Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 120

Feb 08

Jameer Nelson and pick-and-rolls

One of the major storylines that emerged following the Orlando Magic’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, aside from Chauncey Billups getting hurt (it was later confirmed that he suffered a torn left Achilles tendon), was that Jameer Nelson played well. It seems silly that Nelson playing well is something of note. In Nelson’s case though, when you’re having — by far — the worst season of your NBA career, it’s news when you’re not performing terribly.

After missing five games due to a concussion suffered against the New Orleans Hornets on January 27, Nelson returned to the floor against the Clippers and looked the best he’s ever been this season. Perhaps it was the time off. Perhaps it was facing off against Chris Paul. Whatever the case may be, Nelson had a bit of extra pep in his step, finishing with 15 points and 12 assists. No, this was not “2009 Nelson” on display. Not even close.

Nelson just looked like a competent basketball player again.

What aided in Nelson’s return from the dead?

The pick-and-roll.

“2009 Nelson” lobbyists and longtime Magic fans know this mantra — when Nelson goes, so go the Magic. To take it a step further, Nelson is at his most dangerous when he’s aggressive in pick-and-roll sets. The key word being ‘aggressive’ because Nelson isn’t always in attack mode. Against Los Angeles, Nelson was the aggressor in pick-and-rolls and Orlando benefitted from his play. Particularly in the fourth quarter during crunch time.

SLIDE 1, 2, 3:

Let’s begin in the first quarter because Nelson got started fairly quickly.

On this possession, the Magic run a 1/5 pick-and-roll with Nelson and Dwight Howard. This offensive set is one of the staples of head coach Stan Van Gundy’s playbook. In any case, Howard sets the screen for Nelson. Paul, likely aware of Nelson’s struggles on offense this season, goes under the screen. Nelson doesn’t take the bait, as he dashes into the lane. DeAndre Jordan isn’t quick enough to recover back defensively and Nelson makes the layup off the dribble.

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Feb 07

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Sometimes I think Magic fans fail to realize just what they have in Van Gundy, who is commonly recognized as one of the top three or four coaches in the NBA. I’ll even take it a step farther: When Dwight leaves, Van Gundy will be the Magic’s most valuable asset — more valuable than any single player on their roster. True, this doesn’t speak very highly of the roster, but it does speak highly of Van Gundy’s status in the pecking order of NBA coaches. You want to fire Van Gundy? Go ahead. The Magic might actually be doing him a favor. If it happened, Van Gundy would get the multimillion-dollar buyout remaining on his contract and then would either (A) go make a bunch more money as a colorful and controversial NBA commentator like his brother or (B) get another coaching job offer almost immediately. Believe me, there would be wayward franchises (see Knicks) who actually might fire their current coach just so they could hire Van Gundy.”
  • The Orlando Magic are ready to do battle with the Miami Heat.
  • Head coach Stan Van Gundy has been resting players on off-days.
  • Glen Davis, recently suspended by the Magic, and Van Gundy are on good terms.
  • Ryan Anderson is adjusting to life as a starter in the NBA.
  • According to the numbers, Anderson is deserving of being named an All-Star reserve this season. However, the odds of that actually happening are low.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk recaps Orlando’s loss last night: “The Clippers led by nine in the second half but it was Orlando’s turn to fight back. However, in the overtime Los Angeles secured the lead with a Caron Butler three off a Glen Davis turnover, then next trip down Paul hit a baseline step back rainbow over Howard — how anyone gets that shot off over D-12 is beyond me, let alone a PG. Clippers got a hard-fought win.”
  • Chris Paul has advice for Dwight Howard.
  • Howard played well against the Los Angeles Clippers in defeat.
  • Howard’s big night wasn’t enough against the Clippers.
  • Yesterday’s game between Orlando and Los Angeles was a thriller.
  • Zach Harper of HoopSpeak: “Dwight is a monster on both ends of the floor, but I still feel the same way about this Orlando team that I have for the past four years. They need to be perimeter-oriented in order to beat teams. Dwight’s presence definitely gives you the old school feel of winning from inside-out and punishing your opponents, but the fact still remains that when this team makes eight or more 3-pointers in a game, they’re 14-4 this season. They need to attack you from the outside to win, and finding the balance between getting his team to keep the big man happy while keeping their offense firing from outside is SVG’s biggest task.”
  • Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated: “So why have the Magic fallen from third to 12th in defensive efficiency this season? According to Basketball Value, the biggest culprits are Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis and Jason Richardson. Unfortunately, quality help is not on the way. Among Orlando’s top 10 in minutes played, only one, sharpshooting forward Ryan Anderson (who is having a breakout year), is under 26.”

