AP Photo/David Goldman
Entering Monday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, head coach Jacque Vaughn had let it be known that he wanted to see the Orlando Magic get off to a better start in the first quarter. In seven of the Magic’s nine games this season, they trailed by at least eight points in the opening period. Not coincidentally, Orlando lost seven of those nine games.
After the Magic led 23-21 after the first quarter against the Hawks, it was clear that the players heeded Vaughn’s message. The problem was that Orlando didn’t build off of their (relatively) strong start to the game.
Instead, Atlanta turned a close game in the first half into a blowout in the third quarter before the Magic’s bench went on an 18-3 run in garbage time during the fourth quarter to make the final score look respectable. The reason Atlanta turned the game into a laugher was because of Orlando’s inability to score.
The Magic struggled all game long to create quality looks for themselves, particularly in half-court sets, which is a problem that has consistently popped up for them in the early stages of the regular season. For the most part, Orlando was attempting shots that were usually contested. When the Magic did get a clean look, they typically didn’t convert.
It wasn’t as if the Hawks blew the doors off offensively against Orlando, either. Atlanta scored 81 points on 95 possessions. The Magic were just worse, scoring 72 points on the same number of possessions.
It didn’t help that Glen Davis, sporting the highest usage rate on Orlando’s roster (26.9 percent), continues to be a black hole on offense. Davis’ True Shooting percentage entering Monday was an anemic 45.1 percent. Following a dreadful 11-point performance (5-for-13 from the floor and 1-for-3 from the free-throw line), that percentage won’t get better.
It also didn’t help that Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick played sick. Nelson and Redick deserve credit for gutting it out and trying to play under the weather, but it didn’t work out for either of them. They combined to score 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting and struggled to play with energy.
To sum it up, nearly everyone didn’t play well for Orlando. Not only did Davis, Nelson, and Redick play poorly, but players like Arron Afflalo (six points on 3-for-10 shooting) and E’Twaun Moore (eight points on 4-for-12 shooting and seven turnovers) struggled as well.
If there’s a silver lining to this game for the Magic, it’s that — as Stan Van Gundy used to say — it counts as just one loss.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Al Horford (15 points and nine rebounds) was one of the few standout performers in an otherwise ugly game. Considering how poorly some other players performed, like Josh Smith, Horford looked like a world-beater at times.
Leading 41-37 at halftime, the Hawks used a 17-2 run during the third quarter to break the game wide open. Their double-digit lead ballooned to as many as 24 points in the final period.