The Orlando Magic’s player-availability situation went from bad to worse for their road matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.
Eight of the Magic’s 15 standard-roster players were sidelined for Monday’s 109-102 loss at Barclays Center because of injury/illness, leaving them with nine available players — seven signed to standard contracts and their two-way players (Kevon Harris and Admiral Schofield).
Player-availability issues aren’t new for the Magic.
They’ve had at least five players sidelined each game and had 113 total player games missed to injury/illness — the most in the league.
But what they experienced Monday was the most severe their player-availability predicament has been.
“I haven’t seen anything like this,” coach Jamahl Mosley said following the 133-103 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday in the first game of the back-to-back. “I really haven’t. There was the COVID[-19] hit, there was the injury [hit] — I haven’t seen much like this. It’s something different.”
The undermanned Magic (5-16) battled the Nets (11-11) wire-to-wire and showed improved effort compared to Sunday, but Kevin Durant led Brooklyn with 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, including 28 in the second half, to give Orlando its fifth consecutive loss.
Paolo Banchero (24 points on 9-of-17 shooting to go with 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals), Bol Bol (24 points on 10-of-15 shooting and 3 of 6 on 3s) and Franz Wagner (21 points on 8-of-16 shooting), led the Magic.
Gary Harris added 19 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks.
The Magic only made 59.1% of their free throws (13 of 22), which was a significant factor in their loss.
Wagner, Harris, Banchero, Bol and Caleb Houstan (3 points, 7 rebounds) started. It was the first start for Houstan, the Magic’s second-round (No. 32 overall) pick in June’s draft.
Schofield, Kevon Harris, R.J. Hampton and Moe Wagner rounded out the available nine-man rotation.
Monday was the first time the starting unit played together.
The up-and-down availability resulted in the Magic being one of three teams, along with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers, who haven’t had a single five-man lineup play at least 70 minutes together entering Monday.
“It’s not an excuse,” Mosley said. “Trying to find rotations [and] find guys you’re trying not to burn down on minutes because you’ve got a back-to-back, those are situations you have to continue to take into consideration as we go forward.”
Cole Anthony (torn right internal oblique), Wendell Carter Jr. (strained right plantar fascia strain), Markelle Fultz (fractured left big toe), Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury recovery), Terrence Ross (illness) and Jalen Suggs (right ankle soreness) were ruled out early Monday afternoon.
Mo Bamba (back spasms) and Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness) were game-time decisions before being ruled out less than an hour before tipoff.
There’s optimism that Anthony and Fultz will be available to play soon.
The Magic’s next game will come against the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday at Amway Center.
Fultz was questionable to play Sunday but was ruled out pregame, with Mosley saying “we’re just going to give it a couple of more days” when asked about Fultz’s status. Fultz, who has yet to play this season after fracturing the toe late in the offseason, told the Orlando Sentinel on Nov. 9 that he was hoping to return “within the next 3-4 weeks” — a time frame of Wednesday-Dec. 7.
Anthony, who’s missed the last 16 games, told the Sentinel Sunday that he expected to be back very soon but didn’t disclose a date. A source told the Sentinel earlier in the month that he hoped to return to play after Thanksgiving in late November/early December.
“When we do get healthy, there will be a rhythm to the game and understand some of the rotations,” Mosley said. “With that being said, we’re still going to have to look at different combinations, and lineups. The message to our guys is when you step on that floor, it’s about competing [and] fighting.”
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.