The Orlando Magic had begun to establish their defensive base. The team was stopping and controlling the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night, taking as much as a 14-point lead in the first quarter. Orlando was dominant defensively, the way coach Frank Vogel always imagined.
The offense was still a work in progress, one of the worst shooting and lowest-scoring offenses in the league, but the defense figured to give the Magic every chance to win.
Then the turnovers came. One after another, building on top of each other. Undoing all the good work the half-court defense could do.
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Milwaukee was able to get out in transition, beating the Magic before the defense could set. Even the Magic's growing and improving defense could not do enough to prevent its offense's mistakes.
Orlando committed 19 of its 24 turnovers in the first half, giving up that early lead. The constant mistakes seemed to be magnified the rest of the way as the offense struggled to make shots, as it often has done this season, and the Bucks were in control on their way to a 93-89 win.
“It really hurt us a lot,” point guard Elfrid Payton told the Orlando Sentinel. “We felt like we were pretty solid in the half court, but those turnovers really hurt us. They were able to get out in transition, and that's what they excel in.”
The Bucks finished with 27 fast-break points and converted 25 points off the Magic's 25 turnovers. In a four-point game with wild swings throughout the second half, those mistakes seemed to amplify late.
It marked two straight games in which the Magic struggled with turnovers. Until then, they had done a good job protecting the ball. Orlando is 13th in the league, with turnovers on 14.3 percent of the team's possessions, but the recent aberration has made their rough offense worse.
It has done the same too for the Phoenix Suns, putting more stress on an already stressed defense.
The Suns give up turnovers on 14.7 percent of possessions and allow 106.3 points per 100 possessions, 25th in the league.
Turnovers then only put more stress on the Suns. And that is how the Washington Wizards erased a fourth-quarter deficit to score a win Monday at Verizon Center. The Suns had 21 turnovers, leading to 19 Wizards points. Washington had 25 fast-break points in the game.
“It was a game we should have won,” Suns guard Eric Bledsoe told the Arizona Republic. “We've got to do a better job of execution. There are going to be nights when we can't get out in transition. We can't let that stop us.”
The Wizards broke a late tie and won the game thanks to a career-high 46 points from Bradley Beal. It was much like way the Magic's turnovers helped fuel Giannis Antetokounmpo's first triple-double this season in their loss Monday.
As the Suns and Magic meet at Amway Center in Orlando on Wednesday, both will be looking to reduce their turnovers and play to their strengths to pick up a win.