The Magic were riding high on a three-game win streak until everything seemed to come crashing down with Glen Davis falling to the court with a sprained shoulder. Four games later, and it feels like the Magic have hit rock bottom.
Orlando's top-ranked defense is fading as the team searches for a way to replace the team's emotional fulcrum. The team is struggling to replace his production and step in to the shoes left behind. Then there was the 11-game losing streak New Orleans snapped in Orlando. Now there is giving up Washington's fourth win of the season and allowing the league's worst team to snap an eight-game losing streak.
Adding insult to injury, the Magic blew a 16-point lead for the second game in this four-game skid, giving up an early 25-8 lead on the road to the Wizards.
The Magic are on a four-game losing streak now after riding high and getting so close to .500. The team may not have been as low this year as they appear to be after a 105-98 loss to the Wizards at Verizon Center on Friday.
It was not so long ago that the Magic were extolling their defense. While everyone figured that losing Dwight Howard would mean a dip in defensive efficeincy. That was not the case though. Orlando continued to play well defensively. Jacque Vaughn had his players packing the paint and forcing difficult mid-range shots and 3-pointers.
Playing the Magic would be a slog fest.
That identity is slipping away though.
The Jazz and Hornets were each able to score more than a point per possession against the Magic and even the hapless Wizards were able to score efficiently. Sure, there may be nothing a defense can do against a career night from Robin Lopez or Jordan Crawford, who scored 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting while adding six rebounds and six assists, but there is something the team can do about its effort, energy and attention to detail.
The Wizards scored at least 25 points in each period of the game and shot 47.7 percent from the floor. Considering, Washington did a decent job protecting the ball, made its free throws and limited its mistakes. With Nene again torching the Magic's interior defense for 23 points and 11 rebounds and Kevin Seraphin scoring 17 and Garrett Temple scoring 13 points off the bench, the Magic did not do the job defensively necessary to win any game, let alone this one.
The Magic were not taking very many 3-pointers early in the season, now it seems they canot take enough of them.
Once again, the Magic were firing away early and often from beyond the arc, attempting 28 3-pointers for the game. It was the first time this season Orlando had taken 25 or more 3-point attempts in consecutive games this season after New Orleans sank in on pick and rolls and allowed Orlando to fire away.
This Magic squad has shooters, but is not a shooting team. In this game, the Magic showed how dangerous they can be when they make and how bad they can be when they miss.
Jameer Nelson hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter as Orlando raced out to a 25-8 lead. He ended up scoring 14 of his 16 points in that first quarter. J.J. Redick also was free to shoot for most of the night, but hit only five of his 12 3-point attempts. He scored 23 points, but made only five of those 12.
Three-pointers can be great, but it is not what the Magic's offense was built on. They need to be hitting on a high percentage of them if they are going to fire away. Orlando struggles to get to the foul line -- the team had only 11 attempts Friday -- and so attacking the basket is usually a better sign of offensive fluidity.
Orlando still had 25 assists and so it is hard to say the offense was the problem. Even 13 turnovers is not a bad number considering the numbers in that territory the last few games. The defense really must play well or else the offense will have too much ground to make up.
Maybe this is not so much missing Glen Davis. But once again, Washington went to the paint and just pounded Orlandot to a pulp in the paint.
Nene scored a then-season high 20 points in Orlando last week with Davis in the game, just bullying Nikola Vucevic and punishing the Magic inside. Nene eclipsed that Friday with 23 points on 11 field goals. For sure, Vucevic needs to improve his defensive consistency. For the second straight game though, defensive breakdowns started with the foundation laid in the paint.
Washington scored 46 points in the paint and were relentless in the attack. That was shown in 23 fast break points (another sign of bad, or lackadaisical defense) and 17 free throw attempts.
The Wizards were getting the easy looks while the Magic were struggling to stay in it. The Wizards had the lead throughout the fourth quarter and were only moderately threatened.