Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 14

Mar 14

Preview: Washington Wizards at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Washington Wizards at Orlando Magic
  • Date: March 14, 2014
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Wizards: 33-31
  • Magic: 19-47

Probable starters

Wizards:

  • John Wall
  • Bradley Beal
  • Trevor Ariza
  • Trevor Booker
  • Marcin Gortat

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Kyle O’Quinn
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Wizards:

  • Pace: 93.3 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.6 (18th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.0 (11th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 94.0 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.7 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.2 (17th of 30)

Read about the Wizards

Truth About It

Mar 14

The fall of Andrew Nicholson

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Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

In the Magic’s season opener in Indiana, Andrew Nicholson was a human blowtorch. He lit up the Pacers for 18 points (all in the first half) and set basketball Twitter ablaze with his scoring prowess. Nicholson unleashed his full arsenal of moves — some old, some new. A lefty hook here (old), a corner 3 there (new!), and midrange jump shots (old) everywhere. It appeared that Nicholson was primed to build off his impressive rookie campaign.

Through the first month of the season, Nicholson looked every bit like a player that was naturally progressing in his second year in the NBA. He added a 3-point shot (specifically from the corners) and he was improving as a rebounder. His defense still had a long ways to go, but that’s the case for almost any youngster in the league. Nicholson included.

Then something unexpected happened after that first month. Nicholson regressed.

Badly.

One of the biggest factors is that Nicholson stopped getting steady minutes. For players in a developmental stage, consistent playing time can have transformative effects and can help them reach their potential. And Nicholson was deprived of that.

After missing 21 of the Magic’s first 22 games of the season with a high ankle sprain, Tobias Harris returned from injury on Dec. 13 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Five days later, he was reinserted into the starting lineup at the small forward position.

At first, Nicholson was still coming off the bench as the back-up power forward. But in late December, Harris began soaking up minutes as a stretch four with the second unit. Bit by bit, Nicholson’s playing time waned.

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Mar 13

Thursday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • Arron Afflalo wants to win and become an elite player, but is understanding that the Magic are rebuilding and better days are coming.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “On an Orlando Magic team filled with so much youth and inexperience, practically every scenario of every game can qualify as a teachable moment for head coach Jacque Vaughn. Of issue of late after the Magic squandered 18 and 13-point leads in losses to Milwaukee and Denver: Learning how to play with double-digit leads and maintain them throughout games. The positive of that, of course, is that the Magic are at least starting games well enough to build significant advantages on foes. Now, the Magic’s mission is figuring out how to hold those leads once they jump out ahead.”
  • Darrell Armstrong, who will be honored on Friday by the Magic during “Legends Night,” looks back at his storied career with the franchise.
  • Kenneth Faried (26 points and nine rebounds) was a handful for Kyle O’Quinn and Tobias Harris on Wednesday, as he helped the Denver Nuggets beat Orlando by the score of 120-112.
  • Nikola Vucevic has been on a shooting tear from the perimeter in recent weeks. Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post has more details: “During Vučević’s eight-game hot streak, the Montenegrin has converted 52.8 percent of his mid-range shots, according to NBA.com/stats, making him a threat to score even when pulled away from the basket area, where he’s remained effective. In his first 40 games, NBA.com/stats data indicate Vučević shot a respectable, but not elite, 42.9 percent on such shots.”

Mar 13

A Magic dynasty and what could have been

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Photo by Fernando Medina/Getty Images

By the end of the 1995-96 season, it was clear the Orlando Magic had one of the youngest, most promising cores in the league — of the five guys who logged over 30 minutes per game that season, the average age of them was 26. Their past two seasons included one Finals appearance, two Eastern Conference Finals appearances, and a combined regular season record of 117-47 (.713). They also had two of the most promising young stars in the league on their roster — Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal.

Despite this, over the next four years the Orlando Magic missed the playoffs twice, and in the two seasons they did make it, failed to advance past the first round. To be fair to Orlando, it’s worth mentioning that those four years came after losing one of the most dominant players the game has ever seen.

