Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 100

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.

Mar 19

Recap: Chicago Bulls 85, Orlando Magic 59

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

BOX SCORE

It’s rare to see an NBA team devastate an opponent defensively. The Boston Celtics were able to do so on January 23, holding the Orlando Magic to a franchise-low 56 points in a game. The Chicago Bulls nearly outdid the Celtics on defense on Monday, limiting the Magic to 59 points — on the road no less. For the Bulls, it was a franchise record for points allowed in a regular season game.

It was a perfect storm of futility for Orlando.

Not only have the Magic been plagued by a turnover bug in recent games, but they were facing off against a team ranked second in Defensive Rating.

In games against the New Jersey Nets on Friday (an 86-70 win) and Miami Heat (a 91-81 loss) on Sunday, Orlando committed 18 turnovers. Guess how many turnovers the Magic compiled against Chicago?

18.

That’s not going to help you win ballgames.

As for the explanation behind the Bulls’ defensive devastation, head coach Tom Thibodeau’s gameplan was simple. Let Dwight Howard get his and stop everyone else for Orlando. That strategy didn’t pan out so well for Chicago on March 8, as Dwight was able to dominate offensively as well as get plenty of help from his supporting cast. This time around, though, he was all alone.

While Dwight didn’t have too much trouble scoring against Joakim Noah and Omer Asik, the remainder of his teammates couldn’t generate points no matter how hard they tried. The Bulls did an excellent job of defending Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu in pick-and-rolls, sagging their big men to account for Dwight as the roll man while daring Nelson and Turkoglu to beat them on the perimeter. Nelson and Turkoglu were unable to do so.

Chicago also stayed at home on the Magic’s three-point shooters, contesting almost every jumper that was hoisted up. And when players like Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick got a clean look behind the three-point line, they were unable to make the Bulls pay.

It’s games like these when Orlando’s lack of a consistent shot creator on the perimeter is readily apparent.

Which will likely doom the Magic in the playoffs.

X-Factor

John Lucas III outscored Dwight. That’s not a typo. Granted, It’s not all offense, as the game is played on both ends of the floor. But Lucas III sliced up Orlando’s defense, scoring 20 points in roughly 21 minutes of playing time.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

With Derrick Rose sidelined for a fourth consecutive game with a groin injury, Carlos Boozer stepped up with a double-double (24 points and 13 rebounds) to lead the way for the Bulls.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

Everyone on the Magic roster not named Dwight Howard. His teammates combined to shoot 16-for-54 from the floor (29.6 percent). Credit Chicago’s stifling defense.

Mar 19

Preview: Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic
  • Date: Mar. 19, 2012
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: TNT
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Bulls: 37-10
  • Magic: 29-17

Probable starters

Bulls:

  • C.J. Watson
  • Ronnie Brewer
  • Luol Deng
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Joakim Noah

Magic:

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

Advanced stats

Bulls:

  • Pace: 89.8 (25th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 109.0 (2nd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 99.4 (2nd of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.4 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.5 (14th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.0 (11th of 30)

Read about the Bulls

By The Horns

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