The Orlando Magic are more than aware of their struggles with the second night of back-to-backs.
Saturday’s 128-109 home loss to the Chicago Bulls was just another reminder of the problems they face when playing games on consecutive days.
Through the opening 2 1/2 quarters, the Magic lacked the defensive intensity that’s expected from them on a game-to-game basis. They turned it up late behind the effort of their second unit as part of their comeback attempt, but the damage was already done.
Offense came easy for the Bulls, with their top players of Zach LaVine (32 points), DeMar DeRozan (32 points, 8 assists) and Nikola Vučević (26 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists) combining for 90 points.
Scoring didn’t come easy for the Magic, at least not early, which affected their defensive focus.
“Sometimes it falls down to taking the easy route in some ways,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “When it’s hard, you want to kind of just catch and shoot, not share the basketball. The guys were trying. They were moving the ball early on, we just weren’t making shots.
“Sometimes when the shots don’t fall, it takes its toll on the defensive [end] but we have to be a defensive team first. No matter if shots are falling or not, we have to be able to defend at a high clip no matter what.”
Saturday wasn’t an aberration.
The Magic are a league-worst 1-9 on the second night of back-to-backs, according to StatMuse, a sports statistics database.
Defensive issues have been the common denominator in those games.
They’re allowing 121.2 points per game on the second night of back-to-backs. The Magic had a defensive rating — points allowed per 100 possessions — of 121 or worse in seven of those 10 games.
The San Antonio Spurs have the league’s worst season-long defensive rating at 120.1.
“We also know that we’re going to be tired on a back-to-back,” said Moe Wagner. “For a young group, it’s part of knowing that and understanding that you can’t put your head down if you miss a couple [of] shots or the other team has more energy. You’ve got to find ways to counter that. That’s something we’ve got to grow in. Especially if we want to go somewhere.”
Luckily for the Magic (19-31), they only have three more back-to-backs in their final 32 games.
The three games they’ll play on the second night of a back-to-back: at the Raptors in Toronto (Feb. 14); at the Lakers in Los Angeles (March 19); at the Nets in New York (April 7).
So they have time, and a few more opportunities, to figure out solutions.
“The consistent thing is the lack of energy,” Cole Anthony said. “I don’t know what it is. We’re just gonna have to find some energy because them back-to-backs ain’t going nowhere. Whatever it is we’ve got to do, changing up our daily routine the day of the game on the second night of a back-to-back…we’ve just got to find some energy. We’ve got to be able to do that for four quarters.”
The Magic start a four-game road trip with matchups at the 76ers Monday and Wednesday.
Chuma Okeke (December left knee surgery) was the lone Magic player on the Sunday injury report. Sixers big man Joel Embiid was listed as questionable with left foot soreness.
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