Since being traded to the Orlando Magic on December 18, 2010, Jason Richardson has had a lot of ups and downs with the team. This season, leading up to the month of February, it had mostly been downs for Richardson, as he struggled to play well offensively for an extended period of time.
But since the start of February, and after resting for two games (against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 30 and Washington Wizards on February 1), Richardson has had his best stretch of games in the regular season so far. In seven games up to this point, Richardson has averaged 18.1 points per game on a True Shooting percentage of 62 percent. That’s despite shooting 47.4 percent from the free-throw line in that same span. Richardson’s excellent efficiency has been buoyed mostly due to his three-point shooting, which is at 52 percent for the month as of today.
It’s been written before that Richardson’s value is tied directly to his shooting. That remains true. When Richardson is shooting the ball well, he’s a net positive on the court for the Magic.
In the case of Richardson’s outing against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, when his shot is on (which is rare to see at this stage in his career), he can single-handedly carry an offense on his back. That’s precisely what occurred for Orlando, as Richardson poured in 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field (including 9-of-11 from three-point range).
After a quiet first half, in which he scored three points, Richardson was unconscious in the third and fourth quarters. More importantly for the Magic, though, is that Richardson’s blistering shooting performance aided in the team’s 16-0 run late in the fourth quarter and allowed them to overcome a 10-point deficit with 4:58 left to ultimately win the game.
A look at three of Richardson’s four three-pointers in the final period.
SLIDE 1, 2, 3:
This possession is puzzling for one reason. At this point in the game, Richardson had already made four three-pointers in the third quarter. Yet the Bucks defended Richardson as if they forgot any of that happened. This play is so elementary, it’s a little insulting — quite frankly — that it led to an easy three-point shot for Richardson on the left wing.
SLIDE 4, 5, 6:
After Richardson made his sixth three-pointer of the game (on a catch-and-shoot opportunity following a kick-out pass from Ryan Anderson after he secured an offensive rebound), Milwaukee still didn’t get the memo. Knowing Richardson is on fire at this point, head coach Stan Van Gundy called for a screen-and-curl play for Richardson in which Anderson set a pin-down screen.
Unsurprisingly, Richardson hit the shot.
SLIDE 7, 8, 9:
On this possession, and with the shot clock winding down, Hedo Turkoglu ran a 3/5 pick-and-roll with Howard at the top of the key. Turkoglu passed the basketball to Richardson on the left wing shortly thereafter. This is when you know that Richardson is going to put up a heat check of sorts. The shot clock is about to expire and Carlos Delfino is all over him defensively, which forces Richardson to create off the dribble — something that doesn’t happen often. Richardon uses a crossover dribble to create space for himself against Delfino, gets the opening he’s looking for, and drills his ninth three-point shot.
That three-pointer gave Orlando a six-point lead at 94-88 against Milwaukee with 2:05 remaining.
The Magic would eventually hold on to win by the score of 99-94.
It’s highly unlikely that Richardson will be able to replicate this type of performance again this season. Nevertheless, after a Bucks fan accused Richardson of being washed up, he proved he still has it in him to score in bunches.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.