Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 100

Apr 16

Recap: Orlando Magic 100, Cleveland Cavaliers 84

AP Photo/Mark Duncan

BOX SCORE

Ask any Magic fan and he or she will probably tell you the same thing. The Orlando Magic have been in existence for 23 seasons and this has likely been the craziest season of them all.

We all know about “The Indecision.”

We all know about the ongoing saga between Dwight Howard and head coach Stan Van Gundy.

We all know about Ishsanity (I’m only half-kidding).

But one of the real kickers of this season for the Magic has been the slew of injuries the team has had to absorb. Nearly every player in Van Gundy’s rotation has missed games due to injury, with Dwight (herniated disk in lower back) and Hedo Turkoglu (facial fracture) the latest to join the injured list. That’s one of the reasons why Orlando has slid down to the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference after being in line to clinch the No. 3 seed for most of the regular season. Players just keep getting hurt.

Which is why it feels like the Magic have practically become desensitized to injuries. Case and point. No more than seven minutes into Orlando’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Glen Davis hyperextended his right knee after trying to make an offensive rebound putback following a missed layup. Rather than get down and out that Davis got hurt, Daniel Orton filled in admirably for him in his absence and the Magic won handily against the Cavaliers.

Granted, with Cleveland missing Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao — their two best players — to injury, they played like nothing more than a glorified D-League team at times. So it wasn’t asking much from Orlando to beat the Cavaliers without Davis in addition to Dwight and Turkoglu.

That said, it was impressive that the Magic won a game that was never really close from the get-go without Dwight, Turkoglu, and Davis. And it was doubly impressive that Orton stepped up to the plate for Orlando and played well in the first game of his career playing extended minutes.

Before playing Cleveland, Orton had played only 45 minutes this season in spot duty and garbage time. Against the Cavaliers, however, Orton played in roughly 29 minutes — more than half of his season (and career) total.

So how did Orton look getting lengthy playing time against NBA-caliber competition?

Orton looked like he belonged. Perhaps more importantly, he looked comfortable on the court.

Remember that this is technically Orton’s rookie season, even though he was drafted last season, given that he spent all that time rehabbing from season-ending knee injury. But if you didn’t know that about Orton, you wouldn’t have thought he was a rookie out there against Cleveland.

It remains to be seen how good Orton will be, but he proved (albeit against lesser competition) that he can be a serviceable big man at the very least. He showed off his ability to be a pick-and-roll big man, both by setting screens and scoring on a layup on one possession or by drawing fouls on other possessions. His awareness on defense could improve, but the skills are there — he exhibited an uncanny ability to not only block shots but also use quick hands to accumulate steals. Lastly, his rebounding could have been better but the jury is still out on whether or not that is an actual deficiency in his skill-set.

Nevertheless, with all the talk about the Magic needing a back-up center, they may have found one in Orton.

Talk about a turn of events. Fitting for how the season has gone for Orlando.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

With the Cavaliers offering no resistance at the rim defensively, Nelson took advantage with a myriad of layups off the dribble. That helped fuel an efficient performance on offense from Nelson (21 points on 8-for-14 shooting from he floor).

Defining Moment

With a win against Cleveland, despite no Dwight, no Turkoglu, and Davis leaving the game early due to injury (hyperextended right knee), the Magic clinched a playoff spot in the East.

X-Factor

Speaking of Davis, his injury forced rarely-used Orton to fill in for him at center. Playing extended minutes for the first time in his career, Orton did some nice things (11 points, four rebounds, five steals, and three blocks).

Apr 15

Preview: Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Date: Apr. 15, 2012
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Quicken Loans Arena

Records

  • Magic: 34-25
  • Cavaliers: 20-38

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Jason Richardson
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Glen Davis

Cavaliers:

  • Donald Sloan
  • Anthony Parker
  • Alonzo Gee
  • Luke Harangody
  • Tristan Thompson

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.2 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.6 (16th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.3 (11th of 30)

Cavaliers:

  • Pace: 91.4 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.6 (24th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.1 (26th of 30)

Read about the Cavaliers

Cavs: The Blog

Apr 14

Recap: Atlanta Hawks 109, Orlando Magic 81

AP Photo/John Raoux

BOX SCORE

With Dwight Howard out (herniated disk in lower back), it’s no surprise that the Atlanta Hawks beat the Orlando Magic on Friday. The Hawks haven’t had much trouble defeating the Magic with Dwight for the past two seasons, so taking him out of the equation made Friday’s game a mere formality.

Case and point. This game was over in the first half. Atlanta held a 19-point lead at halftime largely due to the fact that they put together their best first quarter on offense this season, notching season-highs in points (36) and field goal percentage (75 percent).

