Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 100

Apr 20

Superman’s fall

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

I don’t think anybody saw this being the end of the saga.

Just a day ago, I — like many of you, I’m sure — assumed that Dwight Howard’s “back” was just a synonym for a host of other maladies that were not exactly a physician’s concern. Just a day ago, in fact, I was starting to reconsider my status as a Dwight apologist. Increasingly, the defenses of Dwight I’d mounted seemed thinner and thinner as his behavior became more and more childish and narcissistic.

With the news coming on Thursday that Howard is hanging it up for the season to have a herniated disc repaired in his back, I figured it was time to offer a few thoughts.

First, and most obviously, spinal discs have no character. We can safely put to rest the ideas that Dwight was malingering on account of some beef with the organization or with Stan Van Gundy. He may in fact be beefing and he may in fact have been refusing to play for the rest of the season regardless, but that’s not where we are.

Unfortunately for the player and perhaps fortunately for his image, Howard has a serious medical condition that neither he nor any self-respecting medical professional would fake so as to make any kind of point. So in a certain way, this injury allows Howard to pre-empt any further rumors which might have damaged his career every bit as much as a protracted recovery. 

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Apr 19

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • With Dwight Howard out, the Orlando Magic have struggled to defend as a team in his absence. Last night’s game against the Boston Celtics was the latest example for the Magic. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has more: “Boston shot 54.3 percent overall, the sixth time in Orlando’s eight games without Howard that Magic opponents have made at least 50.0 percent of their shots.”
  • According to a report, Dwight told owner Rich DeVos that he no longer wants to play for head coach Stan Van Gundy. Asked by the Sentinel about alleged rumor, Van Gundy says he has “no comment.”
  • Is Dwight really that much of a liability for Orlando in crunch time? Noam Schiller of Hardwood Paroxysm reveals an eye-opening stat that conflicts with conventional wisdom: “With Dwight on the court in the clutch [this season], the Magic have scored a whopping 119.4 points per 100 possessions, and have given up only 92.9, and have gone 17-10.”
  • ESPN.com: “Magic center Dwight Howard has called team owner Rich DeVos to tell him that he won’t play for coach Stan Van Gundy anymore, WKMG in Orlando reported. But multiple league sources directly affiliated with the Magic and Howard disputed the television report to ESPN.com’s Michael Wallace.”
  • Perhaps it’s time for Ish Smith to take over as the back-up point guard for the Magic.
  • Van Gundy is the most disliked head coach in the NBA according to a Sports Illustrated players poll.
  • Orlando showed fight in their loss to the Celtics in yesterday’s game.
  • After the news broke that Dwight no longer wants to play for Van Gundy, there have been multiple media outlets that have refuted the story.
  • The Magic couldn’t handle “The Truth” last night.
  • Holly MacKenzie of CourtVision: “None of this is surprising, but it’s pretty shocking how this season has played out for the Magic. From Howard wanting out, to him wanting to stay, to the strangest NBA practice scrum to ever be caught on tape, the Magic have been a sideshow all season.”
  • It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Orlando all season long.
  • What will it take for the Magic to clinch the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference? Two wins, most likely.
  • Conflicting reports, the latest being that Dwight will no longer play for Van Gundy, have become the norm for Orlando this season.
  • Zach Lowe of The Point Forward: “The Howard saga has already reached nearly unprecedented levels of absurdity, even for a world as ridiculous as the NBA.”
  • Without Dwight available to play in the playoffs, the Magic have little chance of advancing past the first round. It remains to be seen if Dwight will be able to come back from injury in time for the postseason.
  • In a game that was lacking a little bit in star power, Boston prevailed against Orlando.

Apr 19

Recap: Boston Celtics 102, Orlando Magic 98

Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

The Orlando Magic played a hard-fought game against the Boston Celtics but came up short, losing 102-98.

With the score at 98-96 and the Celtics trying to hold on for the victory, after Glen Davis stole a pass from Avery Bradley and converted a dunk on the previous possession to make it a one-possession game for the Magic, Paul Pierce made a clutch jumper on the next trip down that essentially won the game.

After Davis’ dunk, head coach Doc Rivers wisely didn’t call a timeout so that he didn’t allow head coach Stan Van Gundy to set up Orlando’s defense and possibly adjust the personnel on the floor to best prepare for whatever play Boston was going to run.

