The Orlando Magic finished their road trip with a thud. They put in a lifeless effort, closing out with a blowout loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Orlando Magic gave up an astonishing 29 points in the paint in the first half of Wednesday’s 118-98 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center.
There is no excuse for that. Not the fatigue of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Not an opponent that plays at a high pace. There is no excuse.
The only reason for being so lackadaisical in the paint is a team that is disconnected from each other and not putting in the effort for each other on the defensive end. New Orleans did whatever it wanted in making 49.5 percent of its shots and a 15 of 36 3-pointers.
The Pelicans had 28 assists on 46 field goal makes. Everything was very easy for the Pelicans. They had their offense working early and quickly outpaced the Magic when they put their second unit in.
New Orleans did not completely run away with things immediately. Orlando had a bit of fight and some response. The Magic cut a 16-point lead to eight midway through the third quarter and seemed to have some momentum.
Then some poor shot selection and execution betrayed the best defense the Magic played all night. Or at least the only time the Pelicans missed shots all evening.
That opportunity quickly passed and the Pelicans began expanding their lead back out, leading by as much as 28 in the fourth quarter. The Magic had no more fight left in them. No efficiency or composure.
The Magic had no more fight left in them. No efficiency or composure. No pride on the defensive end or in the scoreboard with their names attached to it.
The team once again said all the right things. Frank Vogel said the team needs to stick together and find a way out of this rut. This has been a broken record for several weeks now. As the Magic seem unable to gain traction and are slipping out of the Playoff picture.
The road does not get easier for them, even after completing this road trip — 1-5 at that. Orlando returns home with more questions for itself than ever before. And an identity of complacency and frustration that needs to change.
Serge Ibaka started the game well enough. He came across the lane and helped Nikola Vucevic with a blocked shot on Anthony Davis. That is usually a good sign for his activity defensively. And Ibaka looked as energetic protecting the basket as he has in a while. He had five blocks in the game.
That kind of activity is encouraging from Ibaka. As is 11 points and seven rebounds. When Ibaka got his opportunities in the post against the smaller Dante Cunningham, he took advantage. That activity defensively was good to see.
It was hard though to say Ibaka had much impact beyond the box score stats. There were moments on the broadcast, you could see him leading team huddles. There was at least that effort from someone. Ibaka just was not able to lead the team much further beyond that. And the result speaks for itself.
D.J. Augustin is an offensive player. That is his role. That has always been his game. He shoots first from the guard spot and has a good 3-point shot. It is likely the reason why he has been a career backup. Relying too much on him gets a team in trouble.
And Augustin can shoot himself into trouble. Especially when he has to force offense to get a team going. That is the predicmaent the Orlando Magic find themselves in with Augustin, especially with Evan Fournier out and now most likely Jodie Meeks out. Augustin is going to have the ball in his hands a lot and be a defensive liability on the other end of the floor.
Augustin scored 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting. He added four turnovers and was -28 for the game. Individual game plus/minus numbers can be deceptive. But Augustin had to force a lot for the team. Both in good and bad ways. He took several rushed shots that put the Magic in bad position in transition or killed any offensive flow. And Augustin’s defense is already questionable. Expect more lineups with him at the 2 with Meeks potentially out.
Aaron Gordon tries. He may not be efficient with his offense and he may not have the skills, but he tries. He is out there trying to do the right thing time and time again with his minutes on the floor. And he takes these losses hard. Even after he plays well, he will sit there thinking what more he could do. And really, his role is to play within himself and not do more than he can. Gordon is bursting at the seams to do more.
That sometimes means he will do too much. And Gordon is far from consistent enough to carry a team on his back. He still needs to win his matchup — and sometimes that is dramatically in his favor. Gordon is still finding his fit and what works for him.
Wednesday, he led the team with 14 points on 6-for-13 shooting, adding eight rebounds and four assists. He had his moments. But he also had some poor moments too. Gordon had his poor shots and flailed at a few post up attempts against smaller players. At least, Gordon played with effort. That part is never in doubt with him.
Mario Hezonja got his minutes Wednesday night — nearly 18 minutes after playing 20 in Monday’s game. And that opportunity is gonly going to get bigger with Jodie Meeks likely to miss at least one game with a dislocated thumb suffered in the third quarter. Frank Vogel hinted at a few lineup ideas, but the Magic will clearly play Hezonja more and more.
Hezonja will have to have the production to match this opportunity. Hezonja finished with eight points and five rebounds Wednesday. A solid effort. He shot confidently and was not afraid to get active offensively.
Defensively, he still has a ways to go. He got caught ball watching and tends to overcommit to dig downs trying to get steals. he makes a good first effort defensively, but will momentarily lose focus on his man after the pass and can get beat quickly if the offense reacts. That is something Hezonja has to continue to work on. But the experiment deserves more time and opportunity.
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans are about as good offensively this season as the Orlando Magic. This was an offensive onslaught from them. They were making 3-pointers at a pretty incredible rate for them and their ability — 15 for 36.
That is not why they deserve a strong grade for this win. They earned that strong win because of their ability to break down the Magic’s defense consistently and with ease. There was never a moment they were not in control of this game after they fell behind 25-20 in the first quarter. They raced ahead to end the quarter on a 12-4 run. That was the final lead change of the game, it seemed.
New Orleans had control of this game and just needed to continue the onslaught. Anthony Davis scored 21 points to go with 14 rebounds. Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway each had 18 off the bench.