Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 111

Feb 24

Welcome to All-Star Weekend in Orlando

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

There is no All-Star game more exciting than the NBA All-Star Game. As Bill Simmons expunges in his book, The Book of Basketball, to be at an NBA game is as close to the action as you can get in any sport without being behind a glass panel for protection.

You can hear the players talk, you can feel their sweat, and you can marvel in their size and athleticism that is so far beyond anything you have ever experienced. Put it simply, you are right there.

So for that reason it’s not hard to see why the NBA All-Star Game is better (or at least more jolting) than other sports. In baseball, the fans are far away from the players, rendering the actual game something of a boring formality. The Home Run Derby is certainly the spectacle fans want to see — more because of the close proximity and loose atmosphere than anything else. In hockey, the game is fun, but because of pads, helmets, and the speed of the game, it’s hard to pick out the great moments outside of the Skills Competition.

And no one likes the Pro Bowl in football because, well, the Pro Bowl is boring.

The awesome part about the NBA All-Star Game is the clarity in which we view these titans of athleticism. Whether during the slam dunk contest, the skills challenge or the game itself, the true star characteristics that each player possesses shines through in magnificent and mind-blowing ways.

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Feb 24

No clear end in sight for the Magic

Jim O’Connor/US Presswire

I’ve been flying a lot lately, and I don’t mind saying that I’m not the world’s greatest flyer. I’m not, you know, a total basket case about it — I think I’m able to sit in my seat and maintain what most people would say is a normal, masculine demeanor — but I’m a little more sweaty-palmed about it than I imagine most people are.

Every time the seat belt light comes one, I feel like I imagine every person forced into the Army by their fathers felt on D-Day. I start looking around the cabin and seeing how nervous other passengers look, and the answer is always NOT AT ALL. So I sit there in my seat and make the best face I can to articulate how trivial I find any turbulence while keeping my palms affixed to my thighs like a convict strapped in an electric chair.

I’ve developed some coping strategies, of course. Self-talk, you might say.

I try and look at the stewardesses first. Are they walking around the aisles as if nothing is happening even as the plane is lurchingly dropping through the sky? No sweat. I think about the captains — those dudes have epaulettes and mustaches, I tell myself, and they don’t just give those out to people who can’t keep their heads in a crisis. Usually, between gauging the stewardesses and imagining the captain in aviator glasses smoking Marlboro reds and calling the attendants “doll face” over his radio, I calm myself down.

Except on my most recent flight, when I heard an attendant tell a guy standing in the aisle “This is probably going to get pretty bad.” This represented a major breach of trust, as far as I’m concerned. Isn’t it basically their job to tell you how often they’ve seen this? What if your surgeon was all “Hold up, this is gonna be excruciating” for second?

So for the next, like, four minutes I was picturing — I hope to God everybody does this — how I was going to handle the imminent crash. I imagined that I would begin consoling those around me, saying, “It’s out of our hands. The people in the cockpit are trained professionals.” As we plunged beneath the final cloud layer, unsure whether the pilot would pull off the emergency landing, I would face the end coolly and, if we all made it, memorably.

In real life, of course, I had turned off my iPod to devote all of my cognitive energy to grinding my teeth while the woman beside me, I swear on my life, continued knitting stuffed monkeys for her children out of used sweaters. Needless to say, I learned something about myself in that moment.

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Feb 23

Recap: Atlanta Hawks 83, Orlando Magic 78

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The main storyline is that the Atlanta Hawks, for the ninth time in 13 tries dating back to last season, beat the Orlando Magic, despite not having Al Horford, Joe Johnson, and Jason Collins.

And the main reason that the Magic keep losing to the Hawks is because they simply can’t score.

Zaza Pachulia assumed the role of “Dwight stopper” for a second time this season, limiting Howard to 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the floor in 40 minutes. One of the ways that Pachulia was able to limit Howard to seven field-goal attempts was by doing a great job of denying entry passes to the big fella. Throughout the game, several perimeter players for Orlando had great difficulty finding the proper angle to make an entry pass. As such, time and again, the shot clock would wind down and someone from the Magic would have to take a contested jumper.

