Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 108

Mar 09

Friday’s Magic Word

  • The Orlando Magic have a habit of amassing double-digit leads against opposing teams, then squander them and lose the game. It happened against the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday. It happened against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday. The difference is that the Magic held on to beat the Bulls.
  • General manager Otis Smith used to make shrewd moves before committing a recent calamity of errors in trying to keep Dwight around long-term.
  • Could Orlando strike lightning in a bottle twice, get hot in the playoffs with their three-point shooting, and make another surprise appearance in the NBA Finals like in 2009? Bill Simmons of Grantland thinks so.
  • The Magic were happy and all smiles after beating Chicago on the road.
  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com has a ton of goodies in his Weekend Dime about Orlando. Stein touches on a variety of topics, but perhaps the freshest piece of news is that the Magic are shopping Turkoglu … and not in a trade package with Dwight.
  • If Dwight is traded at the deadline, the complexion of the NBA could change completely.
  • Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus asks: “Which teams have improved their winning percentage the most after the deadline in the 2000?” Orlando makes the list, but it’s probably not the team you’re thinking of.
  • With 3:47 left in the game between the Magic and Bulls, Hedo Turkoglu got whistled for a technical foul after he grabbed referee Karl Lane in dispute of a no-call. Turkoglu ran a 3/5 pick-and-roll with Dwight, then dribble penetrated into the lane and went up for a layup. However, Joakim Noah slapped the ball away and it went off Turkoglu’s leg. Turkoglu argued for a foul call but to no avail. Given that he made physical contact with Lane, there’s a good chance that Turkoglu will be suspended for one game. UPDATE: It’s official.
  • Dwight is at the center of all the trade talk.
  • Derrick Rose cares about winning. Dwight cares about building up his brand.
  • Matt McHale of By the Horns wonders aloud, “Do the Chicago Bulls need Dwight Howard?”
  • There’s stark differences in the roster makeup of Orlando and Chicago.
  • The Magic brass are split on what to do with Dwight.
  • If Orlando does move Dwight at the trade deadline, they’re seeking a package similar to what the Denver Nuggets received for Carmelo Anthony last season.
  • Superman Lives.
  • Glen Davis was proud of Dwight’s performance against the Bulls and tweeted as such.
  • When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers, his departure created an earthquake that could be felt throughout the NBA landscape. The same thing could happen if Dwight leaves the Magic.
  • Orlando netted a big win against an elite team.
  • Chris Duhon enjoys playing the air guitar.
  • A GIF of Turkoglu’s tech.
  • Glen Davis’ midrange jump shooting is painful to watch sometimes.
  • If the Magic think that a win over Chicago will mean much in the grand scheme of things, with regards to convincing Dwight to stay, they may be sadly mistaken.
  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider has an interesting trade idea: “Michael Beasley, Daniel Orton, Justin Harper, Anthony Randolph and Orlando’s first-round pick to Milwaukee; J.J. Redick, Beno Udrih and the rights of Fran Vazquez to Minnesota; Jon Brockman, J.J. Barea and Ersan Ilyasova to Orlando.”

Mar 08

Recap: Orlando Magic 99, Chicago Bulls 94

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

It’s fitting that, after Nate Drexler wrote a piece explaining why the Orlando Magic are not a contender, in large part due to the team’s inconsistent nature, they went out and beat the Chicago Bulls on the road. This happening two days after the Magic lost to the Charlotte Bobcats. In case you’re keeping score at home, Orlando defeated a team with the NBA’s best record right after losing to a team with the worst record in the league. Go figure.

How did the Magic do it?

A whole lot of Dwight Howard, with some help from his supporting cast.

Dwight was a monster and he needed to be if Orlando wanted to defeat Chicago and snap their eight-game winning streak.

There was no one, absolutely no one, from the Bulls that could stop or slow down Dwight, as he did most of his damage in post-ups. No one.

Joakim Noah tried and failed. One particular possession, with the second quarter winding down, exemplified Noah’s fruitless endeavor in trying to contain Dwight. The big fella got the ball on the left block, faced up Noah, then backed him down. After a few dribbles, Dwight faked going to his left towards the baseline, which froze Noah for a split-second. Dwight, then, pivoted into the paint and put up a lefty hook as he got fouled by Noah for an and-one.

