Magic look to fix slow starts that come back to haunt them

·3 min read

The Orlando Magic found themselves in a familiar position during their 118-116 loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

After trailing by as many as 13 late in the fourth quarter, the Magic (5-19) used a second-half surge similar to their recent loss to the Philadelphia 76ers and win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday to get back into the game.

The Magic went on a 13-0 run to tie the score at 114 with 47 seconds left, but unlike their game against the Nuggets and more in line with their matchup against the 76ers, they didn’t complete the comeback attempt despite holding the Rockets (6-16) to 4 points over the final 4 1/2 minutes.

“If we would’ve played the whole game like we played the last two minutes, we would’ve won the game by 30,” said Cole Anthony, who had game-highs of 26 points and 7 assists. “That’s personally what I think.”

Slow starts have been a common theme for the rebuilding Magic, though the causes change depending on the game.

Against the 76ers and Nuggets, it was an offense that scored fewer than 20 first-quarter points.

Against the Rockets, it was turning the ball over frequently to start, with the Magic having 11 first-half turnovers and 16 through three quarters. They finished with 18 giveaways, leading directly to 21 points for Houston.

“You give any team [18] turnovers, they’re going to score, especially a team like that’s young and wants to run,” said Anthony, who had a game-high 5 turnovers. “It just starts with me. Just got to feed my team better energy.”

The Magic have been less careful with the ball during the opening two quarters, with Orlando having a first-half turnover rate of 16.1% — third-worst in the league — compared to a second-half turnover rate of 14.5%, which ranks 13th.

“That’s what we’ll continue to talk about — making sure we take care of the basketball, especially in situations like this,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said after Friday’s loss. “We give ourselves a chance to get the game. Those turnovers that happen early on, they add up later on in the game because they limit our possessions.”

For the season, the Magic have a 15.3% turnover rate, which is tied with the Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons for 25th in the league.

Turnovers don’t impact their shot volume, with the Magic’s 88.1 field-goal attempts per game an average mark compared with 29 other teams.

But with the Magic having one of the lesser efficient offenses with a 52.1 true shooting percentage (a formula that incorporates free throws and higher-value 3-point shots) — 28th in accuracy — Orlando could use all the possessions it can get. The team is fifth in total possessions (2,376), which means opportunities have been there.

“As a group, we seem to lose focus a lot,” said Wendell Carter Jr., who had his 11th double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds. “Seem to get carried away in terms of not staying locked into the gameplan. We got ourselves into the game in the fourth quarter, but in my opinion, we shouldn’t have even been in that situation.”

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