In July 1996, Shaquille O’Neal had agreed to a seven-year deal with the Lakers, worth over $120 million.

_______

Shaq wasn’t the only player who signed a big deal that summer. Horace Grant had just signed a big extension with the Magic, merely days before O’Neal would sign with L.A.

Horace recently appeared on a Grantland podcast with Bill Simmons where he talked about playing with Jordan, Kobe, and Shaq himself.

Grant spoke of one particular moment from his NBA career that he wished he could re-live: he said that not long before Shaq signed with L.A, he missed a call from him, and didn’t return it until after O’Neal had agreed to the deal. Horace thought that had he answered that call, things might have played out differently, and perhaps he would have been able to convince Shaq to stay in Orlando, where they undoubtedly would have built a dynasty.

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Mar 13

Grades: Denver Nuggets 120, Orlando Magic 112

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

 

Denver Nuggets 120 Final
Recap | Box Score
112 Orlando Magic

Arron Afflalo
10-18 FG | 2-5 3P | 1 REB | 2 AST | 24 PTS | -4

There were a few times in the third quarter when the Magic ran 1-2 pick-and-rolls for Nelson and Afflalo. On one possession, Afflalo slipped the screen and made an uncontested jumper. On another possession, Orlando forced a switch, so that Ty Lawson (Nelson’s defender) had to defend Afflalo in the post. That led to a fadeaway jumper for Afflalo over the shorter Lawson. It was an effective set.

Nikola Vucevic
8-17 FG | 4-4 FT | 16 REB | 3 AST | 20 PTS | -9

It was all Vucevic in the first quarter. who had 16 points (7-for-14 shooting from the floor) and seven rebounds. It was rare to see him get so many touches in a half. Vucevic got a majority of his points on offensive rebound putbacks and midrange jump shots in pick-and-pop sets. Although he finished with 20-16, Vucevic really slowed down offensively after halftime.

Jameer Nelson
7-12 FG | 4-8 3P | 3 REB | 9 AST | 19 PTS | -2

Nelson made a costly mistake in crunch time that thwarted the Magic’s late comeback attempt. With Orlando trailing 115-110, O’Quinn committed a traveling violation with 1:03 left. The turnover occurred because Nelson made a bad decision and threw a home run pass to O’Quinn in transition that almost went out-of-bounds. O’Quinn traveled trying to save the ball. It was a blown chance to make it a one-possession game.

Victor Oladipo
5-12 FG | 5-5 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | -3

For three and a half quarters, Oladipo barely attacked the rim. Then with the Magic trying to erase a 15-point deficit and get another come-from-behind victory at home, Oladipo finally started driving to the basket midway through the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for Oladipo, it was too little, too late. Oladipo’s passive-aggressive nature on offense was reflective of Orlando as a whole.

Denver Nuggets

Because the Magic are owed a 2014 first round pick from either the Nuggets or New York Knicks (the least favorable of the two), surprisingly enough, this matchup had important implications. If Orlando had won, that would have been another game in the loss column for Denver. With the Nuggets and Knicks currently out of the playoff picture, every loss matters for the Magic.

Mar 13

Video: Maurice Harkless goes backdoor for a dunk

Mar 12

Preview: Denver Nuggets at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Denver Nuggets at Orlando Magic
  • Date: March 12, 2014
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Nuggets: 26-35
  • Magic: 19-46

Probable starters

Nuggets:

  • Ty Lawson
  • Randy Foye
  • Wilson Chandler
  • Kenneth Faried
  • Timofey Mozgov

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Kyle O’Quinn
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Nuggets:

  • Pace: 97.5 (3rd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.6 (18th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.0 (21st of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 93.9 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.6 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.0 (17th of 30)