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

Feb 07

Philadelphia’s folly as a contender

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

I like the idea of an underdog team beating all odds, standing in the face of the giant and winning an unprecedented victory. I like teams that share the ball, make the extra pass, aren’t concerned with stats — or anything — but the win. I also love the idea of a team with a few guys you haven’t heard of making a run in the playoffs. It’s why most of us, whether college basketball fans or not, will always watch March Madness. It’s sort of a place where anything could happen.

Now, as an NBA guy, part of me wants to carry over that “anything could happen” mentality to the next level. Part of me wants to know if Philadelphia is possibly for real.

But then reality sets in, and I’m wondering why it hasn’t set in for more people. Folks are going crazy for the Sixers right now, but what is the end game? Will they realistically go further than the second round of the playoffs? Are there those out there who think they will go to the Finals? Maybe I have no earnestness left in my bones, but when it comes down to it, I only care about who can win a championship. It’s why I have such a hard time even watching Magic games this year. It’s not because I hate them, it’s because I have to have the glimmer of hope that a team could make a serious run at a ring. Without that glimmer, it’s pretty hard to enjoy myself.

So when I hear the rabble-rousers stirring things up about how good Philly is, how deep their bench is, how they have the best 6-7-8 guys in the league, and how amazing that is, I tend to think, “Cool. They still probably can’t win a championship.”

Now, for those of you who might still be in “anything could happen” mode. It’s possible but unlikely. I defer to Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim, authors of Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports are Played and Games are Won, to show you what I mean.

A team with no starting all-star on the roster has virtually no chance — precisely, it’s 0.9 percent — of winning the NBA championship. More than 85 percent of NBA finals involve a superstar player and more than 90 percent of NBA titles belong to a team with a superstar. […]

One first-team all-star on the roster yields a 7.1 percent chance of winning a championship and a 16 percent chance of making it to the finals. A team fortunate to have two first-team all-star players stands a 25 percent chance of winning a championship and a 37 percent chance of making the finals. On the rare occasion when a team was somehow able to attract three first-team all-stars, it won a championship 39 percent of the time and made the finals 77 percent of the time.

The authors aren’t talking about “general” All-Star considerations either. They are talking about first team All-Stars (the book interprets this as a starter), top five MVP picks, or top five salaries. Put differently, the authors aren’t allowing for just any of our favorite players to be labeled All-Stars. This is so you can’t sit back and say, “wait, Iguodola is an All-Star! He’s so good!” He wouldn’t make the cut according to this rubric since he can only be selected as a reserve and wouldn’t be considered a first team All-Star.

So what does all of this mean? Not a whole lot, to be honest. It’s interesting, though, to consider why we get so excited when a team starts playing really well. I for one always look at the end game. When a team starts to heat up, I wonder if they are really championship contenders. For that, we use stats and look to history. In the case of Chicago — they indeed have a first-team All-Star in Derrick Rose. Miami? They have two first-team All-Stars in LeBron and Wade (likely should have been three with Bosh). Hell, even Orlando would have a better chance of winning the championship if they could get into the playoffs.

So forgive me if I don’t jump up and down with you in praise of the Sixers. They are fun to watch, they are young, they are exciting, but their odds of winning a championship are extremely low. You might disagree, but I go by the numbers when I say that, especially when I’m dealing with a team that does not have a first-team All-Star.

Nate Drexler is a contributing writer for Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.

