Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 100

Mar 27

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “With the Magic leading the Toronto Raptors 117-98 in the closing seconds of a game Monday night, a seemingly insignificant basket by Toronto’s Ed Davis prompted the crowd inside Air Canada Centre to erupt in cheers. The moment flummoxed Stan Van Gundy and some Magic players until they were told that ticket-holders would receive free pizza since Davis’ basket gave the Raptors 100 points.”
  • Aside from pulling that hilarious quote from head coach Stan Van Gundy, Robbins conducts an interview with general manager Otis Smith and asks him a variety of questions about the Orlando Magic. In it, Smith notes that he wants to see Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu play better than they have this season. Rob Mahoney of CourtVision agrees.
  • Improving their defense and ball-handling are two areas in which the Magic must improve before the start of the playoffs.
  • Head coach Dwane Casey has high praise for Ryan Anderson. This after Anderson torched the Toronto Raptors to the tune of 28 points, making a career-high eight three-pointers in the process.
  • Don’t look now but the Boston Celtics are surging in the Atlantic Division. As of today, the Celtics are tied with the Philadelphia 76ers atop the division (both teams are 27-22). Why does that matter? It matters because if the Celtics win another divisional title, they would — at minimum — earn the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Which means Orlando would avoid Boston in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
  • Much has changed since the Magic last faced the New York Knicks on January 16.
  • Van Gundy is admired by many writers in the blogosphere. Like Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie. Or Zach Lowe of The Point Forward. Or Holly MacKenzie of CourtVision. Van Gundy’s rants on anything and everything have become legendary in NBA circles.
  • Orlando took advantage of the Raptors’ inconsistency on defense.
  • Against Toronto, Anderson proved why he’s one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA.
  • Jeff Van Gundy on Dwight Howard’s decision to stay with the Magic beyond this season: “That decision wasn’t about loyalty, it had nothing to do with loyalty, it had to do with he stays in power, control, and generates attention over the next year and a half until it comes back around again.”
  • According to Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated, Turkoglu must regain his 2009 form if Orlando wants to advance deep into the postseason this year.
  • The Magic punished the Raptors by running a number of staggered screens to create open looks on offense for players like Anderson.
  • What are the odds Orlando makes it to the Eastern Conference Finals? Not bad, actually. John Hollinger of ESPN Insider explains: “Chicago-Miami seems like such a slam dunk in the Eastern Conference finals that it’s barely worth talking about the conference’s other teams. Not so fast, perhaps. AccuScore gives Orlando a 32 percent chance of upsetting Miami and Boston a 19 percent chance.”

Mar 26

Recap: Orlando Magic 117, Toronto Raptors 101

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young

BOX SCORE

The book on Ryan Anderson is simple. He shoots three-pointers.

Mind you, that’s not to sell Anderson short as a player. He’s an excellent offensive rebounder. He rarely turns the ball over. But at the end of the day, his greatest strength is his three-point shooting.

Which is why it’s odd that the Toronto Raptors allowed Anderson to set a new career-high for three-pointers made in a game with eight. This isn’t the same Raptors team from last season. The one that ranked 30th in Defensive Rating. This is a squad, Toronto, led by head coach Dwane Casey that prides itself on defense. The proof is in the pudding. This season, the Raptors rank 15th in the NBA in Defensive Rating. Yet none of that mattered against the Orlando Magic, especially Anderson.

Anderson had his way on offense against Toronto, scoring 28 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the floor (including 8-for-13 from the three-point line). Many of Anderson’s three-point shots were clean looks, generated mostly from pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop sets. Time and again, the Magic would run those types of plays with Anderson involved either as a screener or spot-up shooter. Time and again, he would make the Raptors pay for leaving him open.

There was one possession in particular, which took place in the opening moments of the third quarter, that was mind-boggling. After Anderson made six three-pointers in the first half, you’d have to imagine that Casey told his players in the locker room at halftime to account for Anderson on the perimeter. Yet early in the third quarter, Anderson found himself wide open in the left corner for a three-point shot, which he made.

Granted, Orlando executed a sneaky play of sorts, setting two pin-down screens (by Dwight Howard and Anderson) for Jason Richardson on the left block in the hopes of freeing him up for a shot near the left elbow or perhaps triggering something else on the play. Instead, after Anderson set his screen, he snuck into the left corner, Bargnani lost sight of him momentarily, and he made his seventh three-pointer of the game. But how does that happen? How do you lose track of Anderson like that?

Toronto is still probably trying to find out.

Thing is, that’s what Anderson does and that’s what makes him such a difficult cover for a majority of the teams in the league. Not all, but most.

