Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 14

Dec 19

Magic looking to improve playoff odds

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Celtics defeated the Magic, 109-92. With the loss, Orlando conceded ninth place in the Eastern Conference to Boston and dropped to 10-18 on the season (two games back of Brooklyn for the No. 8 seed), an underwhelming start to the 2014-15 campaign. Still, there are reasons for Magic fans to remain optimistic about the team’s playoff aspirations.

It starts with the Magic’s injury luck. Victor Oladipo (facial fracture), Kyle O’Quinn (left ankle sprain), and Nikola Vucevic (lower back sprain) have combined to miss 30 games due to their respective injuries.

In addition, Aaron Gordon, the No. 4 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, was ruled out indefinitely just 11 games into the season due to a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot — though he may return before or just after the All-Star break.

Only in recent games, since Vucevic returned from his back injury to start against the Hawks on Saturday, has Orlando been completely healthy sans Gordon.

The injury bug isn’t the only thing that’s afflicted the Magic. They’ve faced the ninth-toughest schedule to start the regular season — 19 of their first 28 games have been on the road, by far the most of any team in the league during that stretch (the Bucks are second with 16 road games).

The good news for Orlando is the opportunity is there to make up ground in the East over the next few weeks.

Starting tonight, the Magic will enjoy their first extended homestand of the season, a four-game stint against the Jazz, Sixers, Celtics, and Cavaliers. It’s the first time Orlando will play back-to-back home games since October 30 and November 1.

Going 3-1, or even 4-0 if the stars align, would indicate the Magic could legitimately emerge as a postseason threat in the Eastern Conference. They’ve already defeated Utah and Philadelphia this season. Moreover, the C’s just traded Rajon Rondo — their best player — to the Mavericks and won’t have much time to get their new players up to speed before a rematch at Amway Center on Tuesday.

Spearheaded by LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving, defeating Cleveland will be no easy feat, but Orlando has three days between games to prepare for one of the East’s best clubs.

After the Magic’s meeting with the Cavs, they’ll have two consecutive road games — against the Hornets and Heat with a day off in-between — before they return for a three-game homestand against the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets (again).

All in all, Orlando is scheduled to play seven of the next nine games at home.

Thus far, because of injuries and a brutal road-heavy schedule, the Magic have yet to really perform as if they deserve a playoff spot — they currently rank 28th in Offensive Rating and 18th in Defensive Rating with a -6.0 efficiency differential. And they’ll remain on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference postseason picture if they don’t improve.

Orlando needs to get better, and fast. Time will tell if that’s going to happen, but we’re going to find out soon. Things will start to get easier for the Magic, but they’ll have to play better than they have up to this point in order to take advantage of good health and a less-daunting schedule if they want to be legitimate playoff contenders.

Dec 17

Grades: Boston Celtics 109, Orlando Magic 92

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Photo by Brian Babineau /NBAE via Getty Images

 

Boston Celtics 109 Final
Recap | Box Score
92 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
9-19 FG | 0-0 FT | 13 REB | 2 AST | 18 PTS | -15

It was an inefficient performance for Vucevic, who scored 18 points on 19 field goal attempts. That’s not ideal. Vucevic missed fadeaway jumpers, layups, midrange jumpers, and more. Part of the reason why he missed so many shots was that the Magic were trying to exploit his matchup with Tyler Zeller, but it’s clear they forced the ball to Vucevic too much.

Tobias Harris
5-9 FG | 7-8 FT | 3 STL | 4 REB | 17 PTS | -13

The matchup between the 6-foot-8 Harris and the 6-foot-9 Jeff Green was intriguing to watch because they’re both big small forwards, relative to the players at that position. Harris was the better of the two, mainly because he was the more efficient player — he accounted for more than half (8) of Orlando’s free-throw attempts (15) in the game.

