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The Orlando Magic lost a sixth consecutive game despite a fourth-quarter fight back against the New York Knicks.

ORLANDO
MAGIC
84
NEW YORK
KNICKS
91
A hopeful hurl from three-point range by Cheap Terrence Ross Jersey with the shot clock counting down had put the Orlando Magic ahead late in the fourth but some poor decisions down the stretch and a strong end from New York means Steve Clifford will be left wondering how he can get this team winning again.

Much of the game lacked quality. At times it was as though both teams were having a competition to see who could shoot the worst, with the low final score telling the tale of what was two poor offensive performances.

But the Magic were faring worse. Shooting problems have plagued the team all season long and this was no different as the team found itself down by 12 at the end of the third. In truth, it could and probably should have been a lot more.

Clifford, though, sensing that there was still an opportunity to bring this dismal losing run to an end opted to go with Cheap Aaron Gordon Jersey, Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross to start the final quarter and it paid off. Without a true point guard on the floor, Gordon was trusted with the ball and drove his team on to bring the score back.

The power forward was doing everything for his team, particularly on the defensive end. He was using his body to close off paths to the basket, challenging at the rim, blocking shots and rebounding. His energy and desire put the Magic back in the fight.

Vucevic, who was outstanding once again and scored his team’s first nine points of the game, continued to hit shots in the fourth whether it was from three-point range or closer to the basket. The Magic’s dependency on the center for offense is enormous but once again he took on the responsibility and delivered.

Even Ross, who did not have his best game, started to contribute in the fourth with seven quick points at the start of the quarter and also hit two huge threes. For a moment it looked as though this dreadful streak was coming to an end.

But having worked so hard to close a 12-point deficit, the glimpse of a win quickly faded away. Ross exited the game for a rest and Clifford opted to go with Cheap Khem Birch Jersey and Dwayne Bacon which seemed to have a negative impact on the team.

Gordon had been trusted to make the right play with the ball in his hands for most of the fourth quarter but when it came to crunch time, his poor decisions let the team down. An optimistic bail-out pass aimed for Vucevic which resulted in a turnover effectively squashed any hopes of a comeback win and condemned the team to another devastating loss.

The team was not helped by foul trouble either. The Knicks got to the free-throw line way too often, including in the final minutes of the game, and scored 24 points off free-throws to Orlando’s 14.

But despite some encouraging signs toward the end of the game, the wider problems cannot be ignored. Orlando shot just 33.7-percent from the field and missed good look after good look. The only reason this was a close game was because New York endured similar difficulties.

Injuries have meant this team is packed with unreliable shooters getting big minutes. While Cheap Evan Fournier Jersey return should ease these problems slightly, these are extremely worrying times for the Magic.

NIKOLA VUCEVIC
C, Orlando Magic
A
Cheap Nikola Vucevic Jersey continued his excellent start to the season by once again playing at an All-Star caliber level. He finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds and was making shots from all over the court, preventing his team from falling too far behind early on by scoring his team’s first nine points. For a team that lacks shooting, Vucevic’s reliability from mid-range and from three is enormous.

He also put in a solid performance on the defensive end. Vucevic is not known for his shot-blocking ability but he finished with two blocks and did well to disrupt New York’s play in the paint, also dealing with the challenge of Mitchell Robinson well. Vucevic certainly cannot be blamed for the team’s shocking run of late and has taken on complete responsibility on offense.

COLE ANTHONY
PG, Orlando Magic
D
Patience is certainly needed with the rookie point guard and he will need time to grow into the league but Cheap Cole Anthony Jersey endured a really tough game which saw him make just 2 of his 12 shots, both of which were from 3-point range. Cole Anthony is clearly still developing his game to learn where he can have success but the shot selection he displayed was really poor.

