Jacque Vaughn only wanted the rim to open up after a 90-75 loss to Minnesota. Just something to build some offensive confidence and get the momentum train rolling in the right direction, perhaps to get some energy going with a team working hard and perhaps deserving a bit more.
Execution though is about more than just working hard. It is about fighting through that bump to keep your spot and keep the offense in sync. It is about making the right pass and the right cut at the right time. It is about being in the right spot and making the right play.
The Magic are not going to look as flawless as they did in their first two wins of the season every game. They are not going to look as good as they did against Chicago on Tuesday night every time they step on the floor. Sometimes the game is going to get ugly. That is what happens when you have a young team without a go-to scorer and offense reliant on ball movement and cutting.
When the energy is not there, the Magic are going to struggle to score. The dismal offensive game Orlando put in Wednesday night at the Target Center in Minneapolis might be a prelude to the occasional night a young team like this is expected to have. It was also a reminder of why those preseason expectations the Magic hope to defy existed in the first place.
Orlando shot 35.0 percent for the game, making only 28 field goals in the game. There was a sequence where sharpshooter J.J. Redick missed three 3-pointers in a row. All of them open. That is both random and a sign of tired legs (perhaps) or a team pressing to score. The Magic did not have it for much of the night.
Yet, Arron Afflalo scored all 12 of his points in the first half to keep Orlando competitive. He was the only player aggressively taking the ball to the basket and shooting with any kind of confidence. J.J. Redick took up the mantle with 12 of his 16 points in the third quarter.
Despite the poor shooting percentage and a large rash of turnovers, Orlando found itself in a game deep into the third quarter. It was a five-point game midway through the period. Then the Timberwolves started making shots and the Magic did not.
A 22-4 run for Minnesota put the game far out of reach because the Magic could not get the ball in the basket. The game can be that simple some times.
Minnesota's run started in the third quarter with Luke Ridnour catching fire from beyond the arc. Ridnour had 19 points and hit three of four 3-point attempts. Two came in the thrid quarter to help the Timberwolves trade baskets with the Magic and maintain a cushion. Orlando never led in this game as the team's first possession was a Nikola Vucevic airball the next was a turnover.
Those were themes for the night.
Orlando committed 20 turnovers with 12 in the first half. Minnesota converted those into 19 points. The Timberwolves committed 20 turnovers themselves, one of the reason the Magic were able to stay in the game despite all the missed shots, but the Magic only got 14 points off of them, many at the end of the game when the lead was already out of reach.
It was a 25-point deficit in the fourth quarter before the Magic's young players made it look respectable in the end.
Some nights, the team will not have it. That much is clear. The Timberwolves, for all the mistakes they made and the offensive struggles they themselves had, did a good job pushing the Magic out of their sets and eliminate the passing angles and the matchups the Magic hoped to take advantage of. Orlando, without the go-to player, struggled to run this new offense without those comforts.
And Orlando did not do a great job getting out in transition. Many of Minnesota's turnovers were dead-ball turnovers and the team did a good job getting back to prevent transition baskets.
As the game went on, Orlando's defensive rotations got worse as Minnesota turned the table and ran on Orlando for easy baskets and rotations got sloppy creating open opportunities.
The Magic are going to have nights like this one. Frustrating nights where even the good looks do not fall. This is the reality of this season.
What was important is that Orlando fought for most of this game. They fought through the tough shooting and the mistakes for the most part. But it was not enough. And with a clear chance to win the game in the second half, the Magic could not execute and could not find a way for the second straight game and second straight night.
During those Stan Van Gundy years, the Magic were able to grind through games like this when nothing was going right offensively. That was the sign of a good team.
The last two nights? That was the sign of a developing team.