ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic show a huge improvement on the defensive side of the court.

In November, the Magic held two opponents under 100 and limited the other to 102. They have the league’s fourth-best defensive rating (98.6) and block the second-highest number of shots per game ( 6.7) during this period. Framework.

However, due to inconsistent turnovers and shots, they were unable to convert many of those relentless defensive efforts into wins. A condensed, road-packed schedule and limited training time to correct the aforementioned errors didn’t help matters.

And unfortunately for Orlando, the road to victory is no easier. His next six opponents all have winning percentages of 66.7% or better. Oh, and after that, there are two back-to-back fights on the road against the defending champions.

That arduous stretch of basketball ends Sunday when the Magic (2-8) host the Red Utah Jazz (7-2) at 6 p.m. ET.

“We have to win every day, every possession, every moment, every training. That’s how we get better, ”said Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley. “If you focus too much forward it gets a little intimidating. I think at the end of the day you just need to focus on walking in front of you. This is what we do every day. One percent better every day.

This next step ahead of Orlando is trying to find a way to limit a Utah team that has the second best offensive rating in the NBA (114.4), sixth best defensive rating (103.3) and third best net rating. (11.1) this season.

“We talked about finishing at the rim, making decisions, reversing and taking open shots when available, spacing and those moments – as we mentioned – end-of-game scenarios. part, up or down ten, eight turnovers, being able to run in those times, ”Mosley said of the team’s practice goal before their clash with the Jazz. . “We were able to cover these (areas) and defensive principles (and) because we’re playing against Utah (Sunday) some ideas that we’re going to come across with them.”

One area of ​​interest will definitely be taking smart photos with Rudy Gobert patrolling the painting for Utah. The all-star center is averaging 14.6 points, a record 16.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game this season.

The Magic will aim to take the big man of Jazz out of the basket with center Mo Bamba knocking down nearly 40% of his long-distance attempts this season. The big 7-footer from Orlando also does a good job of protecting the rim, averaging 2.1 blocks per game.

“It’s a huge advantage (to be able to take him away from the basket). Try to get out, try to get him to play in more space, ”Bamba said of using his lineup against Gobert and the Jazz. “Every time Gobert is able to play in painting and camp around painting, his efficiency increases dramatically. Just trying to stretch the ground and get some open shots for my trackside teammates will be key for tomorrow.

IN AND OUT: For Orlando, Cole Anthony (sprained left ankle) and Ignas Brazdeikis (sprained left ankle) are questionable. Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee) and E’Twaun Moore (sprained left knee) all remain absent.

For Utah, Udoka Azubuike (G League – Assignment), Mike Conley (right knee; injury maintenance), Rudy Gay (right heel; injury recovery) and Elijah Hughes (illness; non-COVID) are absent.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think it’s great. I think it’s fantastic the work they have done and the work they continue to do to keep it all together. Bringing it as one family. It really is. , really good. It just talks about what they’ve done and the job they’ve done and staying connected. – Mosley at the Lakeland Magic, who raised their banner on Friday and held their ring ceremony on Saturday after having won the G League championship last season

RIVAL REPORT: In this edition of our Rivals Report series, we’re joined by Ben Anderson of KSL Sports, who has covered jazz in various roles for over a decade. He was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about Jazz before their encounter with the Magic.

* Note that this interview took place before Utah’s game against Miami on Saturday

Savage: “I think sometimes people forget that both Utah backcourt members – along with center Rudy Gobert – were all-star last season. How good have Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley been for Jazz to start this season?

Anderson: “Really good so far. Now, no one performs particularly well on Jazz, perhaps with the exception of Joe Ingles and Mike Conley. Mike Conley shoots over forty percent of three to start the season. Where the Jazz last year as a team shot thirty-eight percent or better. So, it’s kinda dropped out of Mike Conley and Joe Ingles to start the year. Mike is a guy the Jazz have relied on a lot this season to win games. Against the Sacramento Kings the other night they really leaned on their three All-Stars as you mentioned. Donovan Mitchell was huge in the third quarter. And after running out of gas, because he had been doing it for so long in this game, he kind of looked at Mike Conley and Mike Conley took over in the fourth quarter. He looked like the guy we’ve seen in Memphis for so long and who has become that star player even though he’s never made an All-Star Game (before). It’s a great backcourt. Mike Conley’s presence is so stable. When he’s on the ground, even when Donovan Mitchell isn’t on the ground, the Jazz have been fabulous. Last year, he was number two in the entire NBA plus-minus gross. Rudy Gobert was, of course, number one. Really, those two playing together were the reason this unit was so successful.

Savage: “Speaking of Rudy Gobert, Magic fans only really see him up close twice a year. How big of his presence does he continue to be low for Jazz? ”

Anderson: “It’s one of those things where, unless you watch it every night, it can be hard to understand exactly how valuable it is because there are a lot of guys blocking shots and protecting the rim.” . But he just dissuades so many people from even trying to get into painting. It’s amazing how many guys every night are dribbling, round the corner, see Rudy Gobert standing in the paint, and literally turn around and dribble all the way to the three point line and say ‘well let’s see if we can get another look at this. ‘ It’s no different from the first Dwight Howard with the Magic. Now he’s not that good offensively. He doesn’t score at the same level, but he has the ability to go out and get baskets in the pick-and-roll and find a way to hit the foul line a little more than anyone on Jazz right now. . His attacking game continues to develop. He’s had a few other situations this year where he caught the ball back to the basket and made a simple movement and put it to the edge. So he continues to improve there. But I don’t think there is any doubt that he is the best low-level defenseman in the NBA.

Savage: “For those of us who haven’t watched Jazz so closely, what’s the other thing that stood out to you that gave Utah such a great start?”

Anderson: “What’s amazing this year is that the Jazz were saved all season last year by their hot three-point shot and they haven’t shot better than forty percent as a team this year until. their last road game in Atlanta. So that was their perimeter defense, which was the reason they were knocked out by the Clippers in the playoffs last year. They couldn’t stop Reggie Jackson or really anyone from reaching the edge and that forced Rudy Gobert to kind of be in two places at once. But now you see Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell and all those guys taking on this challenge at a much higher pace. (Jazz Head Coach) Quin Snyder even talked about these guys raising their defensive level. So even when the shots didn’t bail them out, they pretty much held a member of the opposing backcourt to an excruciating night all eight games of the season, perhaps with the exception of Denver and Chicago until. now this year. It gave them so much leeway. Even in the Hawks’ game they won on Thursday night, when they couldn’t buy a basket in the first half, they also limited Atlanta to just forty points in the first half. So they stayed in the game defensively, which they weren’t doing much last year.

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