Bismack Biyombo
Orlando Magic break all their rules against New York Knicks
Bismack Biyombo

Orlando Magic break all their rules against New York Knicks

Updated Mar. 5, 2020 2:16 a.m. ET

The Orlando Magic have a small margin for error to win and have to do certain basic things well to win. They broke all those rules Thursday in a loss.


The Orlando Magic have a small margin for error.

They know it. Their coach knows it — he has said as much. A quick glance at their roster would tell anyone who cares to look that this team cannot afford very many mistakes. They certainly cannot break a set rule of tenants and principles in each game.


These are the most basic things the Magic must do to compete in each game.

And it seemed each one of these rules was broken in the Magic’s 106-95 loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. Everything the Magic absolutely could not do to eke out a win against a Playoff-contending team, they did.

New York was first to every loose ball. The Knicks got to every rebound. They pressured and pushed the Magic around.

It is one thing to miss shots — the Magic did that, making only 43.3 percent of their shots and 5 for 27 from beyond the arc — that is often something a team cannot control. Orlando had moments where the team got good looks, but just missed them.

It is another to be seemingly lacking effort and getting beat after getting the initial stop.

Orlando broke all its rules to a victory.

What are these rules?

First and foremost among these rules is to play defense and limit teams to one shot. The Magic have slipped considerably defensively with their precision. But rarely are they standing around making the wrong reads or getting beat after the play is over.

Orlando actually played decently defensively for much of Thursday’s game. New York shot only 42.7 percent from the floor. Orlando gave up a less-than-stellar 105.5 offensive rating, but that is still a bit better than the team’s average in recent weeks.

Bismack Biyombo was monstrous in the paint, block four Derrick Rose shots and changing a few more. Serge Ibaka did his work in the paint too for the most part.

What killed the Magic was giving up the second-chance opportunities. New York beat Orlando to just about every loose ball, out positioning them for long rebounds and squeezing into the lane against poor box outs to get the advantage.

New York had 23 second-chance points and an 18.0 offensive rebound rate (18 offensive rebounds). The Knicks were quicker to react off the glass and pulled the Magic out of position.

This is what happens when guards get beat off the dribble, particularly the point guard. Elfrid Payton struggled to keep Brandon Jennings out of the paint and probing, he ripped Orlando’s defense apart with 10 assists. New York spread Orlando out for 3-pointers and ripped the defense apart.


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The Magic did not do the basic defensive responsibilities they have struggled with for much of the past three weeks. But they also did not finish the possessions where they did show signs of promise defensively.

Orlando is not a team that can withstand multiple attacks at the rim. Getting beat so thoroughly on the glass was dispiriting and only made the game more difficult.

The second rule for the Magic is to move the ball. To “trust the pass” as Frank Vogel likes to say. The team’s offense has looked superb

The team’s offense has looked superb when it gets the assist numbers up. That is, of course, pretty intuitive. Teams that pass more are more successful.

For the Magic, though, it is a sign of the team’s movement and activity. It is a sign of the team overcoming its shortcomings offensively and its lack of consistent creation and shooting.

Orlando missed a lot of shots and still had 21 assists for the game. But the Magic also passed the ball below average. Well below their average. They had only 284 passes in the game against the Knicks, according to Orlando averages 307.4 per game.

This passing metric can have some mixed meanings. More passes could mean more possessions or more panicked play. It does not speak to the effectiveness of those passes, but the Magic were well below their season average.

And for a team that relies so heavily on the pass, to see the team not moving the ball in this raw capacity is certainly not playing to the team’s strengths.

That goes double with the final tenet the Magic must hold to if they want to find success. And that is protecting the ball and limiting turnovers.

The Magic have been fairly good at limiting turnovers this season, especially in the last three weeks. Orlando is seventh in the league overall with a 13.0 percent turnover rate. Since the offensive resurgence beginning Dec. 6, the Magic are first with a 10.9 percent turnover rate.

A big part of the Magic’s success on that end has been simply valuing possessions enough to get a shot more often than not.

What characterized the Magic’s offense Thursday was lethargic play and lazy passes.

Orlando posted a 15.5 percent turnover rate with 16 total turnovers in the game. This included two turnovers on inbounds after made baskets — one a lazy pass Courtney Lee intercepted for a lay in and another when Jennings deflected a pass off Nikola Vucevic before he was able to get back inbounds.

These are the kind of lazy turnovers the team thought it was beyond. With the Magic’s sometimes anemic offense — and it certainly qualified for that adjective Thursday with a 92.2 offensive rating — turning the ball over only made things worse.

The Magic have had struggles throughout the season preventing things from getting worse as they turn bad.

Orlando actually stayed in the game this time around. It never got lost or away from the team. They cut the lead down to five early in the third quarter as it seemed like they were beginning to get things back under control.

That soon ended. Orlando’s poor defense and inability to finish off defensive possessions returned. Jennings and Rose drove into the lane with ease to tear apart the Magic defense.

Then Orlando doubled down offensively with the poor play. The team did not move the ball well and turned it over.

These are the basic rules the Magic cannot break if they want to succeed.

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