There were two players who were mainly responsible for the Orlando Magic’s win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday. One of them was Dwight Howard. The other was Ryan Anderson.
Seeing Howard put up 25 points and 24 rebounds against the Heat came as no surprise, given that he’s one of the best players in the NBA and head coach Erik Spoelstra had no one to slow him down. Plus, Howard had already amassed five 20-20 games in the regular season so far prior to facing off against Miami. Howard is expected to be great against any team and was versus the Heat.
Anderson, on the other hand, doesn’t have that same expectation. Yet time and again this season, Anderson has been just that — great.
Miami found out the hard way, as they had no answer for Anderson. Especially in the first half, when Anderson reeled off 24 points (including 17 in the second quarter) in blitzkrieg-like fashion. Anderson was making three-pointers with aplomb, drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line, and wreaking havoc with his offensive rebounding.
It was a dominant performance from Anderson in the first and second quarters, primarily against Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem no less. In fact, Anderson was imposing his will so much offensively that Spoelstra assigned LeBron James (the Heat’s best defender and one of the best defenders in the NBA) to guard him for the remainder of the second quarter. Granted, Spoelstra also chose to play James at power forward because it’s a matchup advantage for Miami.
The point remains. If that doesn’t signify respect for Anderson’s skills, not sure what does.
It’s worth taking a look at what made Anderson’s second quarter surge possible. Two possessions in particular will be examined.
It’s no secret that the Magic like to run pick-and-rolls. As such, for Van Gundy to avoid predictability at times, he injects variety into the pick-and-roll sets that Orlando executes on offense.
SLIDE 1, 2:
In this case, the Magic run a side screen-and-roll but with a twist. With J.J. Redick as the ball handler, Orlando executes a 2/5 staggered pick-and-roll with Anderson and Glen Davis setting the screens. This play is a beauty to watch unfold because there’s a lot of chaos going on. Mike Miller is trying to stay on Redick. Haslem feels the wrath of Davis’ body as he runs into a monster screen.
SLIDE 3, 4:
Look at the Heat’s defense! Literally everyone for Miami defensively has their eye on Redick. That’s the ingenuity of this play design. Redick is a legitimate offensive threat and more than capable of running pick-and-rolls, which means the Heat have to account for him. All the while, Anderson slips the screen and spots up behind the three-point line in the corner. Anderson is wide open.
At the very last second, Shane Battier sprints towards Anderson but it’s too late.
SLIDE 6, 7, 8:
A few minutes later, the Magic run the same action. Side screen-and-roll but this time on the left hash. Hedo Turkoglu is the ball handler, while Davis and Anderson are setting the screens. It’s staggered pick-and-roll time. Haslem shows hard on the pick-and-roll. The problem is that Anderson is left wide open again. Haslem tries to recover but he’s too late, and Anderson makes another three-pointer.
Those two plays illustrate how Anderson’s greatest weapon as a player, his three-point shooting ability, causes so many problems for defenders and opposing defenses. It’s cliche but it’s true. Other power forwards, or other big men, aren’t accustomed to defending players like Anderson that can shoot the lights out of the ball. That’s what makes guys like Dirk Nowitzki special. Heck, even Kevin Love too for that matter.
Did you know that Anderson ranks 10th in the NBA in points per possession? It’s true. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Anderson averages 1.14 points per possession in 359 possessions.
With performances like the Heat game, it should come as no surprise at this point that Anderson is so darn efficient offensively.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.