Postgame Report: Magic vs. Wizards

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

By John Denton Feb. 3, 2018

ORLANDO – Forced to play without two of their two players because of injuries, the Orlando Magic recently reconfigured their offense and turned to a system built around ball movement, unselfishness and dead-eye shooting from 3-point range.

On Saturday, the Magic ran into a mirror image of that style of play and they found out just how difficult it can be to defend.

Playing without superstar point guard John Wall – long a nemesis of Orlando – Washington shot 54.1 percent from the floor and handed out 35 assists in carving up the Magic 115-98 at Amway Center.

``We came out flat tonight, for whatever reason, first unit and second unit. We just didn’t have the necessary energy to compete and get a win,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``We just got our butts kicked for four quarters.’’

Washington (30-22) won for a fourth straight time since losing Wall, who underwent surgery on his left knee on Wednesday. Orlando, which was once again without Aaron Gordon (hip flexor strain), Nikola Vucevic (fractured hand) and Terrence Ross (knee sprain), came unglued offensively late in the first half and had little-to-no answer defensively all night against the well-balanced Wizards.

``That was very surprising, especially with the way we’ve been playing, to have a letdown like that,’’ said reserve guard Shelvin Mack, who had one of the Magic’s few highlights of the night when he stripped the ball from Bradley Beal in the second quarter and converted a layup to put Orlando up 41-40. ``We’ve got to continue to get better and improve each day. But we didn’t get better today.’’

Washington is 3-0 against the Magic on the season and it has won 17 of the past 19 meetings between the two teams.

Another unsightly trend also continued for the Magic on Saturday before a sellout crowd of 18,846 fans at the Amway Center.

The Magic came into the night having not won consecutive games since Nov. 10, and that streak will continue. In mid-November, Orlando defeated New York at the Amway Center and then won in Phoenix to improve to 8-4. Sadly, that would be the Magic’s high-water mark record-wise because of their inability to string together successes or much defense. Orlando has now failed to win following its last seven victories and it is 4-12 on the season after winning the previous game.

``That’s the learning curve that we’ve got to (make) – we’ve got to get used to competing every night and wanting that feeling of winning,’’ said Magic forward Marreese Speights, who had just 10 points after scoring 38 with seven 3-point shots in the previous two games. ``We came out a little sluggish and slow and I don’t really know why, but we’ll get back to work tomorrow.’’

Orlando came in having played much better of late, beating Boston, Minnesota and the Los Angeles Lakers, while pushing Cleveland, Houston, Indiana and Washington to the brink in close losses. In an eight-game span from Jan. 12 to Jan. 31, Orlando ranked second in the NBA in effective field goal percentage (55.2 percent), third in overall field goal percentage (48.8 percent), fifth in offensive rating (111.6 points per 100 possessions), sixth in 3-point accuracy (38 percent), eighth in assists (24.9) and ninth in scoring (109.8).

Very little at all of that was apparent on Saturday night as the Magic fell behind by as much as 11 points in the opening minutes and lost the lead late in the second period. Orlando was outscored 31-24 in the third quarter as the deficit grew to as much as 24 points.

``The consistency is not there enough to get a win like this tonight,’’ said Magic point guard Elfrid Payton, who scored 14 points. ``We’ve got to put together consecutive games and we just haven’t been able to do that. I wish I had an answer because we’d be able to fix it.’’

Jonathon Simmons and Mario Hezonja had 15 points, while Evan Fournier chipped in 11. D.J. Augustin and Speights each scored 10 points off the bench.

Orlando came into the game having made 33 of 63 3-pointers in its past two games – the fourth-highest two-game total in franchise history – but it had trouble finding the range all of Saturday. Orlando connected on just 10 of 32 tries from beyond the arc against the Wizards’ rangy defense. The Magic shot just 44.2 percent from the floor.

In something of a disturbing trend for the Magic, the opposition’s point guard once again registered a career high. In recent weeks, James Harden (60 points), Kyrie Irving (40 points), Garrett Temple (34 points), Wall (30 points) and Isaiah Thomas (21 points) have bedeviled Orlando with dominant scoring nights.

On Saturday, it was Washington’s Tomas Satoransky, who scored 19 points to top his previous career high of 17 points. The second-year NBA player added six assists and had plenty of help from all-star guard Bradley Beal (18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 31 minutes), Otto Porter Jr. (20 points, three 3-pointers and five assists), Markieff Morris (16 points on seven-of-10 shooting) and Marcin Gortat (10 points and 11 rebounds).

``They’re playing terrific and both of their point guards that are filling in for Wall are playing lights out,’’ Vogel said. ``Satoransky and (Tim) Frazier, you have to credit them for really picking up the slack and helping them really not skip a beat.’’

Orlando will be back on the practice floor on Sunday before flying to Miami where it will face the Heat on Monday night. The Magic beat the Heat in the season-opener for both teams, but they have since dropped the last two meetings – once in Miami and once in Orlando.

The Magic will be back at the Amway Center on Tuesday when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers. They are 1-2 this season against LeBron James and the Cavs and that one victory came in early October when they drilled 18 3-pointers on the second night of a back-to-back set of games.

Orlando trailed 56-47 at intermission because of a poor start and a poor finish to the first half. The Magic had little luck on the defensive end early in the game, allowing Washington to blow out to an 11-point lead thanks to 10-of-16 shooting. The Magic would eventually climb back into the game and take four one-point leads, but another rough patch near the end of the second period hurt them.

Bismack Biyombo converted a layup with 4:21 remaining in the half to give the Magic a 47-46 lead. After that, Orlando turned the ball over four times and had a shot blocked, allowing Washington to close the half with 10 consecutive points.

``I was a little surprised, but we’ve still got to find a way to get it back (mid-game). It happens sometimes where you start off (slowly), but we’ve got to do a better job of finding the energy,’’ Payton said. ``(Opposing) teams start off well and then you take that quick timeout and fix things, but we didn’t do a good job of that tonight.’’

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