The 20-year-old takes way too many difficult shots including floaters off the dribble which are often nowhere near going in the basket. Orlando Magic fans will be encouraged by the positive flashes of play he has displayed with his speed and ball-handling but his shot selection and shooting have to get better. Ultimately, he has been forced to take on a bigger role than he should have at this stage in his career due to Cheap Markelle Fultz Jersey injury.

AARON GORDON
F, Orlando Magic
A-
Aaron Gordon may have made the wrong decisions late in the game, but the only reason the Magic were in a position where they might have won was because of Gordon’s overall play. He was fantastic defensively and did a great job guarding Julius Randle who made just 5 of his 19 shots. Late in the game, he used his body brilliantly to protect the basket and contributed on the other end with some big buckets, as well as creating for his teammates.

His decision to try a bail-out pass aimed for Nikola Vucevic late on was a bad one and he missed at the rim just after but there is no disputing that Orlando were much better with Aaron Gordon on the court. He finished just one assist off a triple-double — recording 18 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists. This was a big performance from the 25-year-old which was overshadowed by some bad decision-making late.

DWAYNE BACON
G/F, Orlando Magic
D
A game to forget for Cheap Dwayne Bacon Jersey. He finished with just two points to his name and looked completely lost offensively, missing shots from all over the court. Bacon has had some good performances this season but hurt the team with his poor offense against the New York Knicks, also making none of his three three-point attempts.

The Magic were -19 when he was on the floor and the wing offered very little. He is not someone that should be playing 27 minutes for this team but that is where injuries have left the Orlando Magic during this run. Fournier’s return will ease the pressure on Bacon.

NEW YORK KNICKS
7-8, 6th East
C-
The New York Knicks will no doubt be pleased with the victory but will not look back at this game with much fondness beyond the fight and grit they showed. The team shot terribly, going 35.6-percent from the field and a shocking 18.5-percent from 3-point range. Luckily, Tom Thibodeau’s team came up against an opponent that is even worse offensively.

There is no doubt though the Knicks are an improved team this season. The team was solid but not spectacular defensively despite the low points total for the Magic and while R.J. Barrett is still developing as a player, he put in another encouraging display with 22 points. The team also has a talented veteran in Julius Randle who has established himself as a reliable go-to scorer. There is much more to be positive about for the Knicks going forward under a great coach.

NEXT: Aaron Gordon can unlock passing by keeping things sipmle
The Magic are currently on a six-game losing streak and have fallen to 6-8, ninth in the Eastern Conference. The Orlando Magic continue their road trip Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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Despite the young nature of the season so far, tonight’s match up against the Thunder represented a chance for the Magic to make history. Orlando entered the tilt against their Western Conference foe seeking the first 4-0 start since the team sprung into existence, while big man Cheap Nikola Vucevic Jersey needed only a handful of baskets to move into first place on the franchise’s list of all-time made field goals. While the latter of those moments was assured before the first quarter ended, the latter took considerably more time to come to fruition. Still, the Magic did enough late to secure the slice of franchise history, overcoming a plucky Thunder squad and retaining their status as one of only two currently undefeated teams.

The opening minutes revealed much about how the Magic would approach the contest. With Oklahoma both undermanned and undersized Orlando demonstrated their intent to attack the hoop, with each possession predicated on players taking advantage of the lack of resistance offered in the paint. Cheap Aaron Gordon Jersey got that ball rolling with three successive coast-to-coast forays after cleaning the defensive glass, with Cheap Markelle Fultz Jersey and Cheap Dwayne Bacon Jersey following in kind when the opportunity presented itself. 8 of the Magic’s first 10 made baskets came within three feet of the rim, indicating just how fruitful this early penetration was proving to be.