Read about the Nuggets

Roundball Mining Company

Mar 11

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Harkless has tantalized Magic officials from the moment the team acquired him in Aug. 2012 in the four-team trade that revolved around Dwight Howard. At almost 6-feet-10, Harkless possesses a rare blend of height, long arms and explosiveness that one day could make him a matchup nightmare on both ends of the court. But Harkless is just 20 years old, and he lacks experience. Harkless dislikes hearing his age cited as an excuse, but the fact remains: He’s sometimes too deferential to more seasoned teammates. His deference has diminished in recent weeks, and his increased assertiveness has helped him earn more playing time.”
  • Jason Maxiell has been keeping a positive attitude, even though he hasn’t played a game in recent weeks. So why did GM Rob Hennigan sign him? To be a veteran presence in the locker room.
  • Are the Magic losing or tanking? What’s the difference?
  • The inability to get to the free throw line contributed greatly to Orlando’s loss against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.
  • “What’s the Magic’s worst loss this season?”
  • A look at Scott Howard-Cooper’s 2014 mock draft on NBA.com.
  • Is Victor Oladipo now the favorite to win Rookie of the Year?
  • Royce Young of CBSSports.com on the Magic’s season up to this point: “I suppose they’re accomplishing their goal, right? Be terrible and get another high lottery pick? Well good job! Since Jan. 1, they’re 9-25, but amazingly, that hasn’t been enough to be worse than the Bucks or 76ers, who out-tanking them. Still some time left, though. They’re just four ahead of the Bucks in the loss column. There’s still time play worse.”

Mar 11

Grades: Milwaukee Bucks 105, Orlando Magic 98

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Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

 

Milwaukee Bucks 105 Final
Recap | Box Score
98 Orlando Magic

Arron Afflalo
4-14 FG | 1-5 3P | 4 REB | 4 AST | 12 PTS | 0

In the Magic’s first three games against the Bucks this season, Afflalo averaged 26.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game, and posted an obscene .800 True Shooting percentage. Unfortunately for Afflalo, he was unable to match those gaudy numbers on Monday. His jump shot was off and he ended up having an inefficient outing offensively because of it.

Nikola Vucevic
6-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | 0

There was one stretch midway through the third quarter when Vucevic committed three fouls in the span of three minutes. The first two were offensive fouls — both drawn by Zaza Pachulia — and the third was a silly shooting foul on Khris Middleton. Vucevic got his customary double-double along the way, but he had his struggles versus Milwaukee.

Maurice Harkless
5-10 FG | 3-7 3P | 2 STL | 4 REB | 14 PTS | +8

For the first three quarters, Harkless was outplaying Middleton. He was making his corner 3s and playing solid defense. Then the script flipped in the final period. Middleton went on a 3-point scoring binge, making three triples en route to a 13-point fourth quarter. Middleton was one of the biggest reasons why Milwaukee came back to beat Orlando after trailing by as many as 18.

Jameer Nelson
5-9 FG | 3-5 3P | 3 REB | 7 AST | 13 PTS | +2

Just when it seemed like the Bucks had this one in the bag in the game’s closing seconds, Nelson made things interesting (just for a moment). With the Magic trailing 97-91, Nelson drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing with 35.8 seconds left to cut the deficit to three. Then E’Twaun Moore played spoiler by making a head-scratching foul on the ensuing possession.

Milwaukee Bucks

Early in the second quarter, Orlando was up 31-13 on Milwaukee. Tobias Harris had just knocked down a baseline jumper to give himself 11 points in the span of three minutes. The end of the world was nigh for Bucks fans. Then something funny happened. Harris didn’t score the rest of the night, and the Bucks erased the 18-point deficit and won. Crisis averted.

Mar 10

Preview: Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks
  • Date: March 10, 2014
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: BMO Harris Bradley Center

Records

  • Magic: 19-45
  • Bucks: 12-50

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Kyle O’Quinn
  • Nikola Vucevic

Bucks:

  • Brandon Knight
  • Nate Wolters
  • Khris Middleton
  • Ersan Ilyasova
  • Zaza Pachulia

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 93.9 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.5 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.0 (17th of 30)

Bucks:

  • Pace: 91.7 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.6 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 110.5 (30th of 30)

Read about the Bucks

Bucksketball

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