Feb 06

Recap: Los Angeles Clippers 107, Orlando Magic 102 (OT)

AP Photo/John Raoux


In a thrilling game that went down to the wire, the Los Angeles Clippers were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 107-102 in overtime. Jason Richardson missed a game-tying three-pointer, when the score was 105-102 in favor of the Clippers, with seven seconds left that would have extended the game for the Magic. Instead Los Angeles was able to escape with a victory and Orlando’s three-game winning streak was snapped. The Clippers were led by a balanced attack, as four players scored in double-figures. Chris Paul was Chris Paul, finishing with 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field (including 3-of-3 from three-point range and 8-of-8 from the free-throw line), eight assists, seven rebounds, and two steals. Blake Griffin finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists. Chauncey Billups chipped in with 18 points and three assists, while also suffering an injury late in the fourth quarter. Caron Butler had 14 points, three rebounds, and three steals but more importantly, he performed in crunch-time (five points) during overtime as Los Angeles finished on a 11-2 run to win the game. Dwight Howard led the way for the Magic, putting up a game-high 33 points on 15-of-21 shooting from the field, 14 points, two blocks, and two steals. Jason Richardson contributed with 20 points and three assists. Jameer Nelson returned to the starting lineup after missing five games due to a concussion and performed well, amassing 15 points, 12 assists, and three rebounds. Ryan Anderson had 10 points and nine rebounds, missing a pair of offensive putbacks following Richardson’s game-tying three that would have given Orlando a chance to keep the game going.

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Feb 06

Reaction: Los Angeles Clippers 107, Orlando Magic 102 (OT)

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Los Angeles Clippers 107 Final
Recap | Box Score
102 Orlando Magic

Dwight Howard
15-21 FG | 3-8 FT | 2 BLK | 14 REB | 33 PTS | +8

Howard came to play against the Los Angeles Clippers. Which meant that DeAndre Jordan, Reggie Evans, and Blake Griffin had no chance of stopping him on offense. Howard got the righty hook going for him in 4-out/1-in offensive sets for three quarters before aiding Jameer Nelson by setting screens in pick-and-rolls, terrorizing the Clippers’ defense in the fourth quarter. Howard was a beast.

Jason Richardson
8-15 FG | 3-8 3P | 3 AST | 1 REB | 20 PTS | +2

Even though the Orlando Magic lost, it has to be encouraging for them to see Richardson play well for a third straight game. The Magic jumped out to a 15-point lead in the first quarter thanks in large part to Richardson. He had 12 points in the period. In overtime, he had about as good of a look as you can get at a game-tying three-pointer but it rimmed out.

Jameer Nelson
5-13 FG | 4-4 FT | 12 AST | 3 REB | 15 PTS | -3

After missing five games due to a concussion suffered against the New Orleans Hornets on January 27, Jameer Nelson looked as good as he’s ever been this season. With Hedo Turkoglu struggling, Van Gundy turned to Nelson to run pick-and-rolls for Orlando in crunch time during the fourth quarter and in overtime. Nelson didn’t disappoint, proving he’s still a capable player when engaged.

Ryan Anderson
3-10 FG | 2-5 FT | 1 AST | 9 REB | 10 PTS | +2

Considering Anderson had to deal with defending Griffin for most of the game until late in the fourth quarter and most of overtime when Van Gundy elected to utilize Glen Davis defensively, it was an admirable performance. Anderson doesn’t have the athleticism or strength to contain Griffin. But, with Howard’s help in the middle, Anderson held his ground for the most part.

Los Angeles Clippers

It’s a shame for Los Angeles that Billups got hurt because with the addition of Kenyon Martin, this team was going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference. It remains to be seen how long Billups is out but in the meantime, rejoice in a fully healthy Chris Paul because he’s a joy to watch and a killer on the court.

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

Feb 06

Preview: Los Angeles Clippers at Orlando Magic

7:00 ET | Sun Sports
14-7 @ 15-9
Pythagorean Record: 12-9 Pythagorean Record: 13-11
Pace: 91.3 (18th) Pace: 89.7 (25th)
Offensive Rating: 107.9 (4th) Offensive Rating: 102.4 (16th)
Defensive Rating: 105.7 (24th) Defensive Rating: 101.1 (12th)
Amway Center | First meeting this season

Feb 05

Recap: Orlando Magic 85, Indiana Pacers 81

Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images


Playing for the third time already during the regular season, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Indiana Pacers by the score of 85-81. In this season series, the road team has won every game. For the Magic, this extends their winning streak to three games. Three players led the way for Orlando. Dwight Howard had one of his better offensive performances of the season, finishing with 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field (including 7-of-10 from the free-throw line), eight rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Jason Richardson chipped in with 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Ryan Anderson had 12 points and seven rebounds. As for Hedo Turkoglu, he had an odd stat-line, as he finished with nine points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field (including 0-of-6 from three-point range), 10 rebounds, four assists, and eight turnovers. The Pacers were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Perhaps the player that had the best game for Indiana was Tyler Hansbrough, as he was able to come off the bench and put up 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field (including 5-of-6 from the free-throw line), seven rebounds, and two steals in roughly 20 minutes of playing time. Yes, Hansbrough put up numbers but it was also his energy and effort that impressed (ditto with Lou Amundson).

