Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 120

Apr 25

Preview: Charlotte Bobcats at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Charlotte Bobcats at Orlando Magic
  • Date: Apr. 25, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Bobcats: 7-57
  • Magic: 36-28

Probable starters

Bobcats:

  • D.J. Augustin
  • Gerald Henderson
  • Derrick Brown
  • Bismack Biyombo
  • Byron Mullens

Magic:

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

Advanced stats

Bobcats:

  • Pace: 91.1 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 95.1 (30th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 110.3 (30th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.1 (29th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.0 (15th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.0 (12th of 30)

Read about the Bobcats

Queen City Hoops

Apr 25

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Hedo Turkoglu, sidelined for the past few weeks with a facial fracture, is expected to play on Thursday against the Memphis Grizzlies. There’s a chance Turkoglu could come back and play against the Charlotte Bobcats in tonight’s game.
  • The Orlando Magic, playing the Bobcats (the worst team in the NBA this season and perhaps ever), are hoping to clinch the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference with a win.
  • Filling in for Dwight Howard, Glen Davis has thrived at center. Which means that he’s probably better served playing at that position rather than at power forward.
  • Despite a down year, Dwight Howard is still the best defensive center in the league according to Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus. He explains why: “I suspect there’s a confirmation bias at play in looking for poor defense from Howard to go with the storyline about his indifferent play during a chaotic season. I’m not convinced the objective evidence backs that up.”
  • And without Dwight, the Magic’s defense has imploded.
  • Bethlehem Shoals of CourtVision: “Some may see his back injury as karma. I see it as a welcome relief and, for Howard, a reprieve. At least this way, he can’t do any more damage to himself.”
  • The Indiana Pacers seem more than content to play Orlando in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs if the current seeding holds (and it should).
  • Mark Heisler of SheridanHoops.com on the Magic: “Just be glad you’re not them: Just lost 10 of 14 as Howard, fuming at organization again, schedules back surgery—so even if they realize they have to trade him, they may not be able to.”
  • Orlando gets a D+ from Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated for their regular season grade. Why? Blame it on Dwight’s never-ending soap opera.

Apr 23

Recap: Denver Nuggets 101, Orlando Magic 74

Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

On Saturday, the Utah Jazz punished the Orlando Magic’s interior defense below the rim. Yes, Derrick Favors provided the Jazz with some aerial coverage thanks to a couple of dunks. But for the most part, with Al Jefferson leading the way, it was mostly a ground assault for Utah — footwork and touch were the main weapons of choice.

On Sunday, the Denver Nuggets seemingly outclassed the Magic with their athleticism and racked up 64 points in the paint in part because JaVale McGee could out-jump everyone else on the floor. It seems silly to cite “jumping higher” as a reason for the Nuggets’ victory, but that truly was one of the differences in the game.

For three quarters, Orlando was competitive against Denver, even after Jameer Nelson left the first quarter with a calf injury no more than two minutes into the ballgame. Sure, the Magic had trouble scoring at times, struggling to get things going from the perimeter. And sure, Orlando had difficulty preventing the Nuggets from generating almost all their points at the rim.

But when you consider the Magic, with their three-point shooting ability, are a team that’s more than capable of erasing an 11-point deficit heading into the final period, it’s fair to describe the game as a winnable one.

Then the fourth quarter happened.

More specifically, JaVale McGee happened.

Late in the third quarter, McGee connected with Andre Miller for two alley-oop dunks that were a harbinger of things to come for Orlando.

Needless to say, Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis are players not known for their leaping ability. McGee, on the other hand, is.

McGee can be a caricature of himself on a basketball court a lot of times, but that still doesn’t change the fact that he has an insane leaping ability and Denver put that to good use in the fourth quarter. No matter how hard Anderson and Davis tried, they could do nothing from preventing the Nuggets from throwing alley-oop lobs to McGee for dunks. Head coach Stan Van Gundy even tried to implement a zone defense to slow down or stop McGee, but it didn’t work.

With every alley-oop dunk, the Magic were becoming demoralized and their desire to compete slowly fizzled away. A tied game at halftime turned into a 27-point blowout loss for Orlando, with McGee acting as the catalyst for Denver.

Who would have thought McGee would be the difference-maker?

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Yes, this game was a blowout win for the Nuggets. However, Ryan Anderson (24 points on 9-for-18 shooting from the floor) was the main reason the Magic were competitive for three quarters before things got out of hand in the fourth quarter.

X-Factor

McGee, owner of an infamous “Not Top 10″ list on YouTube, was an x-factor for Denver. You read that right. Blessed with the gift of being able to jump really high, McGee tortured Orlando with an array of alley-oop dunks.

That Was … a Tale of Two Halves

At halftime, the score was tied at 44 apiece. In the second half, the Nuggets outscored the Magic by 27 points. Of note: Denver released the Kraken in the form of McGee and Orlando could not stop him.

Apr 22

Preview: Orlando Magic at Denver Nuggets

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Denver Nuggets
  • Date: Apr. 22, 2012
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Pepsi Center

Records

  • Magic: 36-27
  • Nuggets: 35-28

Probable starters

Magic:

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

Nuggets:

  • Ty Lawson
  • Aaron Afflalo
  • Danilo Gallinari
  • Kenneth Faried
  • Kosta Koufos

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.1 (29th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.3 (15th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.8 (12th of 30)

Nuggets:

  • Pace: 94.3 (2nd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 108.6 (3rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.4 (21st of 30)

Read about the Nuggets

Roundball Mining Company

Apr 22

Recap: Utah Jazz 117, Orlando Magic 107 (OT)

Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

It speaks to the defensive mastery of Dwight Howard (and head coach Stan Van Gundy) that in the Van Gundy era, the Orlando Magic have ranked in the top five or better in Defensive Rating between 2008-2011. And considering the personnel on the roster last season, it’s a downright miracle that the Magic finished third in Defensive Rating.