Aaron Gordon breaks down the defense with a euro but a terrific no-look find from Markelle Fultz gets Vucevic the three. pic.twitter.com/8aXw60WhWV

— DoYouBelieveinMagic (@DYBinMagic) December 30, 2020
Unfortunately for Orlando, their own interior defense was just as putrid as their opponent’s. Time and time again the team failed to corral the pick and roll against a stretched out Thunder, leading to a number of minimally contested finishes at the hoop. Things began to settle down in this regard when the second unit checked in, courtesy of some great defensive energy from Cheap Chuma Okeke Jersey and Cheap Michael Carter-Williams Jersey and a general rise in the team’s intensity at this end of the floor. A few timely buckets allowed the Magic to create a small cushion as the quarter came to an end, up 34-27 on the back of a 62.5% conversion rate from the floor.

Terrific bounce pass from MCW to Cheap Khem Birch Jersey who finishes with the slam. pic.twitter.com/OR18IfqaKM

— DoYouBelieveinMagic (@DYBinMagic) December 30, 2020
Points were difficult to come by for Orlando in the opening minutes of the second quarter, with jump shots refusing to go down and the more perimeter-focused offense failing to produce a high level of results. The Thunder were able to capitalize on this sluggishness, reclaiming the lead on a Hamadou Diallo jumper before Gordon nudged the Magic back ahead, 40-39, by converting a difficult lob pass from Cheap Cole Anthony Jersey.

Fingertip finish from Aaron Gordon off of Cole Anthony’s lob in the PnR.
Thus far this season, the Magic have been 24 points better than their opponents per 100 possessions with Anthony on the floor according to @cleantheglass. pic.twitter.com/qVUS3j2vka

— DoYouBelieveinMagic (@DYBinMagic) December 30, 2020
Coming out of a time out the Magic were able to relocate their scoring touch, primarily by again prioritizing playing from the inside. It started with Gordon finding Cheap Terrence Ross Jersey for a sweet finish off a back-door cut, and was supplemented in short order by each of Anthony, Bacon and Vucevic. This helped to swell the lead back to 8 points, 51-43, before the starters — with Okeke in Gordon’s place, checking back in with just over 4 minutes remaining. The two teams largely traded chances over the final stretch of the first half, before a pair of strong drives for the Thunder gave them the final two baskets of the quarter and shrunk Orlando’s lead to just 60-56 at the main break.

– . . . [email protected] ↗️ @TerrenceRoss pic.twitter.com/ICgvJb45fh

— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) December 30, 2020
Based on the boxscore numbers, Orlando’s advantage at the break probably should have been greater. As a team they shot more accurately from the field (52.2% to 48.9%), had almost twice as many free throw attempts (9 to 5), and were winning the turnover battle (5 to 8). The Magic had generated more assists, more steals, more fastbreak points, and more buckets in the paint, and it was still painfully obvious that the Thunder had no one who could handle Vucevic inside or out. However, there were too many stretches where both the energy and the execution seemed to be lacking, a factor which would have to swing in the second half if they were to commandingly put this one away.

The scrappy nature of the affair continued through the third quarter, with the Magic again failing to seize the ascendancy. Although the defensive effort was better the team was still making mistakes at that end, either over-rotating or failing to close out with impact. This meant that the Thunder were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over, an outcome that was almost single-handedly being matched by Vucevic. He was basically unstoppable on offense, establishing deep position in the paint, making clean finishes at the rim, and whipping the ball with precision to open shooters when the opportunity presented itself. He had 9 points and 2 assists in the quarter, and could have had more of each if teammates had done a more effective job of finishing.

He’s having himself a [email protected] | #MagicTogether pic.twitter.com/IOAfoMpBop

— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) December 30, 2020
Despite this dominance at the center position, Orlando just couldn’t seem to pull away from the plucky Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hit a number of big shots during the quarter, giving him 17 points on just 8 shots at this stage, and every time the Magic got one of their own to go Oklahoma City were seemingly able to get a contribution from someone else. When the siren sounded Orlando were only a missed Lu Dort triple away from going into the final period trailing, clinging to an 87-85 lead as the game entered the final twelve minutes.

