If the Orlando Magic’s first three games of the NBA season were a movie script, you’d have to squint to see the difference in plot.
The Magic (0-3) overcame all three losses, either tying the game or taking a one-point lead into the fourth quarter, but couldn’t pull out the win. It’s the details of how the magic was lost that made them hard to swallow while also providing a glimpse of inspiration.
“The little things matter,” Paolo Banchero said after Saturday’s loss to the Celtics, with the Magic traveling to New York to play the Knicks on Monday. “Free throws, turnovers, fouls — all that stuff. You can play your heart out in three games, but if you don’t do the little things, you’re not going to come out with a win.”
The Magic put together pieces of the puzzle from game to game but it seems that once they found another piece, the other disappeared.
Against the Pistons, it was the reach of fouls (23 fouls for 24 Detroit free throws) and poor defensive rebounding (12 offensive rebounds allowed) that undid them. He stepped up the scoring and rebounding against the Hawks but kept turning the ball over (19 turnovers for 24 points), giving Atlanta easy scoring opportunities in transition 9 to beat them in transition (26 fast breakpoints).
In the home opener against the Celtics, the Magic outplayed Boston offensively and defensively, committing only (9 turnovers), a combination of a lack of defensive turnovers, tough shot-making by Jayson Tatum (14 40 points -21 shooting, 4 of 10 on 3s) and missed offensive opportunities that benefited Boston.
Also among the missed opportunities were free throws, with the Magic shooting 65.2% (15 of 23) at the line compared to Boston’s 82.1% (23 of 23). He made 3 of 6 free throws in the fourth, including a pair by Cole Anthony that tied the game at 109 and gave the Magic the lead with 5:21 left. The Magic had no lead until the final five minutes.
“We left some points on the board,” coach Jamal Mosley said. “Those are the concentration levels that we’re going to continue to grow and get better at — we can’t leave those points on the board. The fact that we’re getting there, that’s a big advantage for us to att*ck the rim. are not afraid of
The Magic’s decline isn’t just about their late ex*cution. Basketball is not played in a vacuum and what happens early can affect a team’s rhythm late.
Their poor transition defense earlier Saturday — 10 fast-break points allowed in the game’s opening 7 ½ minutes — likely helped Boston establish a good offensive rhythm. The Celtics shot 48.3% from the field and 40.4% on 3s.
“We have to understand how the early parts of the game affect the later parts of the game,” Mosley said. “Our guys have registered it, so maybe the early turnovers affect what happens later. They’ve done a great job of improving in that area that we’ve asked them to do.
Magic’s film work has helped him not repeat the same mistakes from game to game. They also watch the games of other teams to better understand what is important in end-game situations. The Magic watched the end of the Milwaukee Bucks’ win over the Philadelphia 76ers as a team Friday morning before playing the Hawks.
“Our guys do a really good job of relaying what they see back into the game,” Mosley said. “We’ll watch other close games to help understand what we’ll do in the scenarios. They understand what we’re trying to do — some ex*cution plays, when to call timeouts, when not to, the plays we can run — these guys are getting over it.”
Every game has been a learning curve.
“It’s great, as much as it hurts to lose the game,” Terrence Ross said. “The learning experience is amazing. We’ve played some really good teams. Overall, it’s going to give us confidence and let us know we can compete with anybody.”
Monday’s game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden and can be viewed on Bally Sports Florida/Bally Sports+ Or heard on FM 96.9 The Game.
Markle Fultz (fractured left big toe), Gary Harris (recovery from left knee injury), Jonathan Isaac (recovery from left knee injury), Jaylen Suggs (sprained right ankle) and Mo Wagner (sprained right midfoot). will be sidelined.
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