An emerging storyline this season for the Orlando Magic so far has been Hedo Turkoglu’s renaissance on offense. In 12 games, Turkoglu’s True Shooting percentage is 61.6 percent, which is a career-high. Likewise, Turkgolu’s usage rate is 20.4 percent, which is important to note because it means that he’s been more involved on offense for the Magic, which is a stark contrast from his disappearing act last season (his usage rate in 2011 was the lowest percentage he put up since his rookie year with the Sacramento Kings in 2001). With Turkoglu scoring with efficiency and becoming more of a threat with the basketball once again, he’s aided Orlando to an 9-3 start to the regular season.
In some of those wins, Turkoglu stepped up in crunch time during the fourth quarter, reminding Magic fans that he can still be “Mr. Fourth Quarter” like he was in 2008 and 2009. During the Magic’s four-game road trip, the Portland Trail Blazers Golden State Warriors, and New York Knicks got a stark reminder of Turkoglu’s effectiveness in the final period of games. And the beauty of it, from Orlando’s perspective, is that Turkoglu did damage both by scoring and passing. In essence, Turkoglu was being the go-to guy in fourth quarters by doing what he does best — being a playmaker and making sound basketball decisions on the court. This is the Turkoglu that the Magic need.
Against the Blazers on Wednesday, Turkoglu stepped up as a safety valve for Orlando with his scoring. To set the stage, the Magic led by as many as 23 points in the third quarter. However, Portland put together a spirited rally in the fourth quarter and were able to cut Orlando’s lead down to three. With the Magic trying to hang on for dear life, head coach Stan Van Gundy entrusted Turkoglu during crunch time to help the team weather the storm. Which means that Turkoglu will run Orlando’s best play in the playbook and that’s the 3/5 pick-and-roll. That’s the play that Van Gundy wants to use with the Magic up by three points and needing a bucket.
SLIDE 1, 2, 3:
On this possession, Turkoglu waits for Howard to set the screen. Turkoglu quickly surveys the manner in which Gerald Wallace is defending him. Turkoglu disregards Howard’s screen and chooses to go to his left. For whatever reason, Wallace is allowing Turkoglu to go to his left uninhibited. Turkoglu takes the opening and begins to dribble penetrate into the lane. At this point, Wallace is behind Turkoglu and LaMarcus Aldridge is cheating towards Howard, perhaps anticipating a lob pass attempt. That doesn’t happen. Instead, Turkoglu — with Aldridge not providing much resistance defensively — makes the layup off the dribble.
SLIDE 4, 5, 6:
After Orlando is able to get a stop on defense, Van Gundy goes right back to the 3/5 pick-and-roll with Turkoglu and Howard. Why not? Once again, Wallace cheats to Turkoglu’s right, not allowing him to accept Howard’s screen. As Turkoglu dribbles the ball, Wallace continues to put a body on Howard and essentially forces a switch in the process. Aldridge is now on Turkoglu. Rather than attack the rim, Turkoglu uses a jab step with his right foot to create space for himself. It works, as Aldridge bites on the maneuver. Then Turkoglu hoists up a three-pointer and makes it. It’s no secret that Turkoglu enjoys shooting fallaway three-point shots on the wings.
Portland still was able to come back from Turkoglu’s mini-barrage, cutting their deficit back down to three with less than a minute to go in regulation. But the Magic were able to shut the door and come away with a victory. The most important takeaway in this game is that Turkoglu was willing to take, and make, shots when Orlando was looking for points.
It was a different story on Thursday.
The Magic were in a dogfight with the Warriors the entire game and things were coming down to the wire in the fourth quarter. With Orlando tied with Golden State at 109 apiece with a little more than a minute remaining in the game, Van Gundy went back to the Turkoglu-Howard pick-and-roll. The decision paid off, as Howard was able to make a putback layup for an and-one off a missed Turkoglu three.
SLIDE 7, 8, 9:
After Monta Ellis missed a game-tying three-pointer, the Magic went right back to the pick-and-roll with Turkoglu and Howard. On this possession and the previous possession, it should be noted that Turkoglu was playing at power forward to better matchup with the Warriors, given that head coach Mark Jackson decided to go small to finish the game. Brandon Rush and Dominic McGuire are the two players defending this particular pick-and-roll sequence. Howard sets the screen and Brandon Rush makes the choice to go over it. As Rush is trying to recover on the play, McGuire picks up Turkoglu on defense.
McGuire actually does a great job of putting a body on Turkoglu, unlike what Aldridge did on Turkoglu’s layup, but notice Klay Thompson? Thompson comes from the weak-side to try to help on Turkoglu, which ends up being a bad decision because that frees up Von Wafer in the right corner for a wide-open three-point shot. Turkoglu sees Wafer’s hand in the air and passes it to him. Thompson is out of position and doesn’t have enough time to close out on Wafer. As such, Wafer gets a clean look and makes the three-pointer. Thompson made a rookie mistake and paid dearly for it.
Wafer’s three gave Orlando a six-point lead and put the nail on the coffin for Golden State. Unlike the game against the Blazers where he was scoring, it was Turkoglu’s passing that got the job done for the Magic.
Against the Knicks, though, it was Turkoglu’s scoring yet again that did the trick in crunch time.
SLIDE 10, 11, 12:
With Orlando trying to fend off New York in the fourth quarter, it was time for Turkoglu to take over. On the first of two consecutive 3/5 pick-and-rolls with Howard, Turkoglu makes the choice to use Howard’s screen to create separation between he and Carmelo Anthony. With space created, Turkoglu dashed into the lane, drew contact on Tyson Chandler while attempting a layup, and got to the free-throw line. Even though Turkoglu only went 1-of-2 from the charity stripe, it was a smart decision by him to attack the basket.
SLIDE 13, 14, 15:
It’s the second of the two pick-and-rolls where the devastating nature of the 3/5 pick-and-roll bears fruit. Once again, Turkoglu uses Howard to screen off Anthony on the play. Chandler can’t yet fully commit to Turkoglu because he has to respect Howard’s looming presence. If Chandler cheats, Turkoglu could likely feed the ball to a rolling Howard for a layup or dunk. Instead, Chandler waits, Turkoglu examines the situation and pulls up for a three-point shot. Although Chandler is a seven-footer with a lengthy wingspan, he can’t make up the air space in time and Turkoglu drills the three.
It’s still early in the regular season but it has to be encouraging for Van Gundy to see Turkoglu make the right reads on offense based on what opponents are giving him defensively.
It’s becoming clearer with each game that the Magic have their go-to guy again.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.