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Feb 05

Reaction: Orlando Magic 85, Indiana Pacers 81

Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Orlando Magic 85 Final
Recap | Box Score
81 Indiana Pacers

Dwight Howard
10-16 FG | 7-10 FT | 2 BLK | 8 REB | 27 PTS | +5

It’s more than obvious at this point that Howard lives to play against Roy Hibbert whenever the Magic play the Indiana Pacers. Orlando ran 4-out/1-in offensive sets throughout the game for Howard and he feasted. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his performance was the fluidity by which played on offense. He looked a lot like the 2010-2011 version out there on offense.

Jason Richardson
7-16 FG | 3-7 3P | 5 AST | 6 REB | 17 PTS | +11

Richardson’s best sequence came early in the third quarter. He dribble penetrated into the lane and dished it to Howard for a dunk, which produced an and-one for the big fella. On the next possession, Richardson made a corner three in transition. On the next possession after that, he made a mid-range fadeaway jumper in a screen-and-curl. Shortly thereafter, same play, same result.

Ryan Anderson
3-6 FG | 5-5 FT | 1 AST | 7 REB | 12 PTS | +13

Anderson had a quiet game for his standards. In some ways, he got outplayed when matched up against Tyler Hansbrough. Hansbrough brought a lot of energy to the table and Anderson struggled to deal with that at times, primarily early in the fourth quarter. But Anderson got the last laugh, as he made four clutch free-throws at the end of the game that sealed the deal for the Magic.

Hedo Turkoglu
2-11 FG | 5-7 FT | 4 AST | 10 REB | 9 PTS | +13

Turkoglu had one of the strangest games he’s ever had since playing for Orlando, which is saying something because he’s been with the franchise for quite a while now. Turkoglu didn’t shoot the basketball well at all, he turned the ball over way too much, and he committed a silly technical foul at the end of the game that could have nearly cost the Magic.

Indiana Pacers

No one for the Pacers, outside of Hansbrough and Lou Amundson, played particularly well. It’s no coincidence that when Hansbrough and Amundson were in the game together, Indiana was able to cut their deficit from 10 points late in the third quarter to as close as one point midway in the fourth quarter. That momentum seemed to die, though, when Hibbert and David West reentered the game.

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

Feb 04

Preview: Orlando Magic at Indiana Pacers

7:00 ET | NBA TV
14-9 @ 16-6
Pythagorean Record: 12-11 Pythagorean Record: 14-8
Pace: 89.5 (26th) Pace: 91.6 (16th)
Offensive Rating: 102.9 (16th) Offensive Rating: 102.8 (17th)
Defensive Rating: 101.8 (14th) Defensive Rating: 98.9 (6th)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse | Season series tied 1-1

Feb 04

Recap: Orlando Magic 102, Cleveland Cavaliers 94

AP Photo/John Raoux


The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers by the score of 102-94, extending their winning streak to two games. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard led the way for Orlando with 19 points, 16 rebounds, and eight blocks. After resting from a sore knee the past two games, Jason Richardson made his return to the starting lineup and scored 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field (including 3-of-4 from three-point range). Hedo Turkoglu finished with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, seven rebounds, and four assists. Ryan Anderson chipped in with 17 points and eight rebounds. Von Wafer came off the bench and played well, putting up 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field in roughly 16 minutes of playing time. Perhaps the one eye-opening stat for the Magic is that they turned the basketball over merely five times against the Cavaliers. And even though Howard shot 9-of-16 from the free-throw line, all 16 attempts came in the fourth quarter as head coach Byron Scott decided to intentionally foul him as the game winded down. Howard’s imbalanced free-throw distribution is probably one of the weirder stat quirks you’ll find this season. Orlando took firm control of the game from the first quarter onward.

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