This is where having a player that can create his shot at any time would have helped Orlando. Alas, that player has yet to be acquired by general manager Otis Smith.

Another fascinating subplot (carrying over from the first game this season) is witnessing head coach Larry Drew continue to rely on a rarely used defensive strategy — crossmatching. Typically, teams in the NBA don’t crossmatch because they may not have the personnel to do so. In this case, Drew is fortunate to have a versatile defender like Josh Smith.

With the requisite athleticism and strength plus a 7-foot wingspan, you have to figure that Smith should be able to defend a guy like Turkoglu without much trouble. Indeed, that’s what happened, as Turkoglu struggled to get a shot off against Smith with any consistency.

The other side of the coin is Marvin Williams. Listed at 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Williams isn’t that much smaller than 6-foot-10, 240-pound Ryan Anderson. The worry that Anderson is going to beat Williams with his athleticism, strength, or length isn’t there. Additionally, Anderson is not much of a shot creator. So frankly, all Williams has to do defensively is account for Anderson on the perimeter — like he did in this game — and he’s good.

With Anderson and Turkoglu combining to shoot 8-for-29 from the floor (27.5 percent), Howard getting limited touches, and no one else besides J.J. Redick making much of an impact on offense, it’s not a surprise that the Magic lost to Atlanta. Again.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Josh Smith was fairly quiet in the fourth quarter as the Hawks desperately held onto a narrow lead. But J-Smoove dominated early, with 14 of his 22 points coming in the first quarter.

X-Factor(s)

Jannero Pargo and Willie Green were the unsung heroes. Pargo was unconscious in the second quarter, scoring 12 of his 15 points. Green made some critical baskets in the fourth quarter to help fend off Orlando’s rally.

Feb 23

Preview: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks
  • Date: Feb. 23, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Philips Arena

Records

  • Magic: 22-12
  • Hawks: 19-14

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Chris Duhon
  • Jason Richardson
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Dwight Howard

Hawks:

  • Jeff Teague
  • Kirk Hinrich
  • Marvin Williams
  • Josh Smith
  • Zaza Pachulia

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.2 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.9 (13th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.2 (12th of 30)

Hawks:

  • Pace: 89.9 (21st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.2 (19th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 100.5 (8th of 30)

Read about the Hawks

Hoopinion

Feb 22

Recap: Orlando Magic 108, New Jersey Nets 91

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

When Glen Davis is getting easy buckets in the paint, you have to step back and second-guess how good your team is and start to question how bad your opponent is. At least, that was the story in the first half.

For the first 24 minutes, the Nets looked bored and ready to move on to a new dome. It was as if Deron Williams’ stand against Jeremy Lin a few nights ago was the last stand, and now the Nets have moved on, poised to take over Brooklyn.

Want proof? With four minutes left in the first, the game was still close and Dwight went to the bench with his second foul. From there, the Nets allowed a lineup of Duhon-Wafer-Q-Clark-Davis absolutely eat them alive. I’m talking about Q-Rich posting up, swinging it to Duhon who drives to the lane, and dishes to Davis for an and-one finish. Really? That only happens when you’re playing a team that doesn’t care much, or a team who is coming off a blood bath.

At one point in the second quarter, Von Wafer grabbed a defensive rebound and took the ball coast-to-coast for an uncontested dunk. If that doesn’t tell you about how ready the Nets were coming into this one, then you’re not paying attention.

Then the second half happened, and Deron Williams happened. Williams caught fire from deep and made 12 straight for the Nets, taking a big bite out of what was once a 20-point Magic lead.

The Orlando response was crucial. When Williams got hot, the Magic did not panic and start shooting threes and struggle offensively. They buckled down, set up their half-court set, delivered Dwight the ball, and let it pay off. Dwight didn’t go nuts in the post, but it opened up the floor for guys like Redick and Duhon to get good looks from deep. In a word, they responded with Magic basketball — the Dwight system — and re-extended their lead to 18 in the third.

