PLAYOFF MAGIC IN 2020

PLAYOFF MAGIC IN 2020

Playoff Magic in 2020 ended on August 29th at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks. In the intervening period a lot has happened in the NBA, culminating in the Lakers being crowned as NBA champions. As Magic fans we are in a holding pattern waiting for the draft, free agency and then onto the new season.

Therefore we thought at Orlando Magic UK we’d take a look back having had some time to reflect on what was and what wasn’t “Playoff Magic”.

THE SERIES

The Orlando Magic entered the playoffs in what was a disappointing 8th seed position. That standing resulted in a matchup with the Eastern Conference’s number 1 seed; the Milwaukee Bucks.

Orlando came into the series hampered by injuries and erratic form, misfiring on both ends of the court.

Milwaukee came into the series with a fully fit squad that boasted a huge amount of depth. Their form in the bubble however belied their number 1 status in the NBA.

Most had written the Magic off as an irrelevance before the opening tip of game 1.

Game 1

The basketball world took notice as the Magic stunned the Milwaukee Bucks with a brilliant 122-110 victory. The win came from energy, discipline and determination on the defensive end. Though Giannis Antetokounmpo scored well the Magic defence played him very effectively, being held scoreless in the final 11 minutes of the game. The rest of their squad were equally met with aggression and focus. This saw 16 Bucks turnovers, from which Orlando scored 25 points.

Orlando shot 49% from the field, including 39% from the 3 and 94% from the free throw line. Our favourite two season stats were met again, lead at the end of the 1st quarter and going into the 4th then Orlando get the win!

Each time the Bucks threw a punch the Magic rallied and came again. Nikola Vucevic scored a playoff career high 35 points and had 14 rebounds.

Game 2

The wounded animal that was the Milwaukee Bucks came out and bossed the game from start to finish, winning 96-111. They played their defensive game choking the Magic in the paint, daring Orlando to shoot from deep. On offence the Bucks hit 3’s at will, scored freely in the paint and controlled the boards on both ends.

The Magic offence looked rushed from the off and never properly recovered as the poor shooting form got into their heads. They mounted runs including getting the deficit down to only 8 points in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately multiple empty possessions never saw us pull closer and the opportunity of a second win was missed.

Ultimately a 13 point first quarter and shooting only 12% from the field had sealed our fate. Across the game Orlando shot 34% from the field, including 21% from the 3 and 87% from the free throw line.

The Magic were led by another superb performance from Nikola Vucevic. On the night scoring 32 points, 10 rebounds and 2 assists this was a back-to-back 30 plus scoring game.

Game 3

Simply put this was a game where Orlando failed to match the Milwaukee intensity, looking every inch a top offensive and defensive team. The Bucks took an 11 point lead during the first quarter and had extended this to as many as 28 during the half. Orlando gave up 70 first half points. By the close a score of 121-107 was closer than many dared to hope.

An undermanned Magic were unable to compete in the first half and not helped when James Ennis and Marvin Williams scuffled, resulting in both being ejected.

The Magic were sloppy, committing many turnovers and directly resulting in 25 fast break points. Markelle Fultz in a terrible performance had 5 of the team’s 18 turnovers alone.

Giannis flexed his muscles to finish with 35 points, being unstoppable by a Magic defence that was always a step behind and a moment late. Middleton found his game scoring 17 points and 6 assists, as did Bledsoe with 14 and 8.

Orlando were led by a strong game from DJ Augustin with 24 points and 6 assists from the bench. Ross and Vooch both made 20.

Orlando actually made 19 shots from the 3, only the second time in NBA history a team has made that many 3’s and lost! That and the play of the second half have to give the team some confidence.

Game 4

Orlando came out swinging with commitment and determination but fell short during the 4th quarter. The final score of 121-106 in no way reflected the tight nature of the game, trailing by 3 going into the 4th quarter. A lead ballooned to 19 but the Magic fought cutting it to 7 with around 4 minutes left.

In this game the Magic offence played well for parts shooting a field goal percentage of 41% and going 40% from the 3 ball. Unfortunately the Bucks were better on both ends of the floor. The stats were close but tellingly again 16 Orlando turnovers led directly to 17 Milwaukee points.

Yet again Giannis was dominant as he tallied 31 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists and a block. All 11 Bucks players contributed to the scoresheet, testament to their depth.

For Orlando Nikola Vucevic led the team again with 31 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 blocks. Terence Ross was the next highest scorer with 19 points but going 1 of 8 from deep hurt. Ross tweeted out an apology to Magic fans saying the loss was on him. The truth is that in a team game there were others far more culpable.

Game 5

This game saw Orlando exit the playoffs and the NBA Disney bubble.

Facing elimination Orlando came in battling, regardless of there being only a remote chance of taking the series. By the end of the first the Magic were were down by only 5 points, having shown spirit in a low scoring 21-26 quarter. That hope evaporated in a disastrous 2nd quarter as the Bucks piled on 41 points to lead 50-67 at the half.

