Orlando Magic have to regain their fire on defense

The Orlando Magic held the Brooklyn Nets to 81 points on Tuesday night in one of the best defensive performances of the season. But the team has seen its defense slip and will need to regain its form as the playoff race tightens.

The Orlando Magic turned in their best defensive effort of the season in Tuesday's win over the Brooklyn Nets. They will need more of those efforts to prepare for the Playoffs.
The Orlando Magic turned in their best defensive effort of the season in Tuesday's win over the Brooklyn Nets. They will need more of those efforts to prepare for the Playoffs. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
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The Orlando Magic at 33-26 are back to their winning ways.

The team redeemed itself after a 109-92 blowout against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. Some may chop that loss up to a back-to-back and the difficult travel. But no one makes that assumption in a win, it is only brought up in the losses. And the team wants to be beyond those kinds of excuses.

In the end, the Magic lost to a team they should beat playing against a team without its top star.

The main reason the Magic could not beat the Hawks is because they did not come out with the same defensive energy as the Hawks did.

The Hawks, a poor defensive team, held the Magic under 100 points per 100 possessions. Dejounte Murray finished a rebound away from a triple-double with 25 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. The Magic were solid defensively until the wheels fell off in the third quarter in that 18-1 run. Then they could not keep up anymore.

But if there was a positive sign from that game that made it feel like the issue was simply the fatigue from the back-to-back, it was that defensive rating. The Magic's 112.4 defensive rating was the team's best mark in seven games -- since the home win over the San Antonio Spurs.

In the end, this team is built on its defense. That is the backbone for this team. Everything it does grows from that. And that has been slipping lately.

The Magic had to look themselves in the mirror after that loss. And two days later they beat the brakes off of a Brooklyn Nets team that had been owning them all year.

The Magic beat the Nets in convincing fashion. And it all started on the defensive side of the ball.

Not a single player on Brooklyn scored more than 15 points and the Magic defeated the Nets 108-81, making the fourth quarter academic and leading by as much as 33 points. The Magic were locked in defensively all night long and posted an 84.4 defensive rating, the best defensive showing of the season and the eighth time the Magic held an opponent under 100.0 points per 100 possessions.

Considering how easily the Nets beat up on the Magic's defense in two victories in Brooklyn, it was a huge step forward and a sign of the team's overall growth.

In their previous matchup on Dec. 2, the Nets spanked the Magic 129-101 and Mikal Bridges embarrassed their defense scoring 42 points at ease, including 26 in the first quarter. This time the Magic held Bridges to only four points.

Maybe that is what it will take for the Magic to put their best foot forward for the remainder of the year. Maybe someone has to demolish them to get their full attention defensively and to compete relentlessly.

It was certainly a positive sign after the team allowed its defense to slip a bit even while it was piling on wins.

The Magic have to get back focused on defence like they were locked in earlier in the season. Their defense is still good but at one point you could argue if the Magic were the best defensive team in the entire NBA.

Right now the Magic are currently a top-five team in defensive rating only allowing opponents 111.7 points per game. But in their last 10 games, they have slipped to 112.8 points allowed per 100 possessions. The team has given up more than its season average in defensive rating in six of their previous seven games before Sunday's loss to the Hawks.

Their defense was nothing to be alarmed about. But nobody is certainly how long the good offense will last -- the team is scoring 116.3 points per 100 possessions in the last 10 games. Everyone knows defense is their ticket.

A dominant effort like Tuesday's game is encouraging for this team to get back to that level of play once again. And as the playoffs get closer, the Magic know their defense will be vitally important.

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The coaching staff has to get the team motivated to finish the year strong defensively so they will be ready for whoever they matchup with in the postseason.