ORLANDO – Throughout training camp and the preseason, Orlando Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford emphasized to the media just how important it would be this year for his team to score consistently off their defense, something they didn’t do enough of last season despite being such a good defensive team.
In the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, the Magic showed what they are capable of when they get out in transition after coming up with big defensive stops.
Momentum shifted in the Magic’s direction midway through the final frame largely because they were able to push the pace and score easy baskets off their stifling defense. In fact, Orlando scored 11 of its 32 fourth-quarter points off Philly’s seven turnovers during the period.
The Magic, looking a lot like they did near the end of last season when they won 11 of their final 13 games to clinch a spot in the playoffs, played with a sense of urgency down the stretch. Philly had no space to operate, and that was mostly a result of Orlando’s smothering defense and intensity.
Over their last three games, the Magic have averaged 19 points off turnovers, nearly three more than what they averaged in their first eight games, and 15 fast break points, about five more than the prior eight contests.
What’s also impressive is that Orlando is the only team in the NBA that currently ranks in the top 10 in each of the following defensive categories: opponent second chance points, opponent points off turnovers, opponent fast break points and opponent points in the paint.
That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, though, considering the Magic were one of only two teams last season – the Milwaukee Bucks being the other – who ranked in the top 10 in all of those categories.
Orlando’s defense in the fourth quarters of games this year has been outstanding. In fact, the Magic rank No. 1 in fourth-quarter defensive efficiency, nearly eight points better than the Clippers, who rank No. 2 in this area.