The Orlando Magic lost to the Denver Nuggets 91-87 at the Amway Center last night.
As Magic head coach Steve Clifford tries to get the team out of it’s current shooting slump, he inserted point guard Markelle Fultz into the starting lineup to add some punch with his dribble-penetration ability and to shake things up.
It didn’t work.
Although the Magic lead in the first half by as much as 12 points, and ended the half with a five point lead. Orlando, however came out cold as ice in the third quarter, ending the period trailing by 11 points.
The Magic committed 15 turnovers, and committed 25 fouls, resulting in 39 free throw attempts. Steve Clifford thinks this was the key to the loss of the game.
“It’s obvious that the difference in the game was the free throws,’’ Clifford said. “We did some good things, but when you are minus-21 at the free throw line it’s going to be hard to win.’’
Now it’s important to take into account that this was the second night of a back to back against a team that is expected to one of the top teams in the NBA.
Plus there’s the emotional aspect, which really should not be an issue, that the Magic were destroyed by the Bucks by a scored of 123-91. But they’re professionals, right? It shouldn’t be an issue.
AS the Magic head out onto a two game midwest swing, facing Oklahoma City and Dallas this week, the team will still work to figure these things out.
“Our biggest problem right now, to be honest, is when we’re playing ball – and with the way the NBA is now, that’s the biggest part of your offense – we’re struggling,’’ Clifford said at practice on Monday, referring to more free-flow style of playing outside of set plays. “When we’re running sets – and I sat there (on Sunday) and watched every offensive possession for the whole year – the numbers prove it, because I’ve got the (stats) on everything – (off of) makes, misses, side-out-of-bounds (plays) and everything.”
“When we’re running our offensive sets and it’s scripted, we’re fine,’’ Clifford continued. “When we’re playing ball, which is the biggest part of NBA offense with the way (the game) is now, we’re struggling. It’s because of (passing), and when we start passing the ball freely, we’ll be (efficient and) more inside/out, too.’’
As long as the Magic improve the execution in free-flow situations, trust the pass in half-court sets and defend at a high level, they should be able to get back to their winning ways, Clifford stressed.
“One less dribble, no more probing and no more looking for a little bit better. We have to be willing to trust the pass. When we do that, that’s when we play better.”