Noah is one of the best defenders in the NBA, let alone one of the best defensive bigs the league has to offer. But he can’t match Dwight’s strength, size, or athleticism. For Noah, that makes defending Dwight a tall task. The same can be said about Omer Asik, who struggled dealing with Howard when they were matched up against each other for a few minutes early in the second quarter.

Even Carlos Boozer got a crack at Dwight on defense. No such luck either.

Yes, guys like Jason Richardson stepped up. His back-to-back three-pointers in the right corner in transition late in the third quarter were huge, as it gave the Magic a much-needed cushion heading into the final period after Chicago briefly took the lead in the third quarter. Ryan Anderson was clutch in the fourth quarter, hitting a three-point shot with 1:27 left in the game that gave Orlando the lead, one they’d never relinquish, with the score at 94-91.

But it all comes back to Dwight. He set the tone on offense, dominated like he needed to, and even though he wasn’t up to snuff defensively at times, he helped limit Derrick Rose to 17 points on 6-for-22 shooting from the floor.

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that thinks the Magic have a better team compared to the Bulls. That said, the NBA is all about matchups and against teams like Chicago, Orlando has the ultimate equalizer in Dwight.

The Magic may not be a contender, but they’re certainly a threat.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Dwight’s defense left a lot to be desired at times. Nevertheless, he was scary good offensively and that’s what Orlando needed to slay the Bulls at home. The Magic needed greatness from Dwight. They got it.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Kyle Korver. He’s one of the best three-point shooters in the league. Which is why it was totally perplexing to see him miss six good looks beyond the arc in crunch time.

Defining Moment

Anderson drilled a wide open three-point shot with 1:28 left in the game to give Orlando the lead for good after both teams exchanged leads in the fourth quarter. Jameer Nelson deserves kudos for setting Anderson up.

X-Factor

How about the fact that Dwight was the best player on the court? When Dwight plays at that level against the elite teams in the NBA, the Magic have won. First it was the Miami Heat, now Chicago.

Mar 08

Preview: Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls

Essentials

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

Records

  • Magic: 25-15
  • Bobcats: 33-8

Probable starters

Magic:

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

Bulls:

  • Derrick Rose
  • Ronnie Brewer
  • Luol Deng
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Joakim Noah

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.5 (27th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.0 (13th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.6 (12th of 30)

Bulls:

  • Pace: 90.1 (21st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 108.5 (3rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 97.9 (2nd of 30)

Read about the Bulls

By the Horns

Mar 08

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • The Orlando Magic will have to do a lot of things to put themselves in a position to beat the Chicago Bulls in tonight’s game — like stopping or slowing down the Bulls’ transition game.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Stan would be the first guy to tell you that there are far more important things in life then a game. He’s 52 and now has had chest pains. A former coach told me that Stan might want to think about taking a sabbatical, step away for a while. I can’t see Van Gundy doing that at the moment, especially since he has been cleared by doctors, but I hope he takes this signal seriously.”
  • He doesn’t do them as often as he used to but spurred on by the local media in Chicago, Dwight Howard did impersonations of Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. Pretty funny.
  • There’s a lot of theories surrounding Dwight’s disinterest in wanting to join the Chicago Bulls. Some think it’s the weather. Some think adidas would prefer Dwight play in a different market. Some think he doesn’t want to share the spotlight with Derrick Rose.
  • More on Dwight wanting to be “the guy.”
  • The Magic are in pursuit of Michael Beasley.
  • The odds that Dwight is traded at the deadline are low. If Orlando decides not to trade Dwight, Chad Ford of ESPN Insider feels it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t join the New Jersey Nets as a free agent if he exercises the early termination option in his contract.
  • On March 15, Dwight will be traded or he won’t be.
  • Ken Berger of CBSSports.com with a must-read piece on Dwight’s future with the Magic. That $30 million advantage Orlando has? Berger says it’s overrated: “The total difference over the next six seasons, as outlined here, is more like $10 million. What’s more, Howard — like fellow stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony — likely would request an opt-out after four years in any five-year deal he might enter into with Orlando. That effectively nullifies the Magic’s advantage of being able to offer an extra year.”
  • No one is sure what Orlando will do with Dwight.
  • A roadmap of what might happen with Dwight (and Deron Williams) in the coming months if he’s not traded at the deadline.
  • Endorsements ultimately didn’t play a hand in LeBron James deciding upon the Miami Heat when he was a free agent in 2010. They may affect Dwight’s decision though.
  • Is Dwight a player worth trading for?