Instead, the Celtics put the ball in Pierce’s hands and let him go to work. Boston ran a 3/5 pick-and-roll with Pierce and Garnett, The Magic switched on the play, which meant that instead of Quentin Richardson guarding Pierce, it was Davis that had to try and stop him. Davis hounded Pierce on the right wing. And with Pierce stumbling momentarily, almost losing control of the basketball, as well as the shot clock winding down, it seemed like Orlando was going to get the stop that they needed.

Unfortunately for the Magic, Pierce regained his footing, went to his left while simultaneously creating room for himself, and made a free-throw line extended jumper off the dribble with Davis unable to contest the shot.

If you’ve watched Pierce play over the years, you’ll know that’s probably his favorite shot to go to in crunch time.

After Jameer Nelson made a floater off the dribble to cut the deficit back to two points for Orlando on the ensuing possession, Pierce made two free-throws to ice the game.

Crazy as it may sound, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the Magic lost to Boston — again. Why?

With the loss, Orlando remains 1 game back of the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 36-26. When you consider that the Hawks swept the season series and own the tiebreaker, the Magic are actually 2 games back of Atlanta for the No. 5 seed.

Consider this question: if you’re Orlando, who would you rather face in the first round of the playoffs? The Indiana Pacers or Celtics?

Although the Pacers are 40-22, have won 15 of their last 19 games, and all but locked up the No. 3 seed in the East, the Magic are capable of springing a first round upset against Indiana as opposed to Boston. Especially if Dwight Howard is available to play in the postseason (Hedo Turkoglu is expected to be back in time for the playoffs). The NBA is all about matchups and Orlando matches up favorably with the Pacers.

If you like to look farther ahead, not only would the Magic draw Indiana in the first round as a No. 6 seed but the Miami Heat loom on that side of the playoff bracket, too. If Orlando were able to get past the Pacers, there’s no question they would have a puncher’s chance against the Heat. But again, that is contingent on Dwight being healthy and able to play.

If Dwight is unable to play in the postseason, then throw out all the hypotheticals out the window.

However, it’s still intriguing to think about.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Pierce is a proverbial Magic killer. It’s no surprise, then, that he put up a career-high 14 assists to go along with his 29 points (9-for-14 shooting from the floor and 11-for-12 shooting from the free-throw line) and five rebounds.

X-Factor

In his second game back in Boston this season, Davis had a much better game compared to his first go-around. In fact, he was tremendous and helped keep Orlando in striking distance throughout the game.

That Was … Predictable

The Magic played with as much energy and effort as humanly possible against the Celtics. That garnered praise from Van Gundy after the game. Nevertheless, it still wasn’t enough to beat Boston.

Apr 18

Preview: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics
  • Date: Apr. 18, 2012
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: ESPN
  • Arena: TD Garden

Records

  • Magic: 36-25
  • Celtics: 36-26

Probable starters

Magic:

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

Celtics:

  • Avery Bradley
  • Sasha Pavlovic
  • Paul Pierce
  • Brandon Bass
  • Kevin Garnett

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.2 (27th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.1 (15th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.3 (12th of 30)

Celtics:

  • Pace: 90.3 (21st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.2 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 98.7 (2nd of 30)

Read about the Celtics

Celtics Hub

Apr 18

Ryan Anderson and offensive rebounds

Ryan Anderson is a poor man’s Kevin Love.

You’ll read or hear that comparison thrown around, and it’s certainly apt. Anderson shares a few similarities with Love. They’re stretch fours. Both players hoard offensive rebounds while spreading the floor and lighting it up behind the three-point line. And while Anderson and Love aren’t liabilities on defense, they’re not lockdown defenders either.

That, of course, is where the comparison ends. Love is a better rebounder and the better player (he’s also emerged as the best power forward in the NBA and an MVP candidate), mainly because he’s able to create his own shot, which opens up so many avenues for him on offense. For the season, Love is assisted on 58 percent of his made field goals — league average is 60.4 percent overall and 69 percent for power forwards.

Anderson, on the other hand, is assisted on 75.7 percent of his made field goals, which is a much higher percentage compared to Love. And that jives with Anderson’s scouting report offensively, which is that he doesn’t create his own shot that much. This season, Anderson generates his offense primarily in three play types according to MySynergySports: spot-up (36.6 percent of the time), offensive rebound (16.5 percent), and pick-and-roll man (13.6 percent).