From the outset it was clear that the fourth quarter would be a more physical affair, with both teams doing more to pack the painted area and the defensive intensity being dialed up a notch. Both teams were able to generate free throw chances on the back of incisive drives, but it was ultimately the Magic’s strong finishing inside that allowed them to steady. Bacon was aggressive in driving to the hoop, dropping in a series of sweet finishes in the quarter’s opening minutes and buoying the offense while Vucevic got a breather and Terrence Ross rested a tweaked hamstring. When Carter-Williams put back Bacon’s first miss of the game — a corner three — it was 99-91 Orlando.

8-for-8 tonight pic.twitter.com/7ugwSsr1J8

— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) December 30, 2020
SGA continued to pile up buckets for the Thunder, and in turn the Magic went consistently to the man in the middle. The team ran basically every possession through the big guy in the game’s final seven minutes, and he responded as required. He followed a short hook with a smooth baseline jumper, before titling the floor with a cross court pass that allowed MCW to take advantage of space. His gravity on a pick and subsequent roll again opened up space, this time for Cheap Evan Fournier Jersey to find Fultz for a wide open triple. Moments later Vooch again showed off his passing vision, whipping a pass to a spotting-up Ross who shook the closing defender on his way to a mid-range pull up. When the Human Torch got an elbow jumper to go on Orlando’s next possession the lead had swelled to 10 and the game was, for all intents and purposes, sealed.

@MarkelleF | #MagicTogether pic.twitter.com/DPYynQPu8V

— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) December 30, 2020
The final few minutes played out without too much intrigue, with a limping Ross perhaps the biggest question mark moving forward. For now, the Magic will celebrate the best regular season start in franchise history, advancing to 4-0 courtesy of a 118-107 win.

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With Chuma Okeke having finally signed his rookie contract with the Orlando Magic after a year spent recovering from injury, all eyes will be on him to see how well he competes in the NBA and whether he can stay healthy.
Chuma Okeke was taken with the 16th pick in the 2019 Draft despite suffering an ACL tear in his left knee in March. The Orlando Magic were confident enough in his ability and potential to accept a year without a new first-round rookie, still managing to make the playoffs despite a somewhat unproductive season.

Now, the 22-year-old will join fellow rookie Cole Anthony on a team in need of a boost on offense. Both youngsters are key to helping the Magic improve next season, especially with the roster staying largely the same as last year.

But there will undoubtedly be questions over whether Chuma Okeke can manage a full season in the NBA without setbacks after such a big injury in college. With good options at the forward spots limited due to Jonathan Isaac’s injury, the Magic need Chuma Okeke to take up considerable minutes in the rotation.

Only time will tell if this is the case. There is only so much a player can do to prevent injury without holding anything back on the court. And the Magic are going to observe him carefully.

So far the returns on Okeke have been positive. Coach Steve Clifford has praised Chuma Okeke’s attentiveness and ability to pick things up quickly in practice. Several players have noted Okeke’s shot-making ability. Cheap Khem Birch Jersey called Chuma Okeke a special defender.

He is making an impression. The question is how that translates to actual games when he hits the floor for the first time in nearly two years.

With two new rookies on the roster, the Magic are now in a position where the young talent can be the main focus going forward. Okeke’s fitness will be an important factor behind whether the front office can start moving away from the existing core of more experienced players and instead look towards the future.

And that will be the central story for Okeke in his rookie year.

Orlando Magic
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Injury concerns
The Orlando Magic have not had good luck with injuries.

Cheap Jonathan Isaac Jersey made his long-awaited return from a spell on the sidelines in the NBA Bubble only to re-injure his knee in a huge blow to the team’s playoff and future hopes.

Cheap Aaron Gordon Jersey also struggled to stay healthy last season, missing the entire first-round series loss to the Milwaukee Bucks after a season filled with minor injuries that slowed him down. Moreover, Cheap Mohamed Bamba Jersey was sent home from Bubble with conditioning concerns after catching COVID-19 earlier this year and is still building up his conditioning. Meanwhile, Cheap Al-Farouq Aminu Jersey missed most of the season with a torn meniscus in his right knee and after a setback is still entering the final stages of his recovery.

