Orlando Magic fans have seen this movie far too often in the last few years. On Saturday, they went out in front of their home fans and laid another dinosaur-sized egg.
The Magic’s 125-85 Saturday Night Massacre at the hands of the Utah Jazz has, thankfully, happened only one other time at home. For those who care about those kinds of things, the other embarrassment occurred on January 26, 1991 – the franchise’s second season – as the Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boys walloped the young Magic 121-81.
While they have not lost at home by more than 40 points, opponents have thrashed Orlando by margins of between 28 to 30 points at home three other times in the last calendar year alone.
This was not supposed to happen this year. Significant roster and front office enhancements, along with improvement by returning players gave the organization and their fan base a legitimate reason to hope things would be better.
For a while, things were better. A little more than a week ago, the Magic were 8-4 after a road win in Phoenix.
Since then, they lost the final three games of a Western Conference through Denver, Golden State and Portland. Then came Saturday’s epic disaster in the Amway Center.
Second-year coach Frank Vogel assumed an all-too-familiar role of answering postgame questions about what happened. He summed up the situation with his answer to the first question.
“We just played our worst game of the season,” Vogel said. “Credit to the Jazz; they played desperate, because they had not won on the road, yet, and they played a terrific game. We did not.”
While Vogel became the master of the understatement, his comment was accurate as far as it went. Later in the press briefing, which lasted little more than three minutes, he encapsulated what comes next after Saturday’s game.
“We’ll see how we respond to this game,” he said. “I’m less concerned about what happened in this game. I’m more concerned with how we respond to it.”
Good point. While there are some new players here, the starting five all finished the season here last year. Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Terrance Ross and Evan Fournier absorbed similar poundings a year ago, they will need to respond better than they did.
On December 7, the Boston Celtics rolled to a 117-87 win in Orlando. The Magic “responded” with a 21-point loss in Charlotte two days later.
Nine days after that, Toronto administered another 30-point home less, but Orlando went to Miami and pulled out a double-overtime win on December 20. The San Antonio Spurs romped to a 107-79 win just before the February All-Star break, but the Magic lost their first game after the break at home to Portland.
Vogel also had to deal with 40 and 47-point road losses as well last season. In this case, the team’s ability to respond is helped by the fact their next game is not only at home on Monday, but against the Indiana Pacers.
Vogel’s players want to get him his first win against his former team, or at least they say they do. If they can’t put forth a strong effort in those circumstances, this season could look much like last season.
“Well, we’ll see if it’s going to be different,” Vogel said. “Mostly, I challenged our guys to see how we respond to this. It’s all I said to them after the game.”
The Magic players do not need to say anything. Their effort and results must do all of the talking.