The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats by the score of 100-79, winning their third consecutive game of the regular season in the process. Despite the absence of Jameer Nelson due to a neck strain, the Magic were able to come away with a victory with relative ease. Orlando was led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard put together another of his 20-20 games, as he finished with 20 points, 24 rebounds, four assists, and four blocks. It didn’t come easy for Howard, however, as he was unable to get into much of a flow offensively, as exemplified by the fact that he shot 7-of-16 from the field and 6-of-14 from the free-throw line. Ryan Anderson continues to shoot the basketball with no regard for human life, as he finished with a game-high 23 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Jason Richardson had 16 points, while Hedo Turkoglu had 15 points and J.J. Redick had 11 points. It was a solid team effort from the Magic and a win that head coach Stan Van Gundy will surely be pleased with. This game was won by Orlando in large part because of their defense. The Bobcats have never been known as an offensive juggernaut in the NBA, particularly under head coach Paul Silas. Nevertheless, when Charlotte is held to under 80 points, that’s something worth noting.
With Howard manning the middle, the Magic forced the Bobcats to beat them from the perimeter. Given that Charlotte’s roster isn’t exactly overflowing with shooters, that turned out to be a sound strategy as players like D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson, and others struggled. Had Maggette (a career 32.2 percent shooter from three-point range) not shot 3-of-4 beyond the arc, the final score could have been worse for the Bobcats. As a team, Charlotte shot 36.1 percent from the field and that’s largely thanks to Howard. When the Bobcats did attack the rim, Howard altered or blocked shots and really negated opportunities for easy baskets.
As for Orlando on offense, this was a vintage performance in many ways. When the Magic were an elite team and championship contender, their identity offensively centered around having a power forward that could spread the floor and shoot the three-pointer with proficiency. As a stretch four, Rashard Lewis terrorized defenses because not a lot of big men are accustomed to dealing with a power forward that preferred to operate from the perimeter. That’s one of the reasons why Orlando was such a force in the league in 2009 and 2010. And it looks like the Magic are fully committed to returning to that identity this season with Anderson.
With Anderson serving as the heir to Lewis, Orlando’s offense is running like a well-oiled machine. For example, in the first quarter, the Magic ran a 4-out/1-in offensive set with Howard on the low block. As Howard engaged in the post, he got double-teamed and he kicked it out to Anderson for a wide-open three. In the fourth quarter, with the game already decided, Orlando firmly shut the door with a 3/5 pick-and-roll with Turkoglu and Howard. Turkoglu dribble penetrated into the lane, then kicked it out to Anderson in the corner for another three-point shot. Because of the Magic’s excellent spacing on offense, Anderson has plenty of room to operate on the perimeter and he’s taken advantage.
Richardson had a solid outing for a third straight game. After struggling against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Van Gundy has made a concerted effort to call plays for Richardson early on in games to get him going. The strategy worked again versus Charlotte. In the opening period, Richardson posted up on the left block and made a jumper off the glass. From there, Richardson finally made his first three-pointer of the season off a kick-out pass from Duhon, found himself with a mismatch against Augustin and made a layup, then made another layup off a staggered 2/5 pick-and-roll with Anderson and Glen Davis. Richardson chipped in here and there for the remainder of the evening but it all started with a strong first quarter. That got the ball rolling for Richardson offensively.
And lastly to Turkoglu. With Nelson sidelined, it was expected that Turkoglu would run the offense more and that’s what happened. Van Gundy opted against a steady diet of pick-and-rolls, instead preferring to go with more 4-out/1-in offensive sets since Howard had mismatches in the post against Boris Diaw and DeSagana Diop. But Turkoglu did an effective job of using dribble penetration to create open looks for shooters, sometimes creating a chain reaction of swing passes as players for Orlando consistently tried to find the open man on the perimeter. Most importantly, Turkoglu was aggressive with his shot, not shying away from those fallaway threes he likes to hoist up. Again, this is the Turkoglu that the Magic need to see and he’s been delivering so far.
One can only hope that Davis is able to generate offense like his counterparts, and soon, because he was dreadful against the Bobcats. A 3-of-12 outing just isn’t going to cut it for Davis. Orlando needs more.
Unfortunately, even if Davis regresses to the mean, that’s still not going to produce good numbers because his career True Shooting percentage is 50.4 percent, well below the league-average which hovers around 54 percent. People can talk about Davis’ defense but even if he were the best defender in the NBA, because he’s not an efficient player offensively, he can only help the Magic so much before he starts to become a negative.
The bright side is that Davis’ collateral damage on offense is limited because of his playing time. That’s good, right?