The Raptors were the latest victims.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Some lazy team defense from Toronto contributed to Anderson’s big night from behind the three-point line. Anderson set a new career-high with eight three-pointers made in a game.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

Bargnani was the main reason that Anderson was able to punish the Raptors’ defense on the perimeter. Bargnani was unable and sometimes unwilling to account for Anderson. That hurt Toronto defensively.

X-Factor

Turnovers have been a big issue for the Magic over the last several weeks. Not so much against the Raptors. With a renewed emphasis on taking care of the ball, Orlando committed just nine turnovers.

Mar 26

Preview: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors
  • Date: Mar. 26, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Sun Sports
  • Arena: Air Canada Centre

Records

  • Magic: 31-18
  • Raptors: 16-33

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Jason Richardson
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Dwight Howard

Raptors:

  • Jose Calderon
  • Gary Forbes
  • James Johnson
  • Andrea Bargnani
  • Aaron Gray

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.4 (27th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.0 (16th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.7 (8th of 30)

Raptors:

  • Pace: 90.0 (22nd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.0 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.2 (15th of 30)

Read about the Raptors

Raptors Republic

Mar 24

Recap: Orlando Magic 93, Cleveland Cavaliers 80

AP Photo/Mike Carlson

BOX SCORE

With the playoffs fast approaching, this is the part of the regular season where things get a little boring.

With the Orlando Magic in firm position of the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, there’s not much to play for. The Magic trail the Miami Heat by 5.5 games for the No. 2 seed with 17 games left on the schedule, so it’s safe to say that the odds of Orlando catching Miami in the standings are low.

And even though the Magic are just 2.5 games ahead of the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks for the No. 3 seed in the East, which means Orlando’s playoff seeding is not set in stone yet, it’s looking a 3-6 matchup with either the Pacers or Hawks is likely. For the Magic’s sake, they better hope they draw Indiana in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs and not the Hawks. Or worse. The Boston Celtics.

As you can see, there’s very little movement possible for Orlando with regards to their playoff seeding. Which means that regular season games for the Magic, like their game on Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, have little bearing in the big picture.

You kind of have the feeling Orlando knows that.

From the very start of the game, the Magic were in cruise control and going through the motions. Because Orlando is better than the Cavaliers, they could get away with playing that way. And the Magic did, jumping out to a double-digit lead against Cleveland in the first quarter, then maintaining that distance for the remainder of the game. For the most part.

The Cavaliers did put up a fight, but it never seemed like it was going to be enough because of the talent disparity between both teams. Cleveland cut Orlando’s 20-point lead in the third quarter down to seven points but then the Magic blew the game wide open, increasing the lead to as many as 21 points after Hedo Turkoglu nailed a three-pointer on the left wing in a pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard with 4:05 left in the fourth quarter.

That was all she wrote.

With one month remaining in the regular season for Orlando and a schedule that’s not relatively difficult, expect more games like this from the Magic in the weeks ahead.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

The moment he stepped on the floor, Dwight was — by default — the best player in the game. Matched up mostly against Tristan Thompson, the Cavaliers’ other lottery pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Dwight had his way offensively.

X-Factor

In this case, it’s a negative. One of the main reasons why Cleveland kept hanging around in the game was because Orlando committed 18 turnovers. Turkoglu was the chief offender with four turnovers.

Mar 23

Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: Mar. 23, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Suns: 17-27
  • Magic: 30-18

Probable starters

Cavaliers:

  • Kyrie Irving
  • Alonzo Gee
  • Anthony Parker
  • Antawn Jamison
  • Tristan Thompson

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Jason Richardson
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Dwight Howard

Advanced stats

Cavaliers:

  • Pace: 92.0 (11th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.6 (23rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.9 (24th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.4 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.0 (17th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.9 (11th of 30)

Read about the Cavaliers

Cavs: The Blog

Mar 22

Trading playoff formats?

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Which one of your friend’s is most interested in the NBA? Just for fun, call that person and say, “the NBA is changing their playoff format to single elimination next year and they are going to play the games at neutral sites.”

What kind of reaction do you think you will receive? My guess is somewhere between shocked and shocked. After a few seconds of silence, your friend will probably ask to be talked through the new rules. Yes, you need to tell them that the Spurs may dominate the Western Conference for 82 games, but their season could end abruptly with one slip up versus the Nuggets in the opening round of the playoffs. Oh yeah, you’ll also need to remind them that the Spurs and Nuggets match-up will be played at a neutral site, probably the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

Now, identify the friend of yours that is most interested in NCAA basketball. Call that friend and explain to them that the NCAA is considering getting rid of the current March Madness setup and would like to introduce a series playoff system.

