Even when the Magic played with some energy and played solid defense, the shots would not fall. It was nearly another record-breaking game.
If there was ever a point that the Magic would hit rock bottom, this has to be it. Orlando is not likely to get worse despite a decent (decent, not great, not even that good) effort Monday night in Philadelphia. The Magic were game. But this "malaise" as David Steele put it will not go away. And as the shots refuse to fall, attention and focus fades fast.
As this six-games-in-eight-days stretch ends with Orlando going 1-5, we have learned this team is flawed -- fatally flawed. The good vibes from defeating an aging Lakers team, going out West and sweeping a few decent teams and gutting out wins against mediocre Eastern Conference competition are all gone. In the past week, we may have learned who this team was.
This is a team that relies on good shooting and ball movement to keep its offense floating. This is a team that goes through boom and bust cycles. The first third of the season was a boom cycle. This last week has been a major bust.
Orlando has hit rock bottom.
It was not even certain for a while that the Magic would avoid setting the record for fewest points in franchise history twice within the span of a week. Orlando called off the dogs down by 18 points and with only 49 points.
Then the team started playing much harder and throwing all caution to the wind. There was a play designed for Glen Davis to hit a three (it worked) and the Magic cut the lead to six. It was far too little and far too late. But perhaps this is where Orlando bottoms out. Perhaps Philadelphia's 74-69 win at Wells Fargo Center on Monday is when Orlando begins to turn things around.
The Magic recovered from a nine-point third quarter and rallied hard behind the hard-charging Ryan Anderson and the energetic and recklessly aggressive Von Wafer to score 27 points in the fourth quarter.
The question is whether this is where the Magic bottom out. Whether or not they have is something to determine Wednesday when the team returns home to take on Washington.
What happened tonight was a tired team (whether they want to admit it or not) playing out a game with little precision and waning energy.
Orlando seemed game to keep up with a strong Philadelphia squad. The scoring was not there. Far from it. Dwight Howard was even struggling to get baskets to go in, and he was, of course, struggling at the free throw line too.
What was more a sign of just pure fatigue is the number of layups Orlando left short. J.J. Redick got through the lane a few times and could not get a layup on the rim to fall through. Ryan Anderson had numerous opportunities at the rim through offensive rebounds or whatever. He was outmatched by Elton Brand early and kept fighting.
He deserves a lot of credit in his 14-point, career-high 20-rebound and 11-offensive rebound performance. A lot of that damage came in the frantic finish to make the score respectable and avoid infamy again.
Philadelphia struggled to score too. Orlando was more determined defensively throughout the game than it has been in a while. Maybe since the Indiana win. Maybe before.
But the 76ers were able to hit shots before the Magic could. You had Andre Iguodala draining a contested 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down. You had the 76ers able to work inside out as the Magic sucked in determined to force more mid-range jumpers. It worked for the most part.
Again though, you can see interest in team principles begin to wane as shots begin to clank off the rim. Orlando was again frigid, shooting worse than 30 percent for much of the game and 33.3 percent for the game. Orlando hit on 7 of its 22 3-point shots. The Magic struggled to get the ball moving too, finishing with 11 assists.
It was just a rough night.
And if you look for more signs of fatigue, the Magic shot worse than 50 percent from the free throw line. Howard was 5 for 13 from the line, accounting for eight of Orlando's 12 misses. Those missed free throws killed momentum and only caused to discourage more.
When the Magic continued to miss shots, the offense became more individualistic as it has become in the last week. Players were attacking without much purpose and without thoughts of passing. Dwight Howard did not go to counter moves, forcing his way through his primary moves until they worked. there just was not a lot of rhythm or flow. and everyone was guilty of it once again.
That kind of forced offense led to turnovers as Orlando was forced to chase points and try to climb back into the game. Especially after that horrid third quarter (once again).
The positive is that the team played with more energy, again, if not with precision. But, like I wrote yesterday and in the previous games, this is not a team in the business of moral victories. The fact we are looking for one is a major step backwards for this franchise. and it is clear this team is not quite "together" or on the same page right now.
There are a lot of questions and very few answers.
The only hope is that it can only get better from here.