With no Dwight, Orlando fell apart defensively against the Hawks. The Magic allowed way too much dribble penetration, which had a trickle-down effect as Atlanta was able to either attack the rim and score in the paint or create open looks on the perimeter. And when the Hawks weren’t busy puncturing holes in Orlando’s defense in half-court sets, they were getting out in transition and scoring in the open court.

The first quarter was a disaster for the Magic and it was simply a sign of things to come for the remainder of the game. Atlanta was nearly infallible against Orlando and it reflected not only on the scoreboard but in the box score as well.

For the game, the Hawks shot 50.6 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three-point range (14-for-35), and 93.8 percent from the free-throw line (15-for-16). As for the Magic? Their stat-line read: 38.8 percent from the floor, 21.4 percent (6-for-28) from three-point range, and 64.3 percent (9-for-14) from the free-throw line. Now you can plainly see why Orlando got blown out.

The Magic just couldn’t hit shots offensively. Part of it was Atlanta’s defense, yes, but part of it was Orlando having a bad shooting night. Ryan Anderson was a prime example, as he missed routine putbacks on offensive rebounds and numerous wide-open looks behind the three-point line.

All in all, it was a bad performance from the Magic in all facets.

Plus, with word that Dwight is done for the remainder of the regular season, as he tries to rest and rehab a herniated disk in his lower back (originally diagnosed as back spasms before Dwight got a second opinion), this already nightmarish season has gotten worse for Orlando.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

It’s hard to really pinpoint one guy, as nearly everyone for the Hawks played well against the Magic. This was an old-fashioned butt-whooping and Atlanta did it collectively, not so much with strong individual efforts.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

The old adage of “when Jameer Nelson goes, so goes Orlando” is accurate but the same could be probably said of Anderson. He’s an excellent barometer of the Magic’s success. When Anderson struggles, so does Orlando.

Apr 13

Preview: Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic
  • Date: Apr. 13, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Hawks: 34-24
  • Magic: 34-24

Probable starters

Hawks:

  • Jeff Teague
  • Kirk Hinrich
  • Joe Johnson
  • Josh Smith
  • Zaza Pachulia

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Jason Richardson
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Glen Davis

Advanced stats

Hawks:

  • Pace: 89.9 (22nd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.7 (18th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.2 (6th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.1 (28th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.9 (15th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.1 (11th of 30)

Read about the Hawks

Hoopinion

Apr 13

Friday’s Magic Word

  • With his back still bothering him, Dwight Howard has flown to Los Angeles to get a second opinion. He is not expected to play Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers or Monday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
  • In a one-on-one interview with Hannah Storm of ESPN, Dwight denies asking for head coach Stan Van Gundy to be fired — this season at least: “Have I said it before? Ahh … being upset, yeah, I’ve said it, you know, but I’ve always come back and said I’ll do a better job, I’ll take more of a hit, I’ll lead better, I’ll do everything I can to get better.”
  • Dwight on the past year: “The only thing I could probably say that I could have done better is probably just keep my mouth shut more.”
  • Bill Simmons of Grantland wants to see the Boston Celtics play the Orlando Magic in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Why? According to Simmons, “What better way to send Howard packing?”
  • Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie sums it up succinctly (and perfectly) regarding what Dwight said to Storm in his ESPN interview about wanting head coach Stan Van Gundy fired: “So … Dwight Howard did say to somebody in management that he wanted Stan Van Gundy fired. He just didn’t do it, like, recently.”
  • Jason Richardson describing what this season has been like for him compared to the 2007 “We Believe” season with the Golden State Warriors: “Crazier than any year that I’ve been a part of. That’s a different crazy. This is insane crazy.”
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk with the lay of the land when it comes to the Magic’s playoff seeding: “The Magic are tied with the Hawks for the 5/6 seeds in the East, so Friday night is a crucial game. Although right now you may want to be the 6 seed and face Indiana in the first round and not the 5 seed that draws the red-hot Celtics.”
  • If Dwight can’t fully recover from his back injury before the postseason begins, then Orlando is in a heap of trouble.
  • When Dwight put up 45 points and 23 rebounds against the Warriors on January 12, he had one of the top individual performances in the NBA this season.
  • Is Lil’ Penny making a comeback to promote the Nike Air Penny 5? “Sources” say (also known as Penny Hardaway and Chris Rock) there’s a good chance of it happening!
  • Andrew Sharp of SB Nation doesn’t believe a word that Dwight says.

Apr 13

Meet Ish Smith

There’s a certain fetishism with back-up players. For whatever reason, sports fans like to root for the underdog or unsung player on their favorite team.