Channing Frye
5-9 FG | 3-6 3P | 2 STL | 5 REB | 13 PTS | -4

While I was in Orlando last week, Frye told me that he needed to be more aggressive offensively, given that he wasn’t shooting the ball enough. Against Boston, Frye looked for his own shot and had one of his better games of the season. To be frank, it wouldn’t hurt the Magic if Frye shot the ball even more.

Evan Fournier
6-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 13 PTS | +2

Fournier had one of the plays of the game with his posterization of two Celtics players. The play occurred midway through the third quarter. Fournier got the ball in the right corner, drove baseline, and threw down a contested dunk in traffic against Green and Zeller. Fournier isn’t known for his athleticism, but he displayed it on that possession.

Boston Celtics

The C’s won this game, quite simply, because they played with more energy and effort than the Magic. Rajon Rondo, in particular, was brilliant, using the basketball as an x-acto knife to poke holes in Orlando’s interior defense and feed his teammates for easy baskets. Rondo finished with a near triple-double (13 points, 15 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals).

Dec 17

Video: Evan Fournier throws down dunk in traffic

Dec 17

Preview: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics
  • Date: December 17, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: TD Garden

Records

  • Magic: 10-17
  • Celtics: 8-14

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Victor Oladipo
  • Evan Fournier
  • Tobias Harris
  • Channing Frye
  • Nikola Vucevic

Celtics:

  • Rajon Rondo
  • Avery Bradley
  • Jeff Green
  • Jared Sullinger
  • Tyler Zeller

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.7 (19th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.9 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.4 (17th of 30)

Celtics:

  • Pace: 98.1 (1st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.8 (19th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.1 (16th of 30)

Read about the Celtics

Celtics Hub

Dec 17

Channing Frye adjusting to life in Orlando

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Photo by Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

ORLANDO, Fla. — When the Magic signed Channing Frye in the offseason to a 4-year, $32 million contract, many people were puzzled by the move — why would a rebuilding team splurge on a 31-year old veteran in free agency?

For the Magic, the Frye signing was meant to accomplish several things.

During the offseason, the Magic lost three of their top four 3-point shooters after they chose not to re-sign E’Twaun Moore, waived Jameer Nelson, and traded Arron Afflalo to the Nuggets. Although the Magic got Evan Fournier — a proficient 3-point shooter — in return for Afflalo, the roster still lacked 3-point shooting.

Enter Frye, who was coming off a bounce-back year with the Suns. After sitting out the entire 2012-13 season due to an enlarged heart, Frye returned to the court in 2013-14 and had one of his best seasons as a pro. He started all 82 games, shot 37.0 percent from 3-point range (on 5.3 attempts per game), and provided valuable floor spacing.

He was the lynchpin of the Suns’ offense and one of the biggest reasons why they surprised everyone by finishing with a 48-34 record, far exceeding expectations (Phoenix was projected to be a lottery team) and nearly making the playoffs but ultimately falling a game short in the stacked Western Conference.

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Dec 15

Grades: Toronto Raptors 95, Orlando Magic 82

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AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette

 

Toronto Raptors 95 Final
Recap | Box Score
82 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
6-13 FG | 1-3 FT | 2 BLK | 9 REB | 13 PTS | -8

Although Vucevic outplayed Jonas Valanciunas head-to-head in their latest battle, which has been the norm between the two players for the past three seasons, Vucevic himself didn’t play particularly well. His hook shots and fadeaway jumpers were off, and he committed a variety of turnovers — a bad entry pass, a moving screen, etc. He just looked out-of-sync offensively all night long.

Tobias Harris
8-15 FG | 6-10 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 18 PTS | -11

Harris went on a personal 8-0 run late in the second quarter that was part of a larger 16-2 run, which gave the Magic a 52-44 lead at halftime. Within that sequence, Harris made a layup, two free throws, and two point-blank jumpers on the left block. When he gets on a roll on offense, he can score quickly.