Good time to note that Sheldon Williams did a nice job on Dwight in this game. That’s why the second half of this game was so fun to watch if you were a Magic fan. Even though Dwight wasn’t owning, Orlando kept going to him. He got his touches, and that opened up a much more natural offense for Orlando. Thus, Orlando recovered and kept a 16-point lead headed into the fourth.

If Dwight feels like he is not a closer, than I am not sure what he wants. In the fourth quarter, he got multiple touches and gave himself room to finish a few baby hook shots that helped keep the Nets at bay. Surely it helps to have a big lead going into the final quarter, but it seems as if Dwight in the post is the best minute-eating weapon any team could have to protect a lead in the closing minutes. Magic played that card to perfection to take the win.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Dwight Howard. This was a tough one since Orlando got good production from several guys on the floor, but you can’t deny a 20 and 17 effort from the big man.

X-Factor

Glen Davis. Baby gave Orlando a huge boost in the first half on perfect shooting from the field and led all scoring in the first half. He picked his spots in the second, but I was impressed with his rebounding for a change.

Defining Moment

When Deron Williams caught fire in the beginning of the second half, Orlando responded with a few three-pointers and a Dwight slam to re-extend their lead to 16 heading into the fourth.

That Game Was … a Breath of Fresh Air

Orlando shot well from the field, got production from guys like Glen Davis and Chris Duhon, and Dwight got all the touches he needed to be effective. Basically, all cylinders were firing in this win, something akin to 2009.

Feb 22

Preview: Orlando Magic at New Jersey Nets

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at New Jersey Nets
  • Date: Feb. 22, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Prudential Center

Records

  • Magic: 21-12
  • Nets: 10-24

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Dwight Howard

Nets:

  • Deron Williams
  • MarShon Brooks
  • DeShawn Stevenson
  • Brook Lopez
  • Shelden Williams

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.2 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.3 (13th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.1 (12th of 30)

Nets:

  • Pace: 88.8 (28th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.9 (12th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 111.2 (30th of 30)

Read about the Nets

Nets Are Scorching

Feb 21

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Mar. 15: It’s the NBA trade deadline, and it either could be the worse day for Magic fans since Shaq left in 1996 or the best, depending if Howard reverses field as the saga plays out this summer. Or Magic fans might be welcoming a new player or two. Mar. 16: Call it karma or fate, whatever. But if Howard is traded to New Jersey, guess what? The Magic’s first game after the trade deadline is against…. the Nets. How cruel. It could be Howard’s first game against his former team — and at Amway Center, of all places. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Magic boo-birds surely would let him have it, a night that might require extra security at the arena. Imagine Bynum wearing a Magic jersey. Or Howard could still be with the Magic, meaning he could be playing out the string until he becomes a free agent, possibly leaving the Magic with no compensation.”
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “While the weekly and sometimes daily conversations between Howard and Williams might concern some Magic fans because of their desire to play together – possibly with the Nets – Howard insists that the two are just friends. They became confidants in 2008 while playing for Team USA in the Summer Olympics and have talked basketball, life and other issues regularly. But the two friends will be enemies Wednesday night when the Magic (21-12) face the Nets (10-24) at 7:30 p.m. It will be the first time that Howard has played in New Jersey since issuing an early-season trade request that included the Nets as one of his preferred destinations.”
  • The odds that the Los Angeles Lakers trade for Dwight Howard at the deadline are “slim and none” according to a source that spoke with Ken Berger of CBSSports.com for a story.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “It seems odd to criticize Dwight Howard after a 28 point, 16 rebound performance — which included him stealing the ball from Brandon Jennings and scoring on the one-man fast break at one point — but we can’t help ourselves. His defensive effort is inconsistent. He is so talented he puts up numbers, but it’s hard to watch him and think he is fully invested. Ryan Anderson had the go-ahead three for the Magic in what was a close game. Jennings had 22 for the Bucks.”
  • Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated with midseason grades for all 30 NBA teams. The Orlando Magic get a B+ from Robson: “Orlando has made the best of a bad situation. The pivotal moment came after a 1-5 stretch in late January, which included an 87-56 loss at Boston, a 93-67 defeat at lowly New Orleans and blowing a 27-point lead at home against the Celtics. At 12-9 and in the midst of what coach Stan Van Gundy called the worst stretch of his five-year tenure, the team could have packed it in and waited for the trading deadline to resolve Dwight Howard’s lame-duck status. Instead, the Magic have won nine of 12 to thrust themselves back into position for home-court advantage in the playoffs. It is still possible that Orlando, knowing it needs to get something in return for its superstar center, will deal Howard by March 15. But both the player and the franchise can feel good about the way they are potentially closing out his legacy in Orlando.”
  • Dwight Howard is among the favorites to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
  • Abe Schwadron of SLAM ONLINE: “In every single Orlando win over the Bucks over the past two weeks, the Magic have overcome fourth quarter deficits, and they now sit at 21-12 on the year, with a potentially awkward matchup at New Jersey up next.”
  • Which player that has played for the Magic has the best chance of having his jersey retired by the franchise? The list may surprise you.
  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider is quite fond of Ryan Anderson: “For all the flak we give Otis Smith, let’s point out one thing he absolutely did right: getting Anderson as a throw-in in the Vince Carter trade with New Jersey. After two seasons as a reserve, he’s emerging as a star this season — in fact, he’s sixth in the East in PER and pushing Dwight Howard for the Orlando team lead in that category, helping keep the Magic afloat at 21-12 despite the fact that their guards can barely get the ball across the time line. Anderson’s long ball is so deadly when paired with Howard’s interior dominance that he has the second-best plus/minus difference in the NBA, exceeded only by that of the Clippers’ Blake Griffin. Orlando is plus-9.41 points per 100 possessions with Anderson on the court but a ghastly minus-10.11 points per 100 possessions once he checks out.”

Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.

Feb 20

Recap: Orlando Magic 93, Milwaukee Bucks 90

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

BOX SCORE

With both teams playing for the third time in 10 days, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks by the score of 93-90. Ryan Anderson made a go-ahead three-pointer with 18.1 seconds left in the game, Brandon Jennings turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, Jameer Nelson made two free-throws shortly thereafter, the Bucks failed to tie things up after that, and that was your ballgame. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard played relatively well, finishing with a game-high 28 points on 9-of-20 shooting from the field (including 10-of-14 from the free-throw line), 16 rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Jameer Nelson chipped in with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field, five assists, and three rebounds. Hedo Turkoglu contributed with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field, four rebounds, and three assists. Glen Davis had 12 points and six rebounds, while J.J. Redick had 11 points and three rebounds. Milwaukee was also led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Ersan Ilyasova (15 points and 15 rebounds) and Larry Sanders (13 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals) were the bright spots for the Bucks.

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Feb 20

Reaction: Orlando Magic 93, Milwaukee Bucks 90

Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images


Orlando Magic 93 Final
Recap | Box Score
90 Milwaukee Bucks

Dwight Howard
9-20 FG | 10-14 FT | 3 STL | 16 REB | 28 PTS | +6

Howard had some extremely impressive plays on defense against the Milwaukee Bucks. Perhaps the most notable one is when Howard stole a pass from Brandon Jennings, raced down the floor while dribbling the basketball, and getting a dunk on a one-man fast break. The problem was that his effort defensively was inconsistent at times. For the Magic to win games, that can’t happen.

Jameer Nelson
6-11 FG | 1-4 3P | 5 AST | 3 REB | 15 PTS | +1

Nelson made his mark in the game in the last 20 seconds or so. It was his pass that led to Anderson’s go-ahead three-pointer. It was his defense (with Turkoglu’s help) that jarred the ball loose from Jennings as he dribble penetrated into the lane, which forced a turnover. It was his two free-throws which gave Orlando a three-point lead, which ended up being the final margin of victory.

Hedo Turkoglu
5-10 FG | 3-4 3P | 3 AST | 4 REB | 13 PTS | +1

For his standards, Turkoglu was relatively quiet in crunch time as the Magic made their comeback bid against the Bucks in the late stages of the game. Though it’s worth pointing out that Turkoglu did make a big shot with the fourth quarter winding down, hitting a fallaway jumper off the dribble near the left corner. That kept Orlando within striking distance of Milwaukee before making their final push.

