AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
There are two primary reasons why the Orlando Magic, before Saturday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, were a top 10 defensive team. Apart from being one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the NBA, the Magic had done a great job of contesting shots and not fouling.
Digging a little deeper into Orlando’s defense, one thing that stood out the most was that opponents were shooting poorly behind the three-point line. Heading into their game against the Raptors, the Magic had been holding opponents to 32.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc (second-best in the league at the time).
The problem is that studies have shown that three-point percentage is fairly defense-independent. In other words, a defense has little control over an opponent’s three-point percentage. Which is to say that there’s a good chance Orlando’s three-point defense is going to regress to the mean sooner or later.
Toronto got the ball rolling by shooting 15-for-27 from three-point range (55.6 percent) in a 123-88 win over the Magic on Saturday. As a result, Orlando no longer ranks in the top 10 defensively and their opponent three-point percentage has creeped up to 33.7 percent (seventh in the NBA).
Mickael Pietrus, a former three-point gunner for the Magic, kicked things off in the first quarter by making the Raptors’ first three three-pointers. From there, the floodgates opened and Toronto went on a tear in the first half — making nine of their first 10 three-point shots and building a 67-47 halftime lead.
Even though Toronto is a below-average three-point shooting team, with Jose Calderon as the only player shooting above 40 percent from three-point range, that didn’t stop them from making a season-high 15 three-pointers against Orlando and cruising to an easy victory.
If there was one bright spot for the Magic in their 35-point shellacking, it was Andrew Nicholson.
Getting the starting nod after playing just 5 minutes against the Washington Wizards on Friday, Nicholson finished with a career-high 22 points (10-for-14 shooting) and seven rebounds in 26 minutes. Nicholson was making hooks mainly from the right block, as well as midrange jumpers primarily from the elbows, and showing once again that he’s a gifted scorer despite being a rookie.
It’s performances like these from Nicholson that show he’s more than deserving of getting consistent playing time, whether as a starter or reserve. Which is why it’s a bit puzzling that, in recent weeks, head coach Jacque Vaughn hasn’t been playing Nicholson as much, despite Orlando’s obvious need (29th in Offensive Rating) for his scoring ability.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
The honors go to the Raptors as a whole. Toronto received production from nearly everyone on the roster. Once the Raptors started raining three-pointers, there was not much the Magic could do to stop the downpour.
That Was … Embarrassing
With no Jameer Nelson (sore left hip), no E’Twaun Moore (sprained left elbow), and no Glen Davis (sprained left shoulder), Orlando was outmanned and outgunned against the Toronto. The result was an embarrassing loss at home.