Both Bamba and Aminu are still experiencing problems and have not been taking part in contact training, with the latter likely to be out for some time yet after undergoing further surgery on his knee.

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Injuries are a part of basketball, but the Magic have had it worse than most. Staying healthy will be vital if the team is to progress and this has to be the aim for Chuma Okeke, who will play an important part in the forward rotation because of Isaac and Aminu’s injuries.

Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford has been impressed with what he’s seen so far from rookie forward Chuma Okeke.

How impressed? Clifford told reporters on Saturday — without hesitation — that Okeke and fellow rookie Cole Anthony are going to play this season. Clifford thinks their initial progress likely will be slowed by a truncated offseason amid the coronavirus pandemic, but he’s taking the long view.

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“I think both of these guys can help us this year,” Clifford said. “It’s going to be tougher for them early, but they’re in my [rotation] plans. I have good confidence in both of them and I like how they play.”

While Anthony seems headed for second-unit point guard duties, Okeke’s role took on a more defined focus last week. Reserve forward Al-Farouq Aminu underwent a procedure to reduce swelling in his right knee and is out indefinitely as he goes through rehabilitation. A torn meniscus in that knee limited Aminu to 18 games last season.

The Magic already are facing a season without Jonathan Isaac, who’s recovering from an ACL tear.

Aminu’s absence has created more of an opportunity for Okeke to carve out a larger role in his rookie season than he perhaps otherwise would have.

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That’s not to say Okeke wouldn’t have been a part of the playing rotation anyway, but Aminu’s setback certainly opens the door wider for Okeke to earn more minutes behind Aaron Gordon at the power forward spot.

The Magic see a bright future for Okeke. They like his defensive versatility, his offensive skill set, his basketball IQ and his work ethic. President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman acknowledges that Okeke checks a lot of boxes for the Magic.

Magic rookies Chuma Okeke, Cole Anthony get bigger taste of NBA as team workouts begin
ORLANDO MAGIC
Magic rookies Chuma Okeke, Cole Anthony get bigger taste of NBA as team workouts begin

DEC 04, 2020 AT 6:15 PM
“Well Chuma’s all about the right things. He’s about the work, he’s about the team and he’s about winning, and really everything else just falls to the side after that,” Weltman told the Sentinel last week.

So as fans clamor to see Okeke play, Weltman said it’s important to temper expectations – for now.

It’s also important to maintain some perspective about Okeke, who is coming back from an ACL tear and hasn’t played since March of 2019. Still, Weltman remains confident Okeke will provide a two-way impact.

“Again, as always, I don’t want to put too much pressure on rookies to come in and perform. They have to learn their way through the league, so Chuma and Cole both have to get acclimated to the NBA on and off the court and what that means and how you help your team win and it’s been a long time since Chuma’s played, so even doubly so for Chuma,” Weltman said. “But that said, Chuma is very smart, [a] very skilled player and he’s going to be able to help us on both ends of the floor. We’ll see how quickly he can kind of feel his way back into basketball and feel his way into our league. But we’re excited about his long-term prospects, and I know that whatever Chuma can do he will do short-term, long-term.”

Okeke’s teammates have taken notice of his versatility. Cheap James Ennis Jersey said it’s easy to see Okeke playing either forward position and he likes the rookie’s defense. Ennis also came away impressed after he said Okeke knocked down three 3-pointers during some scrimmage time on Saturday.

“He can stretch the 4, like Gary [Clark]. He can knock down shots,” Ennis said of Okeke. “I saw that today. Everybody saw that today. It’s good to have him back and healthy.”

For his part, Okeke is eager to put his skills on display. He has the size (6-foot-8, 230 pounds) to defend power forwards but the quickness and agility to match up with many wing players. Offensively he can create shots off the dribble and score from the perimeter.

