From The Other Side: How Orlando Copes With Limited Magic | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

From The Other Side: How Orlando Copes With Limited Magic

By
Updated: January 13, 2018

“We’re 29th in the league, that’s where we are” – Orlando Magic forward Jonathon Simmons

People who root for and cover the Washington Wizards are currently nitpicking the bad and good (mostly bad) habits of the team as they move past the halfway point of the season. With their 125-119 win over the Orlando Magic, the Wizards stand at 24-18 which is good for fifth in the Eastern Conference.

As Scott Brooks said before the game, “23 wins at the half point, it’s not like we’re excited about it but it’s not the end of the world either.” The 23 wins they amassed before the game weren’t that bad at all,  but considering their substandard play late in the game, the defensive lapses and their overall inability to defiantly close out inferior teams–like the Orlando Magic–the nitpicking is absolutely justified.  After all, this isn’t a team looking to collect moral victories, this is a team trying to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond.

The Orlando Magic do not have the luxury of dreaming those types of lofty dreams. In fact, at 12-31, they are just barely scratching and surviving and some have suggested that they set aside their visions of grandeur this season, and focus on the treasures the NBA draft may provide:

But since the NBA draft is six months away, and the coaches and players still get paid to do their jobs, the show must go on, and for Coach Frank Vogel, that show is identifying and building upon incremental success. In his post-game comments, Vogel paid homage to the Wizards and their All-Star (hopefully) duo of Wall and Beal, but he also praised his team’s effort, their 32 assists, and their ability to put up 119 points on the NBA’s seventh-best defense.

The MVP for the Magic, and the player who most embodied the small picture, moral victory spirit of this team, was Bismack Biyombo. The Magic shot 60-percent through three quarters of basketball, and Biyombo contributed to that lofty number by shooting 7-of-7 during that span with 19 points and 10 rebounds–many of those points came at the expense of Wizards starting center Marcin Gortat.

Biyombo finished 8-of-9 from the field and had 21 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.  His active play was not lost on Magic guard Evan Fournier who said, “He set some really good screens to get us open, and they[the Wizards] had to commit and we just had an easy pass to drop off to him. He was open, but give him credit for setting the screens and staying ready.”

With 5:49 left in the game, it was Biyombo who dunked home his only field goal of the second half and gave the Magic a brief 111-110 lead. Then John Wall scored or assisted on the Wizards’ next ten points, while the Magic mustered just three, and the game was virtually out of reach.

Biyombo was not impressed by his career-high 21 points–in fact, when a teammate asked him if he knew his career high, he said he didn’t and it didn’t matter because the Magic lost the game. In fact, Biyombo did not want to focus on the offensive success that he and his teammates had, but instead he wanted to discuss how the Magic could improve on their defense going forward:

Although the box score shows that he had just 14 points (on 4-of-15) shooting along with 10 rebounds, Aaron Gordon was another one of Coach Vogel’s MVP’s in the loss to the Wizards because of his passing ability.

Gordon had watched film of his play in the four games prior to the Wizards’ tilt, and he noticed that he was so focused on his own offense, that he had been ignoring his wide open teammates. “If I don’t like the way I’m playing, I’ll watch film. I watched four games because I didn’t like the way the game felt and look at it objectively, ” Gordon said before last night’s game against the Wizards. “What I saw was I wasn’t creating enough for my teammates.”  Gordon had three assists in the first quarter, and he helped the Magic score 33 first quarter point. He finished the game with seven assists and Coach Vogel was impressed:

“The other night he forced a lot, and we talked about it and he came out really playing to pass–he really wasn’t looking to pass, he was just trying to make the right play. He attacked to score and then when the help comes you share it. And he did that real well, probably better than he has all season. And when we needed him to score in the second half, he picked it up there.”

To D or not to D

Every Wizards player who was interviewed after the game, mentioned the mercurial nature of the team’s defense of the Magic and with good reason. The Magic scored 30 or more points in the first three quarters, before the Wizards finally buckled down and got some stops while holding the Magic to 21 points and 27-percent shooting in the game’s final stanza.

But after the game, Magic guard Evan Fournier did not feel like praising his team’s offensive performance the first three quarters, because he felt like that success was less about how his team performed, and more about what he perceived as the Wizards not taking the Magic seriously enough:

“Honestly I felt like we played good offense but I think part of that was maybe the Wizards not being as aggressive and they were casual and maybe they took us lightly.”

Someone needs to hide that quote from Scott Brooks.

Elfrid

Elfrid Payton had 27 points and eight assists in 38 minutes, which sounds grand until you consider the man that he was guarding (John Wall) had 30 points, nine assist and three blocked shots in just 36 minutes of play. But Payton was not demoralized or crestfallen when Wall would score on him. Instead, on several occasions he went right back down the floor and scored a basket at Wall’s expense–a tactic most opposing guards do not utilize enough.

In fact, it seems as if Payton may have solved the Wall/Wizards cheat code as evidenced by his numbers in the last eight quarters against Washington:

Rashad Mobley on FacebookRashad Mobley on InstagramRashad Mobley on Twitter
Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.