Magic Starting to Show Why They Can Become One of NBA's Best Defensive Teams

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

ORLANDO - In January, a month they went 11-4, the Brooklyn Nets averaged 115.0 points and ranked in the top 10 in the NBA in both points in the paint and second chance points.

So, although not really a surprise considering how well they’ve been defensively lately, it was very encouraging that the Magic throttled the Nets, holding them to just 89 points, 36 percent shooting, 36 points in the paint and eight second chance points.

Maybe most impressive, though, was Orlando’s season-tying-high 11 steals and eight blocked shots.

For the second straight game, the Magic limited their opponent to under 30 percent shooting from 3-point range, an area Orlando has struggled in for much of the season. The Nets went 10-of-38 – 26.3 percent – from deep, largely because of how well the Magic closed out to shooters and contested those attempts.

Even before the season started, the feeling was the Magic would eventually excel in this category because of their collective length, athleticism and ability to switch when necessary. And while they’ve been inconsistent to this point, there have been enough flashes of brilliance when it comes to making it tough for high-volume 3-point shooting teams from getting good looks from the outside.

Last month, the Celtics and Rockets – two teams that rely on the 3-ball – were abysmal from downtown against the Magic, who are 10-5 this season when their opponent shoots under 30 percent from beyond the arc.

The Magic are one of only three teams who rank in the top 10 in each of the following categories: opponent points in the paint, opponent second chance points and opponent points off turnovers. Milwaukee and Indiana are the other two. Orlando currently ranks 12th in opponent fast break points. Only the Bucks rank in the top 10 in all four of those key defensive categories.

The belief from the moment he arrived in Orlando was that Jonathan Isaac, mostly because of his supreme length and instincts, would eventually evolve into one of the best defenders in the NBA. We are starting to see why so many feel it’s only a matter of time before that becomes a reality.

The 21-year-old was everywhere defensively on Saturday against Brooklyn, finishing with three blocks and three steals. Check out a few of his top defensive plays from the Magic’s win: