This is a precarious moment for an Orlando Magic fan. The team’s now 10-11 under new coach Steve Clifford, which has them slated in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. They’ve turned around a rough 2-6 start by winning eight of their next 12 including, highlighted by victories over the San Antonio Spurs on the road and the Philadelphia 76ers at home. Last year they got off to an 8-4 start before a pair of nine-game losing streaks and another of seven games, which left them at 12-31, with their season all but over.
This is the fifth year for the core of Evan Fournier–Aaron Gordon–Nikola Vucevic, while this year’s fourth and fifth-leading scorers Terrence Ross and D.J. Augustin have been in Orlando for three years. That continuity is helping the team to its second-best net rating (-3.1) in seven years, per NBA.com. It’s only bested by Scott Skiles four years ago when the Magic were in playoff contention at 26-32 going into March but lost 15 of their last 24, costing Skiles his job. The less said about the intervening Frank Vogel years, the better.
Though known as a defensive coach, Clifford’s helped the Magic to their highest offensive rating in eight years at 105.7 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA. com. A big key to the team’s offensive turnaround is their assist-to-turnover rate at 1.92, third-best in the NBA; they’re assisting on 65.1 percent of their shots, both the best rates the Magic have seen in at least 20 years, if not team history. The Magic are fifth in assists per game behind the Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans and Denver Nuggets, and fourth in turnovers per game at 13.8, behind the Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Charlotte Hornets and Spurs, good company in each case.
Next Up: Accounting for when Vucevic and Augustin sit