Early in the 3rd the lead had grown to 21 points but Orlando fought and won the 3rd quarter. With a shade under 8 minutes of the 4th quarter remaining almost unbelievably Orlando had fought back from that 21 point deficit to be within 3 points. A missed Brook Lopez shot saw the Magic have an opportunity to claim possession but failed to rebound and allowed Marvin Williams to hit a 3 pointer, starting a Bucks 9-0 scoring run. Orlando could not recover from this dagger.

As before Orlando had no answer to Giannis, who went for 28 points, 17 rebounds and 3 assists in 28 minutes of play.

Orlando were again led by Nikola Vucevic with 22 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists. Evan Fournier, Markelle Fultz, DJ Augustin and Terence Ross all contributed with double figure scoring. The bench unit provided Orlando with a lot of spark and energy.

PLAYOFF MAGIC – VOOCH

Vooch had a terrific postseason. He became only the fourth player in the team’s franchise history to score 30 plus points in 3 games of a playoff series. Scoring 35, 32, 20, 31 and 22 Vooch stepped up and swept away the ghost of last year’s under performance against Toronto. Across the 5 games he averaged 28 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists.

PLAYOFF MAGIC – A BETTER TEAM SHOWING

For a second year running Orlando made the playoffs, won game 1 and then suffered a gentleman’s sweep, exiting the playoffs by a score of 4-1. There were many missed opportunities that could have seen a wholly different perspective on the series.

Even on rough shooting nights the team continued to fight. Defeats by 16, 14, 15 and 14 points belied how close these games were for long periods.

The injury crisis made for little room for error. No Aaron Gordon or Jonathan Isaac in the starting lineup. We were without key reserves in Michael Carter-Williams and Mo Bamba. And don’t forget Al-Farouq Aminu hadn’t been fit enough to make the bubble.

Orlando in what is only a minor source of satisfaction were the only team in the East not to have been swept in the first round.

NOT PLAYOFF MAGIC – THE BLITZ QUARTERS

Of the 20 quarters played Orlando only won 7 of them and tied 1. They had been within 2 points of tying two others. The other 50% contained our downfall. In games 2 and 3 in the second quarter Orlando conceded 39 points. During the second quarter of game 4 we saw 36 points conceded to be followed by a game losing 37 points in the 4th. Finally in game 5 the 2nd quarter (again) saw Orlando ship a huge 41 points!

As a team with a defensive identity and at times one of the NBA’s best defences these complete collapses are unacceptable. In a time where our offence was misfiring and injuries left us with little margin for error those aberrations were fatal to our chances.

NOT PLAYOFF MAGIC – EVAN FOURNIER

Lets not pretend here, Evan’s lack of contribution across the games hurt our chances against Milwaukee. In 5 games one of Orlando’s primary scorers had a grand total of just 64 points, that’s 12.8 points per game. Making 12 of his 35 shots from deep was an ok return but not outstanding. However his overall field goal percentage of 35.1% was well below both his season and career average.

I’m not one to blame an individual in what is a team game but Evan is a primary source of points for the team, a go to shooter in many plays. The accuracy of shot on so many good open looks was a particular problem and had an effect on our competitiveness .

Evan tried on defence but is not a natural. With the injury crisis we experienced every player had to step their game up. Only in game 1 did Evan display a positive figure in the plus/minus stat (how the team did with the player on the court).

In the seeding games Evan looked off. I had hoped he was building slowly from the restart to peak in the post season. Coach Clifford has since revealed that Fournier became ill soon after entering the Disney campus. Evan had been unable to practice for a week. Steve Clifford has said it was clear Fournier was struggling to keep his conditioning and have the energy to play.

OTHER PLAYOFF MAGIC POSITIVES

Markelle Fultz has his first experience of playing in the postseason. He played big minutes and contributed. Milwaukee are a tough matchup for Markelle and his drives into the lane as they defend the paint so effectively. This ball pressure was in part responsible for his shooting 16 times from the 3, making 6 of them. The success ratio is a far improved percentage than either his season or career average.

The squad gained more valuable experience of the playoffs and in battling adversity.

3 APPEARANCES IN A ROW?

After a wilderness period the Magic have made the postseason for the last 2 years. To do so again in the 2020-21 season is going to be an ask but something the team believe in.

What elements of this squad will return and who will be the new faces arriving remains to be seen. That however is for the future and a whole new discussion.

PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

Very soon Orlando Magic UK will be talking about playoff Magic, doing a 2019-20 season review in a new episode of Penny For Your Thoughts. Geraint, Mikey and Paul will look at the highs and lows, the favourite moments and talk about if progression was made.

You can catch the previous episodes and subscribe to our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl72EQRVc39Ozngxkz3vYrQ