So when you officially take Dwight out of the equation for the remainder of the season for Orlando, given that he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back, it should come as no surprise that the Magic can’t defend right now. It’s not for a lack of energy and effort, either. In fact, that’s something Van Gundy has praised about the players for Orlando.

But the reality is this — the Magic can’t prevent the other team from scoring. At all. Orlando’s game against the Utah Jazz was the latest example.

Strange as it seems, the Magic don’t (and won’t) have much trouble putting up points without Dwight. That’s because Van Gundy is one of the best coaches in the NBA and can adjust on the fly.

To be specific, without Dwight, Orlando has all but abandoned post-ups. When you consider that the Magic don’t have any predominant low post players, it makes sense. Instead, Van Gundy has transformed Orlando’s offense into a pick-and-roll heavy attack. Reason being is that it allows the Magic to maintain ball movement, player movement, and spacing offensively. It’s beautiful to watch.

The Jazz got a heavy dose of the pick-and-roll pill from Orlando and could do little to counter its effects. Granted, Utah isn’t a good defensive team to begin with — ranked 23rd in Defensive Rating heading into Saturday’s game. That being said, it’s hard not to be impressed with how Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick ran pick-and-rolls with precision. For the most part, it’s what allowed the Magic to score 107 points without Dwight to anchor the offense.

The problem, of course, is that without Dwight to anchor the defense, Orlando could not stop Utah from scoring seemingly at will. Especially in the paint, where Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, and Paul Millsap overwhelmed the Magic with their size and skill. Credit head coach Tyrone Corbin, too, with really squeezing the Jazz’s size advantage to the bare limit by playing Millsap, Favors, and Jefferson many minutes together.

Jefferson — one of the most underrated post players in the league — did his damage primarily inside, using his footwork on the low block and feathery touch around the rim to get the job done. Millsap, when he wasn’t getting to the free-throw line, mostly hurt Orlando outside on the perimeter with his jumper. Favors? He just had his own layup drill and dunk-a-thon.

Not good.

For as resilient as the Magic have been without Dwight, that resiliency hasn’t translated to many wins. If Orlando can’t find a way to put up more of a resistance on defense, that losing trend will continue.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Nelson was tremendous. He generally outplayed his counterpart, Devin Harris, though Harris exacted some revenge on Nelson, blocking his game-winning three-point attempt at the end of regulation and also coming up big in overtime.

Defining Moment

Down 107-105 with less than two minutes to go in overtime, the Magic opted to double Jefferson in the post. That decision proved costly, as Jefferson’s kick-out pass eventually led to an open three-pointer for Gordon Hayward. Game.

X-Factor

It has to be Favors. He had a plus/minus of +21 for the game and that’s no fluke or coincidence. With him on the court, alongside Millsap and Jefferson, the Jazz were nearly unstoppable offensively.

Apr 21

Preview: Orlando Magic at Utah Jazz

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Utah Jazz
  • Date: Apr. 21, 2012
  • Time: 10:30 p.m.
  • Television: ESPN
  • Arena: EnergySolutions Arena

Records

  • Magic: 36-26
  • Jazz: 33-30

Probable starters

Magic:

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

Jazz:

  • Devin Harris
  • Gordon Hayward
  • DeMarre Carroll
  • Paul Millsap
  • Al Jefferson

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.2 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.2 (15th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.5 (12th of 30)

Jazz:

  • Pace: 91.4 (12th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 106.7 (8th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.4 (23rd of 30)

Read about the Jazz

Salt City Hoops

Apr 20

Friday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has the backstory on Dwight Howard’s back troubles: “Howard missed games on April 1 and April 3 because of his back problems, but then he played two more games, including on April 7, aggravating his back in the process. Five days later, he practiced with the team and once again aggravated the injury. That’s when he went to Watkins for a second opinion.”
  • Orlando Magic team doctor Craig Mintzer and Dr. Robert Watkins agreed that surgery was necessary for Dwight to repair a herniated disk in his lower back.
  • It’s also been reported by Robbins that Hedo Turkoglu is not expected to return for the playoffs. Turkoglu is still trying to recover after undergoing surgery to repair facial fractures.
  • With Dwight out for the rest of the regular season, that means other players for the Magic will have to step up in his absence. Like Jameer Nelson.
  • Orlando’s hope of making noise in the postseason has been dashed now that Dwight is done for the year. Right now, the Magic are projected to face the Indiana Pacers in the first round. With Dwight, an upset series win was a strong possibility against the Pacers. That would have given Orlando a crack, likely, with the Miami Heat in the Semifinals. And given that the Magic have proven they can compete against the Heat, it would have been an interesting series to see unfold. Not anymore.
  • Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated with a must-read report on the current state of Dwight and Orlando: “Some within the Magic thought Howard was exaggerating his back problems earlier this month. They thought it was a power play by a player who over the last eight years has been given nothing but power. It turns out it wasn’t, that Howard’s back was worse than anyone really knew.”
  • Lost in all the noise — Dwight will miss the 2012 Summer Olympics, too. Who will replace Dwight as the starting center of the Olympic team for Team USA?
  • Despite Dwight’s season-ending injury, the Magic are still in line for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
  • Dwight tried to rest and rehab his injury, but it didn’t work.

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. 

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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