When analyzing Sunday’s 117-104 loss by the Orlando Magic to the Indiana Pacers, the problem was easy to see. When the other team gets close to the basket, they will make most of those shots.
It sounds simple, but when your team scores 104 points, a lot more resistance at the other end is a necessity. After falling behind by 10 points at the end of the first period, the Magic never got closer than five points the rest of the way.
Time and again, Indiana guards got by their Orlando defenders on the dribble getting easy shots or passing to open teammates. The Pacers scored 48 points in the paint, while others had open looks after the defense collapsed on the penetration. This helped Indiana shoot 50 percent for game.
“We didn’t play a very tough-minded defense game tonight,” said Magic Coach Frank Vogel. “Those guys have to do better.”
The Magic played their fifth straight game without leading scorer Evan Fournier, who is nursing an injury to his heel. Fournier tried to practice Saturday, but could not finish due to discomfort. A timetable has not been set for his return.
The guard combination of D.J. Augustin and Jodie Meeks combined for only 16 points and five assists and were often victimized on the dribble by their Pacer counterparts. On the bright side, Nikola Vucevic had 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Magic. Serge Ibaka added 17.
But it always comes back to defense and rebounding. Vucevic knew his team came up well short.
“I felt like we let them get anything they wanted tonight,” he said. “With the penetration, they got some easy baskets.”
Vogel did not question the effort, only the results.
“We didn’t rebound the ball in the third quarter,” he said, when the Pacers earned several second chance scoring opportunities with offensive rebounds. “It’s not that we didn’t play hard enough. We didn’t play well enough.”
The Magic had not played since Thursday night’s home loss to the Charlotte Hornets, which confirms Vogel’s analysis that they had sufficient energy. It’s the final result that was insufficient.
With two disappointing games behind them, the Magic will get no rest. On Tuesday, they will play their second game in New York’s Madison Square Garden in the span of 11 days.
The Knicks beat the Magic 106-95 on December 22.