Orlando Magic need to replicate Game 1, but just make more shots

The Orlando Magic played a great Game 1. Their defense was very very good, their paint defense was solid, the Magic guarded the 3-point line well after the Cavs' hot start. The only problem? They were not able to put the ball in the basket.
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game One
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game One / Jason Miller/GettyImages

The Orlando Magic had nerves. Plain and simple.

A lot of the players on the Magic were playing their first playoff game ever. And rightfully so, one would expect them to be nervous for that moment.

Jalen Suggs even admitted in Sunday's practice he had nerves but it was good nerves as the whole team anticipated experiencing the Playoffs for the first time.

"Understanding we did everything right except for make shots. That's part of the game of basketball," Suggs said after practice Sunday. "We had to get adjusted to the physicality and to the feel of the game and the pace. I feel like we did as the game went on and it showed. That's where all the confidence is coming from. All of us are comfortable, we understand what needs to be done. We showed we have what it takes not only to be in games and withstand their runs but close it out. All of us are comfortable and confidnet to get to Game 2."

The Cleveland Cavaliers had been waiting for this game all season long, and with homecourt advantage came out on fire ready to set the tone for the series.

The Magic were surprisingly very poised in front of a 19,432-packed RocketMortgage FieldHouse. The Cavs got out to a hot start making all five of their first three-point shots on their way to a 97-83 win in Game 1. That might be all it takes for a young inexperienced playoff team like the Magic to call it a game. But they continued to defend and do what they have hung their hat on all season long.

The Magic stuck to their game plan. Coach Jamahl Mosley said after Sunday's practice he loved how the team did not let its poor shooting dictate its defense. The Magic posted a stellar 101.0 defensive rating and gave up only 97 points. Orlando's defense passed the test to give the team a chance to win and climb out of the early hole.

"The great part about last night, the learning curve from there, was we didn't allow the shot-making to impact our defense," Mosley said after practice Sunday. "Our guys know we will shoot the ball better. We got some of the looks that we wanted. The process was the right thing. You want the result of the shots to go in but the process was where we wanted it to be."

But the Magic shot an abysmal, season-low 32.6 percent from the field and 8 for 37 (21.6 percent) from three-point range. That is a recipe for a blowout loss, right?

The Magic even after struggling that badly to make shots were in the game. They made it a two-possession game many times in the second half. But their defense can only take them so far. At the end of the day, you have to be able to put the ball in the basket to take leads back in basketball games.

Down by five in the third quarter, Orlando and Cleveland went scoreless for nearly three minutes. The Magic held the Cavs to just two points in the first 6:20 of the third quarter. But Cleveland finished the third quarter on an 18-8 run to lead by 15 heading to the fourth quarter. The window closed, the Magic could not shoot through it.

The game came down to the Magic's shooting, in the end.

Of the 37 three-point attempts for the Magic, 35 were considered "open," where the nearest defender is 4 feet or further from the shooter according to NBA.com. The Magic were 8 for 35 (22.9 percent) on those "open" shots.

The Cavs were not much better shooting 8 for 30 from three in Game 1 but just 6 for 20 on these same "open" threes. Cleveland though was 4 for 10 on "wide open" threes when the closest defender was six or more feet away.

Orlando was 5 for 23 on these shots. Even a team-average 37.8 percent on wide-open threes would have led to the Magic making 3-4 more 3-pointers and that closes the gap in a 14-point game.

Orlando by the numbers got quality looks. The team got more quality looks than Cleveland. The Magic just did not hit these shots. Perhaps these are the shots the Cavs want the Magic to take -- in fact, it seems they are OK letting the Magic shoot from three. So Orlando needs to get more on-time, on-target passes to ensure they make the most of these looks.

If the Magic are confident, it is because they felt everything came down to their shotmaking.

"Even [Saturday], we got a lot of great looks. You talk about the shots we got in the flow of the game, the missed free throws, the free bunnies that we missed," Suggs said after Sunday's practice. "It's all part of the game of basketball. They are not always going to fall every night. But I thought the process of what we did was perfect. The gameplan discipline, the way we didn't get rattled throughout the game. We withstood their runs and answered back with runs of ours. We stayed solid throughout the game. Those things you have to hang your hat on and understand shots are going to fall if you continue to do the right thing. I'm confident that they will."

Suggs said he felt he played well. He had a few shots that he felt went in and out. He was not missing left or right and so he remains confidence his shooting will turn around after going 1 for 7 from three.

Orlando's key shooters just all missed -- Gary Harris was 0 for 5 and Cole Anthony was 0 for 4. The guard play really let down the Magic.

The starting backcourt of Suggs and Harris combined for 4-for-22 shooting overall. That simply cannot happen again. Magic's bench did not provide a spark as it has all season. The Magic bench combined for 5 for 24 from the field.

That put the defense in a bind.

The Magic gave up 33 points in the first quarter. But from that point, they only gave 64 in the remaining three quarters. There was a lot to like about the scrappy defense.

But the Magic were only able to score 57 points in those three quarters. Playing great defense is helpful in making up ground in deficits. But deficits cannot be made up without putting points up on the board.

Shot making is still a key part of the basketball game.

The Magic could have easily won this game had they shot percentages even remotely close to their season averages. Having your worst shooting game in the most important game of the season is an unfortunate occurrence. They have an opportunity Monday in Game 2 to make up for this disappointing effort.

Now that the jitters, nervousness, and anxiousness are out of the way, the Magic need to do everything they can on both ends of the floor to get a victory tonight. For a young team, going down 0-2 might be too much pressure to come back from. Only time can tell how this Magic team responds.

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They have responded all season to adversity, Monday will be another chance they have to prove the doubters wrong, and also hopefully knock down more shots.

Philip Rossman-Reich contributed to this report.