Mar 08

Orlando is not a contender unless …

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

With the Magic currently in third place in the East, I find myself wondering, “What’s so bad about this team? Why all the fuss about making trades?”

In the second half of the season, fans need not worry about who is going to make the playoffs or who looks “pretty good even though they don’t have a star.” Fans and analysts alike should only be looking at contenders. Real contenders at that.

Orlando, simply stated, is not a contender. So what should we expect if the Magic’s roster stays the same as it is right now through the rest of the year? A first round knockout from the playoffs is a strong possibility. Well, that is, unless they can play really well for a long stretch in the postseason, a concept that has been foreign in Orlando since the 2010 NBA Playoffs.

The only reason for such grim realism here is the ever-apparent truth that at the moment, Orlando is awfully inconsistent. Just a day or two after Duhon, Davis, and Clark play well, writers and fans are screaming (and tweeting) to have them tarred and feathered and kicked out of town. A day or two after Jason Richardson goes on a sizzling streak from deep, he completely disappears. Even the centerpiece, Dwight Howard, struggles at times with consistency.

We have witnessed writers sing Dwight’s praises for putting up a massive double-double and then turn on him saying that he has given up, lost the desire, or is playing selfishly.

To be clear, two types of teams go deep into the playoffs: 1) teams that have a versatile superstar who can carry a team (LeBron, Wade, Kobe, et al) or 2) teams that get hot at the right time (Dallas).

You just don’t see inconsistent teams — teams that don’t win when they are supposed to — go out of the first round of the playoffs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 07

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Magic CEO Alex Martins and GM Otis Smith say the team has not made a decision about what it will do with Howard as the NBA trade deadline approaches on March 15. Smith said that a decision might not be made until shortly before the deadline. It’s clear that Martins is trying to convince Howard to stay, and all indications are that the Magic are trying to add a quality player to their roster in an attempt to sway their superstar center.”
  • Also in that link, Robbins explains that there’s even the possibility of Dwight Howard not exercising his early termination option after the season is over.
  • Dwight has high praise for Bismack Biyombo. This after Biyombo held Dwight to 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting from the floor last night.
  • Jim Rome rips Magic fans for producing a music video in which they’re begging Dwight to stay.
  • Dwight and the Orlando Magic may be taking the suspense out of the trade deadline. The Magic just might stand pat instead of trading Dwight.
  • Somehow, someway, Biyombo generally outplayed Dwight in yesterday’s game.
  • Orlando had no business losing to the Charlotte Bobcats, a team with the worst record in the NBA, but that’s what happened.
  • Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com with a question that probably everything is asking: “Charlotte, the NBA’s worst offense, seemingly scored at will, with Corey Maggette getting to the foul line 11 times and Gerald Henderson tossing in 16 points, including some big late buckets. Do the Magic even care?”
  • “Get Steve Nash to Orlando.”
  • What is owner Rich DeVos thinking right now?
  • The Magic blew a 20-point lead in their loss against the Bobcats. Biyombo’s defense on Dwight had much to do with that.
  • Looking back at the Rafer Alston trade.
  • The New Jersey Nets are swinging for the fences by zeroing on Dwight and nothing else. It remains to be seen whether or not that strategy will pay off.
  • Danny Nowell writes that Orlando can’t afford to lose against teams like the Bobcats if they want to convince Dwight to stick around long-term.

Mar 06

Recap: Charlotte Bobcats 100, Orlando Magic 84

Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

The Orlando Magic have had a number of bad losses this season.

A lazy 11-point loss to the Detroit Pistons on January 2 springs to mind. So do two epic fails against the Boston Celtics in the span of a week in late January; first putting up a franchise-worst 56 points on the road, then blowing a 27-point lead at home. Can’t forget about the Magic’s 26-point drubbing at the hands of the lowly New Orleans Hornets on January 27 either.

