Orlando wants an aggressive mindset that looks to move the ball. The team likes to see that players are unselfish and looking to move the ball. They want to make sure everything is timed properly.

The Magic are still working to play their best basketball this time of year. They believe they are headed in that direction.

Orlando has and is getting away with high turnover games and high turnover rates that are costing the team possessions. In the regular season -- and against an easier schedule -- perhaps the Magic are getting away with this.

In the Playoffs though, every possession is going to matter. Orlando's difficulties in preventing its own turnovers could be something that undoes the team, even if it is not leading to fast breaks and directly to points.

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It is an opportunity lost. And the Magic have to tighten up and improve to put themselves in a chance to succeed.