After one-quarter of the season, the Orlando Magic are struggling

The Orlando Magic only have played one-quarter of their season, but the refrain after each game already sounds like a broken record.

They show plenty of fight, but they have too many lapses, especially on the defensive end.

And they keep losing.

When they face the Charlotte Bobcats in North Carolina on Wednesday night, they'll try to end a six-game losing streak.

"That's the only thing that kind of keeps you motivated right now: the fact that we are only a quarter of the way," said swingman Arron Afflalo, the team's leading scorer and its most consistent player.

"It's obviously a long season. The same losing streak you have — you can have that same type of win streak. But that's just not where we're at right now. So I think the only motivating factor in my eyes right now is that we're a quarter of the way through. We have the ability to make a decision to become a better defensive team and improve and get some wins."

The Magic hold a 6-15 record.

After their first 21 games last season, they were 8-13.

The primary reason for the decline?

Their play on defense.

The Magic entered Tuesday ranked 22nd in the NBA in defensive efficiency, allowing 103.4 points per 100 possessions.

That's worse than they were at this time last year. Through the same number of games last season, Orlando ranked eighth in defensive efficiency and had limited opponents to 99.6 points per 100 possessions.

To be sure, comparing the same team from one year to the next is a bit like comparing apples to oranges.

This year's Magic have faced more significant injuries early on — including the absences of power forward Glen Davis for the first 11 games and combo forward Tobias Harris for 20 games — than last year's Magic faced.

Then again, the team's young nucleus — a group that includes Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Nik Vucevic — has one more year of experience, too.

Even the return of Davis, the team's best low-post defender, hasn't made much of a difference. In the 10 games since he came back from a fracture in his left foot, Orlando has posted a 2-8 record.

"Defensively, I think we just kind of get down instead of bringing the pressure up when things get tough," Davis said.

"The good thing is that these bumps are coming so early as far as just tough losses and guys are not healthy. If we can get everybody healthy and learning [things can improve]. The more we understand about staying together, the more and more we can overcome these obstacles."

To be sure, the Magic aren't a team built to win this season.

Team officials want to build primarily through the draft and through forward-looking trades. Most experts predict the 2014 NBA Draft class will be the most talented draft class since LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were selected in 2003.

Through Tuesday, the Magic had the NBA's fourth-worst record by winning percentage. The team that finishes a season with the fourth-worst record has an 11.9 percent chance of winning the annual draft lottery.

So far, despite their frustrations, the Magic have kept fighting. On Monday night, they trailed the Memphis Grizzlies by as many as 23 points just before halftime, but the Magic cut that deficit to four points late in the fourth quarter.

"It's a long season," Nicholson said. "We've just got to stay together. We're the only guys we've got. As a team, I think collectively we're doing a good job of keeping our heads up and just looking forward to the next game." Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.

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