After snapping a four-game losing streak against the Clippers on Sunday, the Orlando Magic ended their four-game West Coast swing with a resounding thud Tuesday night against the Denver Nuggets.
After a high-scoring first half and a spirited defensive effort in the third quarter that whittled the Denver lead to one, the wheels fell off for Orlando in the fourth quarter as the Nuggets outscored the Magic 32-16 in what turned out to be a 111-94 laugher.
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One person who wasn’t laughing after the game was Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. And he wasn’t making excuses for his team, either.
“(It was) not mismatches, not fatigue,” a fuming Van Gundy said. “It was a lack of effort, lack of toughness (and a) lack of any desire to defend anybody … We’re finding every b.s. excuse in the book right now. That’s what we’re doing.”
Orlando took the lead early in the fourth on what amounted to a five-point play from J.J. Redick. Redick drained a three-pointer and was fouled by J.R. Smith, who picked up a technical foul arguing the call.
Redick’s three with 9:41 left in the game gave the Magic the lead again at 88-87, and Vince Carter’s three-pointer with 6:05 to go pulled Orlando to within one at 92-91. But the Magic managed just three points over the game’s final six minutes as Denver ran away with the victory.
“We’re not guarding anybody, and we’re not playing hard,” Van Gundy said. “We can’t sustain our offensive energy, and we don’t guard at all.”
Put simply, the Magic gave up on the defensive end of the floor when the shots weren’t falling.
“It was the same in every game of the trip, even the Clipper game,” Van Gundy said. “We just had a big enough lead at the half to survive. Our offense died in the second half of every one, and we play no defense. We play no defense, whatsoever.
“On this trip we were one of the worst defensive teams in the league. If that doesn’t change, we will be a very bad basketball team.”
The Magic need to get back to basics if they want to enjoy any of the success that many predicted for them this season.
“We’ve won for three years because we’ve been one of the best defensive teams in the league, (and) I don’t see a lot of desire in there for people wanting to be that,” Van Gundy said. “Wanting to put out the effort and wanting to do it. And if that doesn’t change, then this won’t change. Then we’ll just keep getting beat.”
The Magic have three nights off before they host the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night at the Amway Center, and Van Gundy doesn’t seem averse to changing lineups — or changing personnel — if that’s what it’ll take to get his team back on track.
“We’re going to get in the gym and work, and if we have to change people, we will,” Van Gundy said. “But we’ve got to go back to work and some attitudes in there need to change.”
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