Via offensive rebounds, Anderson averages 1.17 points per possession, which is the highest point total among those three categories.

So although Anderson isn’t the shot creator that Love is, at least not yet, he’s able to circumvent that issue a little bit by hitting the offensive glass and getting easy baskets for himself. That is, when he’s not spotting up on the perimeter or engaging in pick-and-rolls.

On Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers found out first-hand how potent Anderson is on offensive rebound putbacks. For the game, Anderson had eight offensive rebounds (compared to four for the Sixers) and on five of them, he converted them into 10 second-chance points for the Orlando Magic.

A common question that’s asked about Anderson is how is he one of the best offensive rebounders in the league while also attempting the most three-pointers per game out of anyone?

The answer lies within the pictures.

_______

Late in the first quarter, Earl Clark finds himself with the basketball after Jameer Nelson passed it to him in a 1/4 pick-and-roll. The shot clock is winding down, which is forcing Clark to put up a shot of some sort. He decides to go at Elton Brand and attack the basket.

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Apr 17

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • With the injury bug biting Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, and Glen Davis in recent weeks, it turns out the Orlando Magic have been able to turn the situation into a positive.
  • Quentin Richardson on the Magic’s win against the Philadelphia 76ers last night: “I definitely am proud. This is one of the best victories I’ve been a part of in a long while.”
  • How exactly was Orlando able to break down the Sixers’ defense in yesterday’s game? John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com explains: “The ball swung crispy around the perimeter and there were usually multiple pick-and-roll sets executed on each possession. That exertion of effort helped the Magic score 61 points in the first half, 113 in the game and shoot 52.3 percent on the night.”
  • It’s been reported that Dwight Howard might miss the postseason, as he tries to rehab from a back injury. That would, no doubt, derail Orlando’s hopes of making a surprise run in the playoffs. As the No. 6 seed, the Magic would face the Indiana Pacers in the first round. Then if Orlando advanced, they would likely play against the Miami Heat in the Semifinals. With Dwight, those are two teams the Magic match up favorably with.
  • This season, Orlando has performed well in crunch time.
  • The Magic were able to beat the Sixers despite not having Dwight, Turkoglu, and Davis. Ryan Anderson (26 rebounds and 16 points) helped fuel Orlando to a nice victory against Philadelphia.
  • Abe Schwadron of SLAM ONLINE: “The Magic found a way to outrebound the Sixers 46 to 30 despite missing the bulk of their frontcourt, and improved to 3-4 without Howard.”
  • Jeff Van Gundy doesn’t mince words when he talks about Dwight and the Magic.
  • Would Orlando, currently in position to secure the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference but still with a chance to “move up” to the No. 5 seed and face off against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, be better off tanking?
  • Anderson is not only a poor man’s Kevin Love, but he also could be the Most Improved Player this season in the NBA.

Apr 17

Recap: Orlando Magic 113, Philadelphia 76ers 100

AP Photo/John Raoux

BOX SCORE

Whenever the Orlando Magic play against the Philadelphia 76ers, especially on the road, people like to bring up the hometown narrative for Jameer Nelson since he grew up in nearby Chester, Pennsylvania and played his college ball at St. Joseph’s.

It’s a nice story, sure, but the overriding theme this season (and in previous seasons) should be the fact that the Magic are a horrible matchup for the Sixers and that Ryan Anderson has become a nightmare matchup for Philadelphia, too.

Dating back to 2008, which marks the beginning of head coach Stan Van Gundy’s tenure with Orlando, counting their memorable series in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, the Magic have won 22 of their last 28 games against the Sixers — that stat includes tonight’s 113-100 victory.

As for Anderson, in two previous games this season against Philadelphia, he put up 14 points and a career-high 20 rebounds on January 30 as well as put up 27 points on 7-for-10 shooting from three-point range on February 15.

Tonight?

It was the best of both worlds for Anderson, as he posted game-highs in points (26) and rebounds (16) against the Sixers. He had it going with his scoring and rebounding. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, there was no one that could slow down Anderson in either facet. Thaddeus Young, in particular, had a whale of a time trying to account for Anderson all over the court. Especially in the paint, where Anderson dominated the Sixers with offensive rebound putbacks. For the game, Anderson had more offensive rebounds (8) than Philadelphia (4) and he was able to convert those opportunities into 10 second-chance points.