First half of Orlando Magic 2020-21 schedule unveiled
ORLANDO MAGIC
First half of Orlando Magic 2020-21 schedule unveiled

DEC 04, 2020 AT 5:22 PM
“Power forward is a very comfortable position for me, especially on this team,” he said. “I feel like I could space the floor a lot, having to shoot and float for them to shoot the ball like me and put the ball on the floor and create for my teammates, you know, spread the floor and just find my teammates and just be a playmaker,” he said.

If Okeke were to earn the back-up role and subsequently struggle, the Magic can turn to Cheap Gary Clark Jersey. The front office felt strongly about Clark’s play during the restart and playoffs last season and re-signed him to a two-year contract out of free agency.

“We thought Gary played really well last year. We were excited about bringing Gary back,” Weltman said. “Obviously, with the injuries that we’ve been faced with, we definitely felt a need to bolster that position, but that being said, Gary earned a place on this team with the way that he played last year.”

The former Auburn forward averaged 12.0 points per game in his sophomore year before suffering his injury against North Carolina during the NCAA Tournament. Okeke looked like a terrific prospect on both ends of the court having also shown plenty of positive defensive play, a key focus of what the Magic are trying to build around.

A torn ACL is a serious enough injury to have a significant impact on a player’s career. Many players have struggled with knee problems after tearing an ACL, having a serious effect on their careers and ability to reach their full potential. This is also the concern with Isaac.

Most players make full recoveries and have few incidences of recurrence.

There is a good chance Okeke could enjoy a healthy career and grow into the player Orlando hopes he will become, a two-way threat from the perimeter that can also cut to the basket and score. It will just take time for him to get back into the swing of things. This year will be a season of recovery before he can begin working on his skills again.

Many had tipped Okeke to go higher than the 16th pick but his devastating injury caused him to fall in the Draft. For the Magic, the hope will be that they managed to get a guy who shakes off his early injury woes to become something of a steal having been selected outside of the lottery.

Encouraging signs
Chuma Okeke has been taking part in full-contact practice with the Orlando Magic over the past couple of days. Footage of him sinking a three-pointer on Twitter will no doubt excite fans, who will hope he can provide a threat from deep for a team that desperately needs better shooting from beyond the arc.

Moving pictures of the squad 🎥 #MagicTogether pic.twitter.com/NPWhANi1bU

— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) December 5, 2020

Okeke at this point is just happy to be back on the court and eager to learn everything he can.

The point Okeke makes is an important one. These are very early days for a player coming off a serious injury that is yet to play an NBA game so patience will be required.

But the early signs are encouraging. Steve Clifford has spoken of his satisfaction with Chuma Okeke so far and believes he and other new additions Cheap Cole Anthony Jersey and Cheap Dwayne Bacon Jersey will provide the team with more flexibility and depth.

Clifford has, however, revealed Okeke will be used primarily at the power forward position to start with. One of his strengths is the versatility he possesses, meaning he could have a future at either the 4 or the 3. To start with, it seems we will see him provide valuable backup to Aaron Gordon.

At 6-foot-8, Okeke is probably slightly undersized for the position but possesses a slightly different skill set to Gordon which will help the Magic. Okeke will provide more of a perimeter threat than Gordon allowing him to stretch the floor better, opening up avenues for the likes of Cheap Markelle Fultz Jersey and Cole Anthony.

If Okeke can stay healthy, he will receive some vital minutes backing up Gordon at power forward with the possibility of moving to the small forward position later in the season, somewhere the team is especially lacking.

NEXT: Orlando Magic want focus on getting off to a faster start
The team’s last two first-round picks have presented something of a risk, but risks are what is needed if this team is to move forward. Okeke could become a big player for Orlando in the years to come and that starts with staying healthy and getting some important minutes under his belt next season.