Last season, there were people within the Magic fanbase asking for head coach Stan Van Gundy to start Gilbert Arenas over Jameer Nelson at point guard or to #FreeEarlClark. The problem, more often than not, is that the back-up player in question isn’t better than the starter he’s replacing or he’s not good enough to warrant more playing time. That was the case for Arenas and Clark last season.

Arenas wasn’t better than Nelson and he rarely played well enough for it to make sense for him to take on a bigger role, while Clark was just never good enough to earn a permanent spot in Van Gundy’s rotation. Especially when you consider that Clark was playing behind Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson. In Clark’s case this season, not only is he playing behind Anderson and Glen Davis but he’s proven that he’s a bad player and probably more suited for the D-League at this stage in his career.

However, there are instances in which a back-up player deserves a chance to play more. Like Ish Smith.

It’s no secret that Magic fans have grown tired of Chris Duhon, originally brought in by general manager Otis Smith last season to back-up Jameer Nelson at point guard. Make no mistake, Duhon was terrible — he turned the ball over way too much, showed a hesitancy to shoot the basketball, and dragged the pace down for the Orlando Magic. Eventually, Arenas replaced Duhon as the back-up point guard. Arenas wasn’t any better, though. This season, Duhon has been better, showing a renewed confidence in his shot, which has reflected in his numbers. But Duhon is still dealing with turnovers and he continues to play at a snail’s pace, which is undermining his ability to make a positive impact in games despite his improved shooting and efficiency on offense.

With Smith showing flashes of competency whenever he’s had a chance to play this season for the Magic, Duhon’s days serving as the back-up point guard appeared to be numbered. And they might be, given that Smith has taken over as the back-up point guard to Nelson for the time being.

So what has Smith done to convince head coach Stan Van Gundy to give him a shot?

Smith has been assertive and aggressive offensively, while also taking care of the ball. In essence, he’s been almost the exact opposite of Duhon.

_______

One of the first things that jumps off the page about Smith? He’s fast. The Washington Wizards found that out for themselves on Tuesday. On this possession, after Jordan Crawford missed a three-pointer on the left wing, Smith retrieves the long rebound and is off to the races. The Wizards are about to encounter a one-man fastbreak.

Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 12

Fear Boston, not Atlanta, in the pick-and-roll

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

With all the turmoil and confusion in Orlando at this point, a balm for the unsettled fan might be to turn to the postseason. No more griping about drama. No more blame game for defensive lapses and offensive droughts. What’s important is what happens when the playoffs begin. And guess what?

Orlando is going to the playoffs!

Regardless of how good or bad you think this Magic team is, the bigger question about the future is who the Magic will play in the first round?

Right now in the Eastern Conference, Boston, Atlanta, and Orlando are tied at 34-24 in the standings, with the Indiana Pacers ahead of the aforementioned trio by 2 games with a record of 36-22. However, because the Celtics lead the Atlanta Division, they automatically are a top-four seed in the East and currently sit at the No. 4 seed. As for the Hawks, because they will win the season series against the Magic regardless of Friday’s outcome, they hold the tiebreaker advantage if both teams finish with the same record at the end of the regular season. Which means, for the moment, Atlanta and Orlando are the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds respectively.

And make no mistake about it, the difference between facing Atlanta and facing Boston in the first round is profound if the chips fall a certain way for the Magic.

Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 11

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • When he’s gotten playing time, Ish Smith has impressed the coaching staff for the Orlando Magic with his quickness and playmaking ability.
  • The Magic may be the No. 6 seed right now in the Eastern Conference, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Why? Orlando would be slated to face off against the Indiana Pacers in the playoffs and have a favorable matchup in that series.
  • Dwight Howard lifts the spirits of a paralyzed boy.
  • Could the Magic have their sights set on Donnie Walsh as a person that could possibly take a front office position within the organization?
  • Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times’ Off the Dribble blog: “The two men responsible for Lil’ Penny will be reuniting for the first time Thursday, when Rock is a guest on the Bottom Line Sports Show, an Internet radio show that Hardaway executive produces and occasionally appears on alongside the show’s regular host and founder, Gerald Brown. Despite having been linked through the Lil’ Penny character for nearly 20 years, Hardaway and Rock have spent little time together as their parts in the commercials were filmed separately.”
  • Orlando struggled against the Washington Wizards without Dwight.
  • Dwight will likely make his return to the court on Friday against the Atlanta Hawks. Dwight could have played against the Wizards, but the Magic didn’t want to rush him back.
  • Washington’s Kevin Seraphin had a career-night against Orlando.
  • Fran Blinebury of NBA.com is looking forward to the next sequel in “Dwight & Stan’s Excellent Adventure.”
  • Mark Heisler of SheridanHoops.com: “GM Otis Smith is as dead a duck as Coach Stan Van Gundy. Only question is whether Dwight stays — for a season — to break in the new guys.”
  • Tom Ziller of SB Nation: “The Magic need just four more wins to clinch a playoff berth, as they currently sit 5.5 games ahead of the No. 9 Bucks. With less than 10 games remaining, this shouldn’t be an issue.”
  • Dwight is selected for John Hollinger’s all-defensive team at ESPN Insider. However, Dwight is on the second team. Behind Tyson Chandler. Considering the drop-off in performance from Dwight defensively this season and given how much Chandler has changed not only the New York Knicks’ defense but culture, it makes sense.

