Orlando Magic head coach Steve Clifford said a realistic goal for his team would be to finish among the league’s top 10 in defensive efficiency, a category they were in the bottom third of last season. The opening quarter in Wednesday night’s game vs the Miami Heat didn’t provide much confidence to this projection, but the play and defensive intensity of the second unit did.

Orlando struggled out of the gates, missing 13 of their first 18 shots to fall down 14 points at one point. The bench made all the difference, though, as Bamba, Terrence Ross, Jerian Grant and Jonathon Simmons combined for 36 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks.

Bamba was a +13 in 25 minutes off the bench; Ross was a +16 in 25 minutes; Simmons was a +12 in 33 minutes of action, and Grant was a +11 in 25 minutes off the bench.

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“The story of the game was the bench,” Clifford said after the game.

Besides Mamba’s play, the biggest difference maker in this game was Terrence Ross’s athleticism. Orlando outscored Miami by 16 points when he was on the floor.

Ross finished with four blocked shots and two steals, reminding coaches, scouts and fans alike the defensive potential this team has.

Mamba’s record-setting wingspan has been discussed plenty, but a healthy Ross with an improving Jonathan Isaac has to be a major boost for a team that struggled last season with injuries and inconsistency more than anything.

Last year, Orlando was No. 21 in the league in opponent team shooting percentage (46.8%). Much smaller sample size so far, but Miami shot under 42 percent Wednesday night.

We saw more Jonathon Simmons Wednesday night than Jonathan Isaac, mostly because the Magic had to counter some of the small-ball lineups from the Heat. But numbers rarely lie, and the plus/minus stats from last night are promising.

Aaron Gordon was the only starter with a positive plus/minus in this game, largely playing in the five-man unit featuring the reserves. Gordon was a +9 as he led Orlando with 26 points and 16 rebounds.