Orlando Magic once again struggle to keep up with elite 3-point shooting team

The Orlando Magic pride themselves on defense but they were not themselves on Wednesday night as Miami Heat scorched them from the outside. This has been a constant theme in the Magic's regular season that has given Orlando hiccups.
Miami Heat v Orlando Magic
Miami Heat v Orlando Magic / James Gilbert/GettyImages

Final. 115. 110. Magic Heat Final 12.20.23. 106. 38

The Orlando Magic are not a team that can simply outscore their opponents. They need to defend at a high level and make things ugly.

That is their identity. That is who they are. They have a formula for winning. Shooting is a bonus, but that is not who this team is.

The bigger issue and the flaws that are readily apparent on this roster come to the front though when their opponent makes shots. That is when Orlando feels the pressure of its shortcomings on offense. That is when the team finds itself in a hole too deep to dig out of.

That is when the team can let go of the rop and lose itself.

That is what happened in the Orlando Magic's 115-106 loss to the Miami Heat at Kia Center on Wednesday. The Magic gave up a 17-0 run behind a 3-point barrage -- 11 for 18 from three in the first half overall and a perfect 5-for-5 in the final 5:46 (where the Heat did not miss a shot overall) to close the first half and turn a one-point Heat lead into an 18-point halftime advantage.

This is not how the Magic will win games. This is not how the team can make things happen.

"I think we just have to continue to focus on the shots that we are getting, but knowing when they are coming in the flow of the offense," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Wednesday's game. "We are getting great looks. They are leading to leak outs. We have to know whether they go in or not, we have to make sure we're getting back."

The story of the night was the Magic having a cold 9-for-36 three-point shooting night. That is not ideal -- and the team started the game shooting 3 for 14 in the first half and 5 for 24 through the first three quarters. But the Magic have been able to live without 3-pointers.

The bigger issue was that the Heat shot a flaming 15-for-29 which made the gap too much for Orlando.

That set the tone for the entirety of the game. This is simply one of the examples thus far in the season.

When the Magic go up against elite three-point shooting teams, their defensive principles become even more important. They cannot trade baskets with their opponent. That is not the personnel the Magic have.

And there were a lot of missed open shots in the process, much like their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers a few weeks ago. That often led to long rebounds and chances for the Heat to run out and catch the Magic before they got their defense set.

The Magic entered the game averaging 34.4 percent shooting from three-point range. The Magic are the fifth-worst three-point shooting team in the league. They do not even attempt that many threes. The Magic put up around 30 three-point attempts a game, which is 29th in the league.

This is not their game. That gives them a more narrow path to walk to win games. One they have successfully tread by flying around on defense and forcing turnovers.

The Magic have a style of play put in place to make up for this 3-point deficit.

It is to attack the paint (the Magic still managed 54 points in the paint) and create offense by scoring or collapsing the defense and dishing out. The Magic rank third in the league in points in the paint with 55.5 points in the paint per game. They also are in the upper third of the league in the fewest points in the paint allowed at 10th.

The Magic simply rough up the game. That is their style. It is not about making threes or having to keep up offensively.

The Magic are sixth in the league in 3-point field goals allowed. They muck up the game in the middle. They want to cause havoc in the mid-range. Keeping teams out of the paint and not allowing three-point attempts has been the recipe for success defensively for Orlando.

When they get away from that, they start to struggle.

Consistently Wednesday, it was the Heat imposing their will defensively and physically. The Magic were constantly on their back foot and settling for the outside shots -- even if they were open -- that this team is not built to sustain.

And for the most part, they lose that game. The message was pretty simple after a disappointing loss.

"We can't let shot-making dictate how we're going to defend on a nightly basis," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Wednesday's game.

That needs to continue to be a huge emphasis. Defense should not be affected whether shots are falling are not.

The Magic do not have many good three point shooting personnel but when the few good three-point shooters they have struggle, it makes the void even bigger.

Gary Harris has made just nine of his last 46 threes (19.6 percent). Harris has been the Magic's best shooter for the last couple of seasons. Additionally, Franz Wagner has shot a cold 28 percent for the season. That simply will not cut it. It makes the margin for error that much smaller.

However, Orlando's body language does get affected by that at times. They are a young team after all, but to win games in the NBA, that cannot happen.

"I think we have so many dudes, myself included, on this team who are super passionate about the game," Cole Anthony said after Wednesday's game. "We all put a lot of work in. We miss these shots that we consider a practice shot, we all are very emotional. We have to do a better job controlling our emotions."

With three straight losses now, the Magic have a very tough road game versus a red-hot Milwaukee Bucks team. Back-to-backs in the NBA are always tough, even tougher when it is a home and away. They will be tested heavily in that matchup as the Bucks are a very impressive 15-2 at home.

Magic's bench has been key to success. dark. Next. Magic bench success 12.20.23

They will be tested again with their 3-point defense and their ability to take punches and find a way to stay in the game. They will need their defense to measure up against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.