So it’s hard to say where Orlando’s loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, owners of the worst record in the NBA (was 4-31 but now is 5-31), ranks on the list but it’s certainly a bad loss. That much is certain.

What’s amazing is that for most of the first half, the Magic were in complete control of the game. Offensively, everything was coming easy for Orlando. Perhaps too easy in retrospect. The Magic were nailing their three-pointers and balancing that with easy baskets at the rim. On the flipside, the Bobcats were doing everything they could to get blown out of the game — silly turnovers, taking (and missing) bad shots, you name it.

At one point in the second quarter, Orlando was up by as many as 20 points. Then Charlotte slowly began to chip away.

However, after head coach Paul Silas got ejected with 3:53 left in the period after arguing a call in which Corey Maggette attacked the basket and got knocked down with no foul called (Hedo Turkoglu was credited with a block), Ryan Anderson made both technical free-throws to push the Magic’s lead back to 16 points. It seemed like order was being restored. Orlando let their guard down a bit but the Bobcats seemed content to continue committing mental gaffes.

Instead, Silas’ ejection seemed to spark Charlotte and that’s when the game changed. Immediately after Silas left the game, the Bobcats went on a 22-1 run that stretched into the third quarter and spanned nearly six minutes on the game clock. All of a sudden, Charlotte could do no wrong.

For nearly the remainder of the evening, the Magic exchanged leads with the Bobcats.

With the score at 84-82 in Charlotte’s favor with 5:28 left in the fourth quarter after Dwight went one of two from the free-throw line, that’s when Gerald Henderson stepped up to allow the Bobcats to put a stranglehold on the game. Matched up against J.J. Redick, Henderson drew a shooting foul on the fellow Dukie on back-to-back possessions as he went up for a shot along the right baseline. His first shot attempt was a fadeaway on the right block after he posted up Redick, which he made. The second jumper for Henderson was more academic, as he faced up Redick near the right wing, dribbled baseline, then pulled up for a jumper. Both times Henderson drew contact on Redick.

At that point, even though Henderson couldn’t convert at the free-throw line for a three-point play on either possession, Charlotte created enough distance to pull away from Orlando.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

This was a vintage Corey Maggette performance. At his best, his midrange jumper is falling and he’s attacking the rim as well as drawing fouls. All those elements were on display against the Magic.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

Orlando seemed to think that they could show up and win simply because the Bobcats are the worst team in the league. When you play with that mentality, you’re going to lose in the NBA.

X-Factor

Lost in the rubble of the Magic’s loss was Bismack Biyombo’s defense against Dwight. A night after torching Aaron Gray and Jamaal Magloire, Biyombo put up much stiffer resistance defensively against Dwight.

Mar 06

Preview: Orlando Magic at Charlotte Bobcats

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Charlotte Bobcats
  • Date: Mar. 6, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Time Warner Cable Arena

Records

  • Magic: 25-14
  • Bobcats: 4-31

Probable starters

Magic:

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

Bobcats:

  • D.J. Augustin
  • Gerald Henderson
  • Corey Maggette
  • D.J. White
  • Bismack Biyombo

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.5 (27th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.3 (13th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.4 (12th of 30)

Bobcats:

  • Pace: 91.4 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 94.5 (30th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 110.3 (29th of 30)

