Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
As Noam Schiller noted on Tuesday, a big reason for Orlando’s recent losing stretch is because they’ve regressed badly defensively. The Magic went from having a top 10 defense in the first month and a half of the season to having one of the worst defenses in the NBA.
As January bleeds into February, the losses for the Magic are continuing to pile up and grow more indistinguishable. It’s not just that the team is losing — and boy, are they ever losing. They’re sitting at 14-34 on the season and have lost 21 of their last 23 games.
But beyond just the loss column, they’re losing in the same way over and over. They get down big in the first quarter, make a run in the middle two periods, and then collapse down the stretch.
Their quarter-by-quarter splits bear this out. Orlando’s downfall has been in the two bookend periods since this stretch of futility began on December 21. They have been outscored by 9.5 points per 100 possessions in the first quarters of games and 12.1 points per 100 possessions in fourth quarters, per NBA.com. The middle two quarters are not exactly encouraging (net ratings of -6.5 and -8.0, respectively), but they’re still noticeably less the cause of the damage than the first or fourth quarters.
Down the stretch in particular, the Magic’s efficiency has fallen off a cliff in the last 23 games.
This drop is most striking in looking at the three-point splits. The Magic have attempted more threes per game in fourth quarters than in any of the first three periods during this stretch and the drop-off is stunning.