The Orlando Magic have not suffered lately from getting off to bad starts. Finishing has been another matter.
On Sunday, the Magic again jumped out of the gate strong, leading the Los Angeles Clippers 35-20 in the first half. From that point, it became tough to score as the Clippers went on to a 106-96 victory.
Over the past 7 games, the Magic have held double-digit leads in all of them, but have managed to win only three of them. Uninspired defense has been the cause on most occasions, but on others, it was an inability to put the ball in the basket, including missing open shots.
After a blowout win in Chicago, the Magic held a 60-42 lead with 7:22 remaining in the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, only to be outscored 78-43 from there to fall 120-103. Magic coach Steve Clifford was particularly bothered by the team’s effort and their overall commitment.
“Thirty-eight games in now, we’re going to get to the point where we’ve got to be all the way in,’’ said Clifford after the loss to the Timberwolves. “If we’re not right, we’re not going to win many nights. We have to play well, we have to be committed defensively and be a ball-movement, inside-out team. That’s when we play well, and we’ve proven we can play against better teams when we do that. When we don’t, we just don’t have enough.’’
Clifford lamented the inability to make open shots against the Clippers, but unlike at Minnesota, he was pleased with the team’s overall effort. He actually wanted his team to keep shooting.
“I took two guys out because they were hesitant to shoot because they missed the open ones,” Clifford said. “You got to keep shooting. But I thought our effort was good enough.”
Center Nikola Vucevic, who had a huge game with 16 points and 24 rebounds, also separated the Magic’s effort on Sunday with the disappointment in Minnesota.
Definitely not like in Minnesota,” he said in the locker room. “I thought we were better at moving the ball, trying to find that open guy. I felt like we had enough amount of open looks to where our offense could have been efficient. We just didn’t make them.”
The Magic starters on Sunday made only 21 of 58 shots, including a 5 for 17 effort from Aaron Gordon and one for 7 from Jonathan Isaac.
They hope the shots start to fall beyond the first quarter beginning Monday night when the face the Sacramento Kings. The Kings rank fifth in the NBA in scoring with 115.2 points per game.