Read about the Bobcats

Queen City Hoops

Mar 06

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel ran into head coach Stan Van Gundy at the airport in Toronto. Van Gundy was waiting to board a plane heading to Charlotte. Why didn’t he travel with the Orlando Magic? According to Van Gundy, he stayed at Mount Sinai Hospital overnight because he was having chest pains.
  • Van Gundy is okay after experiencing chest pains.
  • Schmitz: “Is Dwight still leading on the Magic eight days before the deadline? Is he still this conflicted? My guess is, being around the Magic, is that he hasn’t changed his stance: He still wants to explore free agency. Neither Howard nor the Magic want to deliver the bad news until they have to. Until they’ve exhausted the last few days of perhaps trying to talk Howard out of leaving. Until they have a deal for Howard they like.”
  • In that same link, general manager Otis Smith reveals that six to eight teams are still calling about Dwight in hopes of acquiring him at the trade deadline.
  • Dwight should know by now that the Magic are committed to winning at all costs.
  • Tonight, Orlando plays a really bad team in the Charlotte Bobcats.
  • It appears that Fran Vazquez, drafted by the Magic in the 2005 NBA Draft and playing for FCB Regal in Spain right now, may be appear poised to join the team next season. Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie explains what that may mean for Orlando moving forward.
  • Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports with a must-read piece on Orlando’s current predicament with Dwight: “Several sources who’ve known Howard for years believe his hesitancy with Orlando management has helped validate Martins’ hope of re-signing him. As one of those sources said, ‘Don’t underestimate how much it means to Dwight to be a pillar in that community. Everyone else wants to pull him out of there, but I’m not so sure that’s where his heart is.’ ”
  • J.J. Redick hit a clutch three-pointer in last night’s game against the Toronto Raptors to help the Magic come away with a victory on the road.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “We cannot emphasize this enough — the Orlando Magic’s primary goal is to keep Dwight Howard in Orlando. Magic CEO Alex Martins is doing everything short of begging (actually, he’d probably do that, too) to convince Howard to stay. That stems from a real desire to keep him and to show Magic fans that they did try if Howard is traded. Bottom line: Until word comes down from owner Richard DeVos to move Howard — something he is reluctant to do — nothing is going to happen.”
  • Another recap of Orlando’s win against the Raptors yesterday.
  • Matt Moore of CBSSports.com wasn’t impressed with the Magic struggling to beat Toronto.
  • Stay Dwight.
  • “Smith’s phone should be ringing off the hook!”
  • Dwight and Ryan Anderson have been two of the main reasons why Orlando is 25-14 and ranked No. 3 in the Eastern Conference as of today.

Mar 05

Recap: Orlando Magic 92, Toronto Raptors 88

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young

This game was all about Dwight Howard — both good and bad.

The good?

Dwight did whatever he wanted on offense. For most of the game, he terrorized the Toronto Raptors in pick-and-roll sets. The Orlando Magic ran a number of 1/5 pick-and-rolls and 3/5 pick-and-rolls with Nelson and Turkoglu serving as the ball handlers, and Dwight was able to convert on a handful of layups and dunks.

The Raptors generally did a poor job of defending the pick-and-rolls. On one possession, Aaron Gray hedged Turkoglu but was too late to recover on Dwight, giving up a dunk. On another possession, Gray opted to sag off Nelson to be in better position to stop or slow down Dwight on the roll. That didn’t work either, as Dwight slipped the screen for another dunk.

Those are instances where a weak-side defender for Toronto should rotate over to serve as the last line of defense. That didn’t happen.

When Dwight wasn’t running his own dunk-a-thon, he was making layups and hook shots in the post. Not all of them came easy either. A few times, for instance, Dwight executed an up-and-under move on the low block against Jamaal Magloire, getting him to bite on the up-fake. That allowed Dwight to go up for an easy layup.

Needless to say, Dwight had everything working for him on offense except for his midrange jumper he’s pretty much abandoned this season. As a result, Toronto was at Dwight’s mercy all night long.

The bad?

Dwight couldn’t make his free-throws, particularly in crunch time.

With 2:58 left in the game, the Magic were up by nine points with the score at 87-78. But the Raptors were able to go on a 7-0 run in a little more than two minutes to cut their deficit to two points with 31.8 seconds left, largely because Howard missed six free-throws during that timeframe.

Orlando is fortunate that Redick bailed them out with a clutch three-pointer with 9.8 seconds left to fend off Toronto’s rally but it never should have came down to that.

Dwight says he wants the ball in the fourth quarter. Shooting 1-for-7 from the free-throw line in the period isn’t going to help his argument.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Dwight Howard was unstoppable offensively. There wasn’t much Aaron Gray, Jamaal Magloire, and the Raptors’ defense as a whole could do to slow down Dwight from scoring on dunks, layups, and hook shots.

Defining Moment

With the Magic up by two points with the score at 87-85, J.J. Redick made a clutch three-pointer in the right corner with 9.8 seconds left in the game. That gave Orlando enough cushion to hold on for a narrow win.

That Was … Almost Costly

Although Dwight had 36 points on 16-for-20 from the floor, he missed seven free-throws in the fourth quarter (4-for-14 from the free-throw line for the game). That allowed Toronto to come back and nearly steal a victory.

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