Apr 11

Recap: Washington Wizards 93, Orlando Magic 85

Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

With Dwight Howard sidelined with a back injury, the Orlando Magic were able to get by on Monday without him against the Detroit Pistons thanks in large part due to exceptional three-point shooting and, surprisingly enough, good defense.

But against the Washington Wizards, the Magic failed at both of those things and as a result, they lost a very winnable game.

For the game, Orlando shot 11-for-35 (31.4 percent) from three-point range and 36.6 from the floor. Conversely, the Magic allowed the Wizards to shoot 50 percent, with Kevin Seraphin leading the way for Washington with a career night — 24 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks. For Seraphin, his double-double represented a career-high in points and rebounds, while he tied a career-high with four blocks.

Glen Davis and Ryan Anderson could not stop Seraphin from doing whatever he wanted in the post. Seraphin showed beautiful touch with his back to the basket, sprinkling in righty and lefty hooks on either side of the block like he was, well, Dwight. Seraphin even showed off his range on one possession midway through the third quarter, making a left elbow jumper in a 2/5 pick-and-roll with Jordan Crawford.

While Seraphin was busy dominating for the Wizards, Orlando was preoccupied building a new mansion in Washington with bricks and mortars. In other words, the Magic — after shooting the lights out against the Pistons — struggled to hit perimeter shots all game long. And it wasn’t like Orlando was forcing up bad shots, though they did on occasion. The Magic had plenty of clean looks, especially behind the three-point line, they just couldn’t knock them down.

No shot typified that more than Jason Richardson’s three-point shot late in the fourth quarter. With Orlando down by the score of 86-81 with less than two minutes to go in the game, Richardson attempted a three-pointer on the left wing in transition that would have cut the deficit down to two points and one possession. Yet, even though Richardson had a clean look, he missed the shot and the Wizards eventually held on for the win.

Should the Magic have attacked the rim more to circumvent the lack of three-point shots falling? Perhaps. But it wasn’t like Orlando didn’t attack the basket. For the game, the Magic shot 12-for-23 (52.1 percent) at the rim. Those 23 attempts jive with the amount of shots Orlando attempts at the rim per game (23.1) this season.

No, the Magic’s issue is that they didn’t convert like they normally do. For the season, Orlando’s percentage at the rim is 63.2 percent.

Which brings it all back to Dwight.

This is not to discount Washington’s win. The Wizards came out and played better than the Magic. End of story.

But facts are facts. For Orlando, these are the types of games in which Dwight’s presence would have changed everything. It’s unlikely that Seraphin would have had a career night. It’s unlikely that the Magic would have struggled converting at the rim.

Nevertheless, credit Washington for taking advantage of the situation.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

What else is there to say about Seraphin that hasn’t been said? He took full advantage of Dwight’s absence and put on an offensive display that proves the Wizards were wise to trade away JaVale McGee.

X-Factor

It’s been already mentioned, but Orlando’s inability to hit three-point shots (aside from Jameer Nelson and Quentin Richardson) killed them against Washington, especially with no Dwight to lean on as a safety net.

That Was … Serendipitous?

Losing isn’t fun. But sometimes losing isn’t bad. Confused? With the loss, the Magic are still in line to face off against the Indiana Pacers in playoffs. Not the Boston Celtics or Atlanta Hawks.

Apr 10

Preview: Orlando Magic at Washington Wizards

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Washington Wizards
  • Date: Apr. 10, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Verizon Center

Records

  • Magic: 34-23
  • Wizards: 13-44

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Jason Richardson
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Glen Davis

Wizards:

  • John Wall
  • Jordan Crawford
  • Chris Singleton
  • Jan Vesely
  • Kevin Seraphin

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.1 (28th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.2 (15th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.1 (11th of 30)

Wizards:

  • Pace: 92.7 (7th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.0 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.6 (25th of 30)

Read about the Wizards

Truth About It

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