Ben Gordon
7-11 FG | 2-4 3P | 3 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | +10

Gordon had a vintage performance. Unfortunately for the Magic, they let it go to waste. Gordon came off the bench and provided a spark with his scoring, making several tough shots along the way. He was a team-high plus-10 for the game, which accurately captures his positive impact for Orlando. Many people derided the Gordon signing, but he’s been solid this season.

Victor Oladipo
6-12 FG | 0-2 3P | 2 REB | 4 AST | 12 PTS | -12

When you have two competitive, physical point guards matched up against each other, there’s potential for fireworks. Tonight’s matchup between Oladipo and Kyle Lowry did not disappoint. They hounded one another all over the court, but ultimately, it was Lowry (17 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) that got the better of Oladipo. Still, Oladipo deserves a lot of credit for not backing down.

Toronto Raptors

With DeMar DeRozan out (torn left adductor longus tendon), the Drakes have leaned on Lowry heavily and tonight was no exception. Trailing 52-44 at the half, Toronto outscored Orlando 51-30 in the second half to come away with an easy victory. To put it simply, the Drakes took their collective game to a level the Magic couldn’t match.

Dec 15

Video: Victor Oladipo throws the hammer down

Dec 15

Preview: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors
  • Date: December 15, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Air Canada Centre

Records

  • Magic: 10-16
  • Raptors: 18-6

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Victor Oladipo
  • Evan Fournier
  • Tobias Harris
  • Channing Frye
  • Nikola Vucevic

Raptors:

  • Kyle Lowry
  • Terrence Ross
  • Landry Fields
  • Amir Johnson
  • Jonas Valanciunas

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.9 (18th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.2 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.4 (17th of 30)

Raptors:

  • Pace: 92.9 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 114.6 (2nd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.1 (14th of 30)

Read about the Raptors

Raptors Republic

Dec 14

Grades: Orlando Magic 100, Atlanta Hawks 99

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AP Photo/John Raoux

 

Orlando Magic 100 Final
Recap | Box Score
99 Atlanta Hawks

Nikola Vucevic
9-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 1 BLK | 18 PTS | +9

It was nice to see Vucevic back on the floor after missing the previous six games with a lower back sprain. It didn’t appear he was coming off an injury as he continued where he left off — posting a double-double. He now has 14 double-doubles on the season and continued to look like an All-Star in his matchup with Hawks center Al Horford.

Tobias Harris
7-16 FG | 6-10 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 20 PTS | -1

It didn’t matter what Harris did the previous 47:56 seconds because when he caught the ball with 3.4 seconds remaining and drove to his left to hit the game-winning jump shot, he was getting an A-plus. After losing to the Wizards on a last second shot on Wednesday, it was big for Harris to step up and win this game for the Magic.

Evan Fournier
7-14 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 19 PTS | +5

Fournier continues to be an efficient secondary scorer for Orlando. With Vucevic back in the lineup, Fournier is one of the latter offensive options in the starting group. But if he can continue to consistently have games like this, the Magic can become more dynamic on offense. Out of all of his made field goals, Fournier’s layup with 1:02 left, which gave Orlando a 95-94 lead, was the biggest of them all.

Victor Oladipo
5-9 FG | 3-3 3P | 5 REB | 7 AST | 15 PTS | +6

Oladipo has a knack of affecting games in a variety of ways. Whether it was his defense, his ability to dribble penetrate on offense and find open shooters, or him knocking down all three of his 3-point attempts, Oladipo had his fingerprints all over the Magic’s latest victory. He continues to show his versatility as the season progresses for Orlando.

Atlanta Hawks

Honestly, the Hawks can’t be too disappointed with their performance. Harris hit a tough shot with DeMarre Carroll draped all over him to win the game for the Magic. Sometimes, the ball just doesn’t bounce your way. It didn’t for Atlanta on Saturday night. Jeff Teague was very good in the loss with 24 points and 8 assists.

Dec 13

Video: Tobias Harris beats Hawks at buzzer

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