That’s right. Instead of the crazy popular single elimination format, the Kentucky Wildcats will now host three games of a best of five series against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Yes, we know Kentucky only lost two games all season. Yes, that does mean Vanderbilt will need to beat Kentucky three times in five games with at least one of the victories coming in Kentucky. Yes, that also means since Kentucky had the best record in the regular season they will host all playoff series. Yes, that includes the championship series.

How many NBA fans would like to go to a single elimination tournament? Not many. How many NCAA fans would like to go a series format? Probably even fewer. It’s funny that both of these arrangements sound so miserable because the other league actually uses the systems discussed above.

Completely ignoring money and talent (easy to do, right?), the biggest difference between NBA and NCAA basketball is the way games and playoffs are set up to benefit certain teams. The NBA system caters to the best teams and the NCAA system caters to underdogs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 21

Recap: Orlando Magic 103, Phoenix Suns 93

AP Photo/Reinhold Matay

BOX SCORE

It’s no secret that Dwight Howard would be best paired with a star point guard like Chris Paul or Deron Williams, whether it’s with the Orlando Magic or another team. When you talk about Dwight’s biggest flaw as a player, the inability to rely on him consistently in crunch time because of his inept free-throw shooting, Paul or Williams would — in theory — fix the problem. It’s why people, not just Magic fans, have been pining to see Dwight team up with Paul or Williams for several years now. Not to mention the fact that Dwight and Paul or Williams would be lethal in pick-and-rolls together and so on and so forth.

But pairing Dwight with an excellent stretch-four like Ryan Anderson is not so bad either. The Phoenix Suns found out the hard way.

Throughout the game, the Suns had trouble containing Dwight and Anderson. As such, Dwight went off for 28 points, 16 rebounds, and two blocks while Anderson scorched Phoenix with a game-high 29 points, tying a career-high with seven three-pointers.

For Dwight, defended primarily by Marcin Gortat, he had everything going for him in the post. When he wasn’t getting fouled, Dwight was fluid and patient with his post moves, his hooks (especially the lefty hook) were falling on either side of the block, and there was nothing Gortat could do to stop him. For Gortat, it was not for a lack of trying. It’s just that when Dwight is in a rhythm, in a groove, and getting to his spots on the floor, there’s not a lot that guys like Gortat can do. That’s how good Dwight can be.

For Anderson, the three-point shot doesn’t define how good he is as a player because he’s much more than just a shooter, but it’s certainly a strong barometer of success for him. In this case, Anderson had a wildly successful game because he made seven three-pointers, which accounted for 21 of his 29 points. For whatever reason, probably because the Suns are a below-average defensive team (ranked 20th in Defensive Rating), Anderson kept finding himself open in pick-and-pops or by spotting up on the perimeter.

And when Anderson wasn’t occasionally wide open for three-point shots, he was getting fouled attempting a three-pointer. It happened twice in the game.

If it wasn’t for a dunk and a layup in the fourth quarter, all of Anderson’s points would have came from three-point shots, whether directly or indirectly. Apparently, Phoenix didn’t get the memo on Anderson’s scouting report.

It’s understandable for Dwight to dominate, nay, destroy Gortat because he’s a great player. It’s a little harder to understand how Anderson could dominate just as much versus the Suns, given that it’s easier to account for him defensively.

But then again, Anderson is that good. He’s proven it countless times this season for the Magic. Phoenix was the latest to find out.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Dwight. In Gortat’s first game back in Orlando since being traded to the Suns in 2010, he was greeted rudely by Dwight, who destroyed Gortat in the post for 28 points and 16 rebounds.

X-Factor

Ryan Anderson’s three-point shooting. Players for the Suns continuously lost track of Anderson in pick-and-pops or when he was spotting up on the perimeter. Anderson made Phoenix pay, tying a career-high with seven threes.

That Game Was … a Laugher

With Dwight dominating on the low block and Anderson shooting the lights out from the outside, the Suns didn’t stand a chance against Orlando. As the game went on, the less competitive things got.

Mar 21

Preview: Phoenix Suns at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Phoenix Suns at Orlando Magic
  • Date: Mar. 21, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Sun Sports
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Suns: 23-23
  • Magic: 29-18

Probable starters

Suns:

  • Steve Nash
  • Grant Hill
  • Jared Dudley
  • Channing Frye
  • Marcin Gortat

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Jason Richardson
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Dwight Howard

Advanced stats

Suns:

  • Pace: 92.2 (9th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.6 (14th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.5 (20th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.4 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.8 (17th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.9 (11th of 30)

Read about the Suns

Valley of the Suns

Mar 21

Dwight Howard, free-throws, and the real problem in Orlando

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

When asked if the Orlando Magic were title contenders, LeBron James answered, “Absolutely.”