With Anderson snapping out of a three-game shooting slump, as well as Orlando getting good efforts from nearly every player in Van Gundy’s rotation (including Earl Clark notching his first career double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds), they were able to come away with a relatively easy win against Philadelphia. And, even though I’m starting to sound like a broken record, the Magic were able to do all of this without Dwight Howard (herniated disk in lower back), Hedo Turkoglu (facial fracture), and Glen Davis (hyperextended right knee).

As such, even with the Sixers continuing to lose games (losers of 20 of their last 31 games), it was an impressive victory for Orlando and a well-earned one at that. For example, the Magic tied a season-high by scoring 40 points in a quarter, which subsequently was the most points Philadelphia has allowed in a quarter this season. It was just one of those nights for Orlando.

For the Magic, it pays to have favorable matchups.

However, Orlando better not enjoy the win for too long because they’re going to be on the flipside of the coin when they face off against the Boston Celtics on Thursday, a team that has thoroughly dominated the head-to-head matchup this season.

The Magic better get ready to take the same kind of punishment from the Celtics that they dished out against the Sixers.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Easy choice here. Anderson was the best player on the floor, by far, in this game and one of the main reasons why Orlando was able to beat the Sixers despite playing short-handed.

X-Factor

How about the Magic’s bench? Yes, Clark’s first career double-double is certainly worthy of praise but Quentin Richardson wasn’t too shabby either, providing Orlando with a big lift off the bench (13 points).

Apr 16

Preview: Philadelphia 76ers at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Philadelphia 76ers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: Apr. 16, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: NBA TV
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Sixers: 31-28
  • Magic: 35-25

Probable starters

Sixers:

  • Jrue Holiday
  • Jodie Meeks
  • Andre Iguodala
  • Thaddeus Young
  • Elton Brand

Magic:

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

Advanced stats

Sixers:

  • Pace: 89.7 (24th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.4 (20th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 98.1 (2nd of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.2 (27th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.8 (16th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.2 (11th of 30)

Read about the Sixers

Philadunkia

Apr 16

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “An MRI today showed that Glen Davis suffered no structural damage when he hurt his right knee Sunday night, team spokesman Joel Glass said. Davis mildly hyperextended the knee and his availability for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers is being called a gametime decision.”
  • Much of Daniel Orton’s NBA career has been spent off the court after missing all of last season rehabbing from knee surgery. Which should make tonight especially satisfying for him, given that he’ll be in the starting lineup for the first time in his career.
  • Everyone that played in last night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers contributed to the win for the Orlando Magic.
  • Head coach Stan Van Gundy on why he chose to play Chris Duhon over Ish Smith against the Cavaliers: “I loved the way that Ish had played. He still may play a role here. When we’re struggling, I wanted to go back to veteran guys. I think Ish penetrates the ball very well — maybe better than Chris right now — but I think we get better organization on the floor with Chris, which helps the other guys play well.”
  • John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “With Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis all out, you have to wonder if the Magic can win another game this season. Actually, you don’t, because they play the Bobcats next Wednesday. But a 1-5 finish is a distinct possibility, and a loss to Philly on Monday would put the Sixers just two games back for sixth.”
  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com has similar concerns about the Magic’s playoff positioning with Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, and Glen Davis sidelined with injuries. Though Davis may play in tonight’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
  • Injuries have decimated Orlando’s roster in recent weeks, which has put them in a precarious and fragile position heading into the playoffs.
  • With the Magic reeling (falling from the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference to the No. 6 seed), they needed a win against Cleveland and got it.
  • According to Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk, every team in the East is licking their chops and hoping they get a chance to play an injury-plagued Orlando team in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
  • With a win against the Cavaliers, the Magic clinched a playoff berth for a sixth straight season (fifth straight under Van Gundy).
  • Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “Orlando is without Dwight Howard for most if not all of the rest of the way, so their trek gets the most difficult. That might not be a bad thing for Orlando, as they need to stay as far away from Boston, who has played them enough, with worse versions of their roster, to figure them out in short order. The Magic’s most likely, and best chance at advancing lies with a matchup against the Pacers.”
  • Has Andrew Bynum surpassed Dwight as the NBA’s best center? There’s a real argument this season that he has and possibly for the future, too.

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).

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