Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Let’s imagine you are a casual NBA fan. Instead of watching every minute of each game, you flip through the channels, and mix in some action with American Idol. As the fourth quarter winds down, you check a few scores to find watchable games.
On Wednesday, the late run by Orlando made their game watchable, and fans tuned in to see the MVP candidate fight for a victory. Let’s take a look at Orlando’s final plays:
- 1:10 remaining in 4th quarter – Jameer Nelson makes driving layup (82-82)
- 0:39 remaining in 4th quarter - Jameer Nelson misses 21-foot jumper (82-84)
- 0:06 remaining in 4th quarter – Jameer Nelson misses 5-foot two point shot (82-84)
- 0:00 remaining in 4th quarter – Hedo Turkoglu misses 28-foot three pointer (82-85)
There it is. Jameer Nelson’s MVP candidacy goes down in flames. He missed two game-tying shots, and his teammate Hedo Turkoglu misfired at the buzzer.
In reality, the actual MVP candidate’s impact near the end wasn’t easy to identify on offense. Dwight Howard only touched the ball once in the closing moments. Seriously.
Stan Van Gundy deserves credit, though, for trying to get his best player the ball in crunch time. With 13.0 seconds left, the Magic ran a pick-and-roll with Nelson and Howard. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Dwight is the best roll man in the NBA, averaging 1.45 points per possession. The plan was great, but Jameer kept the ball, and lofted a floater over Jason Collins.
Derrick Rose and LeBron James are Dwight Howard’s main competition in the MVP race. Is there any chance those players don’t attempt a shot at the end a close game?
In fairness, there are plenty of reasons this transpired in Atlanta. First, Howard was in foul trouble, and one more whistle would have ended his night. Maybe the Magic didn’t want to force the ball to Dwight, and potentially lose him for overtime? Second, Dwight wasn’t playing great, and even if he was, it is impossible to find your best player all the time.
Furthermore, basketball is a beautiful combination of offense and defense, and one could argue Dwight could have made his final impact on the defensive end.
However, the final minutes of Wednesday’s game shed a different light on the MVP race. On offense, Dwight Howard is more dependent on external factors than other candidates, and it is no fault of his own. His position demands his presence down low, and his teammates are responsible for passing him the ball.
Derrick Rose and LeBron James can hold the rock in tight games, and guarantee themselves the final shot. Tom Thibodeau and Erik Spoelstra have some say, but players make the final decision. The ball is in their hands. The ball is in Dwight’s hands if his teammates pass him the ball, or if he works his tail off and secures an offensive rebound.
Many people watch the closing minutes and witness the important shots. If they don’t catch the games live, they tune in to the post-game shows and see the final seconds replayed.
A common belief is the best player gets the last look on offense. On the final play versus the Hawks, Dwight Howard set screens. A great screen could be the most impactful action on the floor, but they don’t garner the same attention as a buzzer beater.
What should fans think about Dwight Howard if they only saw the final moments in Atlanta? Is he the third of fourth option for Orlando?