Glen Davis
5-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 AST | 6 REB | 12 PTS | -8

Davis had one of his better games of the regular season. The reason, to be frank, was that his midrange jumpshot was falling. On his jumpers, there was a noticeable arc on his shot. When he struggles with his jumper, usually his shots come out flat but that wasn’t the case against the Bucks. With Redick starting, the Magic needed scoring off the bench. Davis provided that.

Milwaukee Bucks

What must Milwaukee be thinking at this point? In three games this season, the Bucks have had the lead in crunch time. That hasn’t stopped Orlando from coming back and winning each game down the stretch. This time around, the Magic didn’t need a 16-0 run or a 17-0 run like in the previous two games. All it took was a three-pointer from Anderson.

Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.

Feb 20

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Jessica Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel: “To prepare Dwight Howard for his first all-star slam-dunk contest in 2007, Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith demonstrated how to dunk. He didn’t do any jumping, though. Smith instructed with his feet on the ground, which had Howard and Jameer Nelson laughing hard. He may not have dunked in more than a decade, but Smith knew what he was talking about. He competed in two all-star dunk contests. [...] Smith told Howard about one of his more creative dunks, where he threw the ball from one side of the basket, caught it on the other and slammed it with the hand closest to the rim. The contest has since changed. Blake Griffin, the 2011 slam-dunk champion, wowed the crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles when he leaped over a car and dunked. [...] Howard was the dunk champion in 2008, the year after Smith gave him tips. Smith didn’t win in either of his appearances, but when he played, he competed against big names. The all-star contest Saturday at the Amway Center will include Chase Budinger of the Houston Rockets, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks.”
  • Beware of counterfeit All-Star Game tickets.
  • Dwight Howard talks about how the Miami Heat were able to beat the Orlando Magic in yesterday’s game.
  • A look back at the Magic’s loss against the Heat.
  • Jason Richardson sat out of Orlando’s game against Miami due to chest pains but is okay.
  • The field for the 2012 Taco Bell Skills Challenge is set.
  • Gilbert Arenas has yet to find a home this season with a new NBA team.
  • More on Arenas.
  • The Magic struggled to contain LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
  • Ryan Anderson has been a game-changer for Orlando.
  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “It has been suggested that a certain young Knicks guard can be counted on to divert some All-Star Weekend spotlight away from a certain local star whose free agency beckons in July. Not so sure about that one. Quite a test for Linsanity to see what sort of dent it can put into the long-awaited ASW frenzy over Dwight’s future.”
  • Matt Moore of ProBasketballTalk: “Miami wreaked havoc on the Magic defensively as well, as expected. 37 percent from the field for Orlando. 14 turnovers. A world of hurt. Was Howard disinterested, or were the Magic not forcing the issue to get him the ball enough? These questions are not answerable. The results are the same. The Magic are a good team. The Heat are better. That’s the lesson of Sunday’s game, regardless of what the season series record says.”
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “They keep on winning mostly, but the Sunday loss to Miami shows how far this team is from elite. As the Dwight Howard rumors ramp up heading into the All-Star Weekend, will it start to weigh on this team?”
  • Arenas: “I [told Dwight], ‘If you’re leaving or you’re not leaving, you’ve got to keep that locker room together. You guys have got to be a family still, because at the end of the day these are the people you fight with, you battle with.’ I check up on him after certain games and make sure the spirit is still high, tell him just stay focused and keep trying to dominate. [...] To be honest, I have no idea [if Dwight will stay], because like any big decision you’re going to go back and forth every day. Like I tried to tell him, it’s going to be hard to just go out there and play basketball.”
  • More on the Magic’s loss against the Heat.
  • John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “The Magic got smoked in Miami on Sunday, but they’ve recovered from their late-January struggles and are once again a top-four seed in the East. Somehow, they’ve been the eighth-best offensive team in February, with just two guys, Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson, who can score consistently.”

Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.

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