Magic’s Offensive Struggles Continue in Loss to Celtics

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

Strong early in the season was the Orlando Magic’s offense, which helped them get off to a 4-0 start, something no prior Magic team ever did. That, over the last several games, has not been the case, however. For the sixth time in its last eight games, Orlando failed to reach the 100-point mark. On Friday in their 124-97 loss to the Boston Celtics, the Magic shot just 40 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range.

Top Performer

The Magic made only seven 3-pointers, the sixth time this year they connected on fewer than 10 of them. One of the team’s few players thriving from downtown lately is Aaron Gordon, Orlando’s point forward with the Magic limited in the backcourt because of injuries. The 6-foot-9, 220-pounder knocked down three of his five attempts from beyond the arc during his 17-point performance on Friday. In his last five games combined, Gordon has made 15 of his 27 3-point attempts (55.6 percent). The only player in the league during this stretch who has a better 3-point percentage with at least as many attempts as Gordon is the Clippers’ Paul George, who has buried 17 of his last 30 tries from 3-point land. Khem Birch had a solid game as well for Orlando with season-tying highs of 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Injury Report

Al-Farouq Aminu (right knee rehabilitation), Michael Carter-Williams (sprained left foot), Evan Fournier (back spasms), Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee), Chuma Okeke (left knee bone bruise), Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation), and Mo Bamba (non-team contact tracing) were all out. Unable to play for Boston because of health and safety protocols were Jayson Tatum, Robert Williams and Carsen Edwards. Kemba Walker (left knee injury recovery) and Romeo Langford (right wrist surgery) were also unavailable for the Celtics, who hadn’t played in a week due to three consecutive game postponements.

Key Stretch

The Magic cut an early third-quarter 16-point deficit to six behind a strong stretch from Dwayne Bacon, who scored seven of his 15 points in that third frame. The Celtics responded right after, though, with a 14-6 run to close out the period. Boston rookie Payton Pritchard, who finished with 16 points, drilled a 3-pointer in that span and Javonte Green had two buckets, including a dunk.

Key Stat

The Magic had only 14 assists on Friday in Boston, the fifth time this season they amassed fewer than 20 of them. Only 17 times in the last two seasons combined were the Magic held to under 20 assists. Orlando, which ranks last in the league in assists per game at the moment, is still learning to adjust without Fultz. The Magic have lost four straight since losing the 6-foot-4, 209-pound point guard for the season.

Rookie Watch

Cole Anthony finished Friday’s game with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. It was the fifth time this season he has reached double figures in scoring. He did have five of the Magic’s 13 turnovers, though. Meanwhile, undrafted rookie Karim Mane, who signed a two-way contract with the Magic prior to the start of training camp, made his first bucket of his NBA career. It was a banked-in 3-pointer with 5:14 left in the fourth quarter.

Quote of the Night

“I think it’s not as much that we are struggling to make shots or not, it’s more of the fact that our decision making has to get better for us to have a chance to win against good teams like Boston, or tomorrow Brooklyn. It’s mostly frustrating because when we do those things, when we move the ball, when we play for each other, when we have activity offensively and we play with energy, we are able to cut the lead tonight to four or six in the third and then go for stretches of minutes where we just take the first (shot) we get and we don’t make the defense work. A lot of times when you take bad shots, usually it ends up being easy points for the other team on the other end.” – Nikola Vucevic

Up Next

Many NBA enthusiasts from around the world will be tuning into Saturday’s contest between the Magic and Brooklyn Nets, with James Harden expected to make his debut with his new team. Tip-off from Barclays Center is 6 p.m. The Nets acquired Harden from the Rockets this week as part of a blockbuster four-team trade. Once Kyrie Irving returns, which reportedly will not happen Saturday, the Nets will feature arguably the greatest offensive trio in NBA history.

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