Weary Magic head home after 1-4 west coast road trip

Gary Clark, James Ennie, Nikola Vucevic, and Terrance Ross wearily walk the floor of the Mota Center during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers

PHOENIX, AZ – The Orlando Magic finally ended their disastrous four game west coast road trip. The trip’s ended on Sunday with a 109-90 loss to the up and coming Phoenix Suns.

Orlando knew that it’s roster would be shorthanded well before leaving for the first game against Portland, which the lost to the Trailblazers 106-97.

They had lost Markelle Fultz on January 2, 2021 with a torn ACL. Fultz was central to the planned offense which would have him being the main floor general, driving onto the paint multiple time and setting up Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and Aaron Gordon.

With Fultz out, the team played like it was lost.

Cole Anthony and Damian Lillard face off as the Orlando Magic Play the Portland Trail Blazers at the Mota Center in Portland, OR on February 9, 2021

Since rookie Cole Anthony showed promise as a rookie and was the next man up, he stepped in, starting at the point, but his inexperience showed, even though he definitely had promise at the position. Back up Magic point guard Michael Carter-Williams was lost to a foot injury for a few months, so I was down to Anthony and Jordan Bone.

Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford tried using Aaron Gordon in a point-forward role, bringing up the ball and setting up the offense, to add to his more aggressive play inside.

Then Gordon was injured.

Back to Anthony, who would have help from Evan Fournier, who would at times bring the ball up and help set up the Orlando offense, but Fournier had the unfortunate return of back spasms for now his second stretch of the second season on the injured list.

So this is where the Magic were, heading into their west coast swing.

The Magic signed Frank Mason III, who provided some steady play just before they hit the road, but sugared a groin injury as the Magic faced Golden State, which they lost 111-105, and super star guard Stephen Curry hit 10 3-point shots for 40 points.

The Magic were down to 8 or 9 players as they headed into Sacramento, the night after their loss to the Warriors. Things looked grim.

Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic battles against the Phoenix Suns on February 14, 2021 at the Phoenix Suns arena in Phoenix, AZ

But if the Orlando Magic have been known for one thing, it’s their fight. Facing seemingly insurmountable odds, wrecked by injuries, and severely short handed, the Magic fight to defeat the Kings 123-112 on a 42 point night from Nikola Vucevic. Michael Carter-Williams returned and scored 21 points, and Terrance Ross added 18. Awesome and inspiring performance.

Of course, it ain’t all roses on Valentines week, as James Ennis with a groin injury 19 minutes into the game.

Finally, Orlando limped into Phoenix and lost to the red-hot Suns 109-90.

With all of the doom and gloom, one thing has stood out for Orlando: they fight.

Orlando was in most of these games, and for the most part, didn’t lose until later in the gams. It was something that Steve Clifford pointed out to the guys.

“For sure in these four games, particularly in terms of having a way to play that will give us a chance to be more consistent, except for early in the year where we had everybody, these are the best four games that we’ve played,” Clifford said after Sunday’s game. “Good teams, on the road. Even [Sunday], we made the run to put their starters back in. The first three games, we put ourselves in position to win.”

Orlando announced on Monday that they have signed G-league point guard Chasson Randle as pretty much a band aid, to replace Mason. Mason was released to free up the two-way roster spot.

He has averaged at least 20.0 points per game in all three of his seasons in the G-League and has long been considered one of the best G-League point guards. Randle will not be much of a playmaker. And while he can hit an outside shot, His game is as a playmaker that can finish at the rim.

The Magic next face the New York Knicks on Wednesday at The Amway Center at 7pm.

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