Film Room: Magic's Stifling Defense

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO – The Magic firmly believe they can be elite in most, if not all, defensive categories this season.

With Steve Clifford, a defensive tactician, at the helm and with long, athletic and feisty players spread across the roster, Orlando should excel on that side of the floor.

The way the Magic pressured the ball in Monday’s preseason contest, the way they forced the Heat into 23 turnovers, the way they closed out on the perimeter, the way they covered pick-and-rolls and the way they patrolled the lane was all very encouraging.

Miami shot 41.3 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from 3-point range, stats that should enthuse Clifford and his coaching staff. The Heat’s turnovers were, by and large, triggered by the Magic’s staunch defense.

Perhaps what will please Clifford the most is that his team didn’t let a poor shooting night hinder them on the other end. They stuck to their defensive principles, even when they fell behind by 19 in the third quarter.

Although this was just an exhibition game, Orlando’s defense down the stretch was strikingly good. Miami settled for a pair of contested 3-point shots on its final two possessions, both misses and both taken with the shot clock about to expire.

All night, the Magic crowded the lane and made it difficult for the Heat to attack the basket. For the most part, they did an excellent job rotating when Miami swung the ball around the arc, too. Transition defense must improve, though, as the Heat tallied 22 fast break points.

Orlando should rank high in steals this season, largely because nearly all of its core players have really good instincts and anticipation.

Getting Jonathan Isaac, arguably the team’s most versatile defender, and Terrence Ross back in the lineup should make the Magic even better defensively. They both could potentially return as soon as Wednesday when Orlando hosts Memphis.