The Orlando Magic entered the 2017 season with high hopes.
With a team seemingly built with some of the best defenders in the league and a coach with playoff pedigree in Frank Vogel, the Magic were confident they would return to the postseason.
They publicly made playoff vows before the season. They knew it would not be easy, but optimism abounds in October for every team.
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As the season ends Wednesday for the Magic against the Detroit Pistons, those dreams were extinguished long ago. The team sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, playing only for Lottery position in a loaded draft.
And as the finish line comes into focus, the Magic hit rock bottom. The team suffered a 122-75 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday, the largest margin of defeat in the Magic’s franchise history and the team’s eighth loss by 30 points or more, a humiliating sign for any team.
There is a bit of reflection for the Magic to do as their season ends. They played their last game with any meaning against the playoff-hungry Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls and failed both tests. The Magic were not good enough to meet that intensity.
It had been that way all season and Vogel said he shares the blame.
“I share responsibility,” Vogel told the Orlando Sentinel after Monday’s loss. “I haven’t gotten the most out of these guys. I haven’t gotten enough out of these guys on the defensive end.”
The Magic’s plans of becoming a defensive juggernaut certainly did not come to fruition. The team is 24th in the league in defensive rating, giving up 108.2 points per 100 possessions. Whether it was before the All-Star Break with Serge Ibaka at power forward or the team going small after the trade, the team struggled defensively. Orlando never took to a defensive identity after a strong start to the season.
The Detroit Pistons have experienced their share of disappointment too.
The Pistons made the playoffs last year as the eighth seed and seemed poised with a young roster to continue growing and become a factor in the Eastern Conference. With a dominant big in Andre Drummond and skilled shooters and playmakers around him, the Pistons had every reason to believe 2017 would be a good year for them.
Early season injuries derailed that thinking, throwing Reggie Jackson out of the mix. The young and promising point guard never found his rhythm this year getting shuttled in and out of the starting lineup throughout the year in a disappointing season. Drummond never took the step forward, averaging 13.7 points and 13.8 rebounds, both down from last year.
That was a story throughout the roster for the Pistons as players failed to match their seasons from last year. Detroit struggled to make those 3-pointers to help spread the floor for Drummond and the team floundered.
“You have to have range shooting in this league now,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy told MLive.com. “You look at the better teams and the pendulum has swung a little bit in the direction of offense. Not that defense isn’t important, but you have to be able to score the ball.”
Detroit is 26th in the league in offensive rating scoring 103.3 points per 100 possessions. The team is 21st in the league entering Tuesday’s games shooting 45 percent from the floor and 28th in the league in 3-point field goal percentage, making 33 percent of their 3-pointers.