It happened on Sunday after Orlando suffered a 91-81 loss to Miami. Maybe LeBron was being cordial. Maybe he did not want to kick a marginal team while they were down. Maybe he was blinded by the fact that Orlando got the better of Miami twice already this season. Regardless, you can’t help but think that maybe LeBron had a point.

Now let me throw another angle at you. Recently on Twitter, Myles Brown and Eddy Rivera had a brief, albeit telling, discussion that involved Dwight Howard, free-throws, and the definition of “elite players.”

Note: Myles Brown is great. He has a very entertaining Twitter account (@mdotbrown) and knows a ton about the game. So I’m not picking on him. I’m just picking up on one of the things he said and running with it.

I’ll spare you the details and get to the point. Myles basically argued that Dwight is not a closer and go-to guy in part because he can’t hit free-throws. At first, it made sense. You don’t want to put the ball in a guy’s hands that is a liability at the free-throw line. It’s not safe!

But does this really mean he’s not a top five player? We know in our heart of hearts that Dwight is most definitely a top five player in the league, but when Myles Brown called that into question partly on account of his ability to hit free-throws? I started pacing (at least in my head).

Second note: here’s the connection. If Dwight shot a ridiculously poor free-throw percentage but the Magic had a championship or two in the bag, folks would have zero hesitation hailing him as a top five player in the league. But he hasn’t, so you have to find a reason to take him out of that top five. Thus, people pick at his free-throw shooting (among other things).

To get to the bottom of this, I decided to take a look at the last five teams to win a title in the NBA since 2007, examine their free-throw shooting, see how well their big men shot free-throws, and throw the whole thing together in some convoluted equation that will determine a conclusion I reached, which I’ll explain shortly.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 20

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu all struggled mightily against the Chicago Bulls, resulting in an 85-59 blowout loss for the Orlando Magic.
  • Head coach Stan Van Gundy takes some of the blame for the Magic’s recent struggles on offense, noting that “we’ve got better players than that.”
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “He has next season left on his contract with the Magic before he can become a coveted free agent. Without signing him to an extension, there will be doubt about the franchise’s direction. And some distractions. For once, we’re not discussing Dwight Howard, although his name surely will surface in these talks. The Magic need to make a decision about their coach, Stan Van Gundy.”
  • With a win against Orlando, head coach Tom Thibodeau became the fastest coach in NBA history to win 100 regular season games. Van Gundy speaks very highly of Thibodeau.
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie suggests that Van Gundy may be better off coaching another team instead of extending his contract with the Magic: “Van Gundy, not unlike Howard, might be wise to consider his options here. Considering his talent, perhaps an extension in Orlando might not be the wisest move for his career.”
  • This shot chart says it all about Orlando’s offensive performance against the Bulls.
  • Without Derrick Rose, Chicago is 10-4 this season. That includes wins against the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, and Magic in the span of less than a week.
  • How suffocating was the Bulls’ defense against Orlando? Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated reveals some of the gruesome details: “The Magic made four of 20 threes, provided Chicago with 25 points on 19 turnovers and shot no better from the free throw line than the Bulls did from the three-point line, as each went 7-of-18, respectively.”
  • When Ryan Anderson has an off-night offensively, as he did against Chicago (scoring 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting from the floor), the Magic typically lose. In 29 Orlando wins this season, Anderson averages 17.6 points per game with a True Shooting percentage at 62.9 percent. In 17 losses, those numbers dip to 12.4 and 50.1 respectively.
  • Chris Duhon is really bad. So is Glen Davis.
  • In his press conference on Thursday, in which he formally announced he was waiving the early termination option in his contract, Dwight talked a lot about loyalty as one of the reasons he chose to stay with the Magic for one more year but he also mentioned that he felt the team could compete for a championship this season. Rohan Cruyff of HoopSpeak doesn’t think Orlando is in a position to do that: “Howard perhaps opted for an extra year in Orlando because, for many years, the Magic legitimately contended for titles [...], but the future looks dire without a massive free agent signing next summer.
  • The Magic are 17-11 “in games where both teams either have no rest or both teams have at least one day of rest” for a winning percentage of .607 according to John Schuhmann of NBA.com — fourth-best among Eastern Conference teams.
  • Steve Perrin of SB Nation: “Howard stuck around to take a crack at winning a championship with the Magic, who have the third best record in the East after all. Getting thrashed by the Bulls is probably not what Howard had in mind when he signed that waiver last Thursday.”
  • Anderson is underrated.
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