When the Orlando Magic faced off against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 30, they were tired, injured, and playing a losing brand of basketball. The Magic were playing their sixth game in eight nights, the starting backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson was out of commission, and the losses started to pile up in a hurry. The Magic scored a franchise-worst 56 points in a loss against the Boston Celtics on January 23, somehow blew a 27-point lead at home against those very same Celtics no less than three days later, then got blown out by the New Orleans Hornets to top it all off. The Hornets are 6-23.
Orlando was a battered and beaten group in a physical and mental sense.
The Sixers aided in the Magic’s continued misery by handing them their fourth straight loss and fifth in six games, winning 74-69. The final score is deceiving because Orlando had 49 points with 3:19 left in the game before going on a 20-6 run to escape putting together another franchise-worst performance on offense a week after doing so against Boston.
But in a lockout-shortened schedule, things can change in a hurry.
Heading into Wednesday, the Magic were playing some of their best basketball of the season, winning six of their last eight games. And both losses, which came against the Los Angeles Clippers and Atlanta Hawks, came in overtime. Needless to say, it was going to be interesting to see how Orlando would fare in their grudge match against Philadelphia.
Unfortunately for the Sixers, they ran into a buzzsaw. The Magic shot 15-of-25 from three-point range, played great team defense for prolonged stretches, and got the win.
What was most impressive about Orlando’s victory was that the offense annihilated the NBA’s best defensive team. Crisp ball movement and flawless execution for the Magic produced excellence.
And Ryan Anderson was in the middle of it all, putting Philadelphia’s defense in a blender and spitting it out. Anderson had already proved against the Miami Heat on February 8 that he was a tough cover, with Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem finding out the hard way. For the Sixers, Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young found out for themselves the perils of defending Anderson.
In the first quarter, Orlando jumped out to a 23-6 lead before Philadelphia closed the gap at the end of the period. Anderson spearheaded the assault by scoring 14 points.
SLIDE 1, 2:
This possession is a microcosm of how the night went for the Magic. Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard execute a 3/5 pick-and-roll (a side screen-and-roll on the left side). Andre Iguodala, an elite perimeter defender in the league, decides to go over the screen, while Elton Brand sags off as Howard rolls to the basket. Defensively, everyone for the Sixers is doing their job except for Allen.
SLIDE 3, 4:
Allen loses sight of the fact that Anderson has crept to the right corner behind the three-point line. Orlando recognizes this almost instantly. As Turkoglu dribble penetrates, he kicks it out to Jason Richardson on the right wing. Richardson, then, proceeds to pass the basketball immediately to Anderson in the corner.
Allen is too late in closing out and Anderson makes the three-pointer.
Allen’s biggest mistake on this play is that he isn’t cognizant of Anderson’s three-point shooting ability. From the moment the possession unfolded, Allen was too far away from Anderson.
Near the tail-end of the first quarter, the Magic’s offense is humming and Anderson has already made three thee-pointers. This is where head coach Stan Van Gundy just doesn’t get enough credit for orchestrating a playbook that plays to the strengths of the personnel he has at his disposal. There’s a lot of moving parts to this play but the end result is another Anderson three-point shot.
SLIDE 6, 7:
Orlando begins the possession by running a screen-and-curl for Richardson, in which Howard and Anderson are setting pin-down screens. As Anderson is setting a screen on Evan Turner, Richardson receives the ball from Chris Duhon and as that’s happening, the Magic subtly run a pick-and-pop. In essence, two plays are being ran at the same time.
SLIDE 8, 9:
Richardson gets the pass on the right wing and Anderson slips to the right corner. At this point, Philadelphia is scrambling defensively because Orlando’s spacing is perfect. The Magic stretch the Sixers’ defense to their breaking point. Young shows on the pick-and-pop but by the time he recovers, it’s too late.
Anderson is hoisting up a shot and making another three-pointer.
More often than not, a great offense will beat a great defense.
The Dallas Mavericks, in their run to a championship last season, made that abundantly clear against the Miami Heat, spacing the floor, running pick-and-rolls, and creating a lot of havoc offensively. As crazy as it may sound, some of those elements were in play as Orlando picked apart Philadelphia’s defense, which is still ranked first in Defensive Rating by the way.
The question is whether or not the Magic can replicate these types of offensive performances against teams like the Celtics.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.