Orlando Magic's offense gets back to basics to regain its pace

The Orlando Magic were slow in their two losses this weekend. That led to an offensive grind that put the Magic well behind the 8-ball and put the focus back on getting the offense up to speed.

The Orlando Magic struggled to hold to their offensive tenets in two losses this weekend. They have to find a way to regain their rhythm and pace.
The Orlando Magic struggled to hold to their offensive tenets in two losses this weekend. They have to find a way to regain their rhythm and pace. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
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It was a familiar sight in the Orlando Magic's loss to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday. The Magic tried to go through an initial action but got to it too slowly. When the Pacers put the pressure on the Magic and blew up that action, the Magic were out of time to do anything else.

They now had to rush to find a shot. And it often would end up with a contested shot like this one:

The Magic had to reset their offense late with Paolo Banchero staying on the perimeter. Caleb Houstan has unbalanced the floor so Paolo Banchero has to wait for him to clear the area. That leaves Banchero with only five seconds to try to attack Myles Turner and create something.

That left him with very little to do and a rushed pass to Franz Wagner in the corner for a contested three. Not much else to do. And not a quality shot.

The Magic often had to make plays like this as they fell further behind, trying to reset and rush into a loaded defense with an imbalanced floor.

They took 36 3-pointers, the most attempts from three this usually stingy team has taken in seven games (the loss to the Atlanta Hawks). These kinds of rushed plays are usually what leads to the team settling for threes and gums up the Magic's offense.

It is a perfect visual for what went wrong for the Magic offensively in the last two games. The team did not have a rhythm or a flow. The results were pretty stark.

Orlando struggled offensively this weekend. That is not rocket science. The reason felt pretty simple: The team got stagnant and allowed defensive pressure to slow their already deliberate offense to a crawl.

The remedy? Figuring out how to control their pace and speed better to find that flow. The solutions are less about the defense and more about controlling their mindset and what they can control.

"I think just a lack of ball movement and getting into our actions not with the pace we would like," Paolo Banchero said after practice Tuesday. "Our communication wasn't really there as a group. Watching the film, we didn't look like we were connected."

There is a lot to dive into. But that perception the Magic moved slower and were late initiating certainly seemed to ring true.

It starts with the overall production.

The Magic scored a season-low 74 points Friday against the New York Knicks, the fewest points the Magic have scored since March 13, 2018. They followed up with just 97 points in Sunday's loss to the Pacers, marking the first time with back-to-back games without 100 points since Jan 9 and 12.

They also failed to eclipse a point per possession in the two games, the first time the team did that in back-to-back games since the end of last season when the team packed it in after their elimination from the postseason.

The Magic's offense was simply off.

If this is what the Playoffs will look like for the Magic, they have some work to do.

"In the New York game, that physicality and that level of play and what we saw in that game-planning was great for us to recognize now early," coach Jamahl Mosley said after practice Tuesday. "That's going to give other teams what they think they can do to us. But us being more of who we are gives us more of an opportunity every night. Indiana turned up the pace more and turned up the pressure more. But we always say it always goes back to what are we doing. If we are doing these things the right way with the level of pace, intensity, physicality and toughness, we give ourselves a chance every single night."

The Magic were knocked off many of their habits and the things they usually do. These were, of course, below-average offensive games, you expect the team's numbers to decrease. But the Magic hit some low marks that were concerning and clearly showed a team that was playing a step behind.

The Magic averaged a pace of 92.5 possessions per 48 minutes (their season average is 97.6). That already shows how much the team slowed its pace in these two games thanks to the defensive pressure the team faced. That physicality forced Orlando to be far more stagnant.

The Magic are not a high-volume passing team, averaging 279.1 passes per game and 44.0 potential assists per game according to data from Second Spectrum. In the last two games, Orlando posted 259.0 passes per game and 34.0 potential assists per game.

Further than that, the Magic shot 5 for 25 and 2 for 12 from three on shots in the final four seconds of the shot clock and an additional 7 for 14 on shots with 4-7 seconds remaining on the shot clock. The Magic average 8.9 attempts per game in the last four seconds of the shot clock and shoot 38.0 percent on those shots.

The Magic's offense may need to fix many of these issues to become more efficient and get better shots moving forward. The team has to play a bit quicker and more decisively to be successful.

"Our ability to make quicker decisions and getting off the ball fast, getting it around the horn, moving with pace,' coach Jamahl Mosley said after practice Tuesday. "Teams are doing a great job being physical with us. We're figuring out ways to combat that. Teams are switching more and making it harder for us to get into the paint. It has been our strength all year that we're able to do that. Just getting back to those basic fundamentals -- the angles of our screens, the way in which we cut, how we get our setups to get open, all those little things."

That is ultimately what things come down to. It is not so much about pace or getting up more shots or passing just to pass, it is the speed at which the Magic make decisions.

Orlando looked slow because teams were blowing up their actions and the Magic had less time because of their naturally slow pace. It made the problems worse.

And Orlando already was a team that struggled offensively. It did not help either that Orlando made only 10 of 32 shots and 8 of 29 3-pointers in the last two games when the closest defender was six or more feet away. Sometimes it really is about making open shots.

This is just a point int he season the Magic have to lock in and be more effective.

"We're beating everyone we're supposed to beat, but the teams in the same range as us in the standings, they are going to play with a chip on their shoulder," Banchero said after practice Tuesday. "We've got to be prepared. We've got whatever it is 17 games left, we've got to lock in, ramp up the intensity for this postseason, and come together as a group."

Everyone understands the problem is not about selfishness then. Paolo Banchero echoed what Cole Anthony said after Sunday's game: Everyone is trying to do the right thing. But that can sometimes mean they are forcing things.

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The goal for now is to play with better pace and better tempo and intensity. That will help give the offense a little bit of life.