Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 140

Apr 15

The enigmatic and erratic Orlando Magic

Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

When it comes to championship contenders in the NBA, there’s five teams that are universally agreed upon — for the most part. Ranking them by their efficiency differentials, they are the Miami Heat (+8.6), Chicago Bulls (+8.1), Los Angeles Lakers (+6.6), San Antonio Spurs (+6.6), and Boston Celtics (+6.2). And since their trades, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets get pub too.

Then there’s the Orlando Magic, sandwiched in between those teams with an efficiency differential of +6.6, right between the Lakers and Spurs.

At the start of the regular season, the Magic were widely regarded as a threat to win a title. And when Orlando jumped out to a 15-4 start to the year, they were fulfilling everyone’s expectations. There were no surprises. Then the month of December came and everything fell apart for the Magic in a hurry. Orlando hit a stretch of nine games where they only won once. A lack of energy and effort from the players on a consistent basis, plus the regression of Rashard Lewis and others aided in the Magic’s fall from grace. Scoring, which was supposed to be Orlando’s strength since they finished 4th in offensive efficiency last season, faltered and suddenly the offense became an average unit. General manager Otis Smith attempted to rectify the problem by acquiring Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, and Gilbert Arenas in two separate trades on December 19. For a time, it looked like Smith’s gamble paid off, as the Magic roared to a nine-game winning streak (tying a franchise record) that could have been longer had the basketball bounced in their favor in games against the New Orleans Hornets and Thunder that each resulted in losses. Nevertheless, it appeared as if Orlando fixed their woes and the chemistry seemingly improved. The acquisitions provided the Magic with the jolt of life they needed, especially offensively. But the honeymoon soon ended, as Orlando regressed to the mean on offense, and Smith was back where he started with the roster, except it can be argued things got worse than better.

For all the scoring that Turkoglu, Richardson, and Arenas were to provide, Smith sacrificed defense, depth, and size to get it. As the Magic began to come down from earth offensively, it soon became clear that they got weaker. Even though Orlando remains third in defensive efficiency, thanks in large part to Dwight Howard and Van Gundy, when the big fella is on the bench, the interior defense has been compromised without the presence of Marcin Gortat. Depth, the Magic’s calling card last year, is nearly gone now that only J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson can be relied upon to contribute consistently. Free agent signees, Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon, have done little to help the cause. As for Orlando’s size, with Lewis and Gortat absent, they have gone from big to little. In the league, size is needed to win championships and the Magic had it with Howard and Lewis manning the frontcourt with Gortat, Bass, and Anderson coming off the bench. But the trades reshuffled things, and have put a lot of pressure on players like Howard to stay on the floor and avoid foul trouble. Earl Clark is an intriguing prospect, but he’s not a player that Van Gundy can rely upon and trust at the moment. Sure, it’s true that Mickael Pietrus, Lewis, and Carter are not playing right now due to various injuries but there’s no denying that Orlando isn’t the same team.

It’s been an interesting season for the Magic.

The question is, following the aftermath of everything that’s occurred, whether or not they’re a team that can be taken seriously in the playoffs?

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Apr 15

Interview with Bret LaGree of Hoopinion

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

One is fun, but twice is nice.

That’s the theme surrounding the series between the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks, as they face off in the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

Last season in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Magic swept the Hawks by an average margin of victory of 25 points — the worst four-game sweep in league history. However, the tables turned as Atlanta was able to win the season series against Orlando, losing once in their four head-to-head meetings.

What changed? With head coach Larry Drew making the decision to start Jason Collins at center, that’s allowed the Hawks to defend Dwight Howard one-on-one while also defending the Magic’s shooters on the perimeter. Also, the trickle-down effect of starting Collins at center has allowed Atlanta to play Al Horford at the power forward position and Josh Smith at small forward, which has created mismatches in their favor, given that they’re being defended by the likes of Brandon Bass, Ryan Anderson, and Hedo Turkoglu. Unfortunately for Orlando, Horford is too strong and skilled for either Bass or Anderson, while Smith is too athletic for Turkoglu. On the flipside, Horford is more than capable of defending Bass or Anderson on the perimeter, while Smith has the luxury of being a menace on the weak-side since he isn’t being dragged to the three-point line by Turkoglu as much as he was when Rashard Lewis was matched up against him.

Yes, things are different this time around and even though the Hawks’ efficiency differential is -1.4, which isn’t good, they have the personnel that will challenge the Magic much more than they did last year. It should be an interesting series to watch unfold.

A few days ago, I was able to ask Bret LaGree of Hoopinion a few questions to preview the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs between the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks.

_______

Given what occurred last season, how might the matchup between the Magic and Hawks be different this time around?

It’s really hard to lose four playoff games by 101 cumulative points. Only been done once! I don’t think either team is as good as they were last season which should make things more competitive even if the difference between the two teams is similar. This assumes it takes one really good team to create an historic margin of victory and, as teams are pulled together closer toward mediocrity they, by their very nature, become more evenly matched even as the quality of basketball declines.

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Apr 14

Blue and White Ignite: Special fan activities announced for 2011 playoffs

Via the Orlando Magic:

It’s time for Blue and White Ignite as the 2011 NBA playoffs tip off this weekend. There are many opportunities for fans and the community to show their spirit as the Magic’s sixth man by wearing Blue and White to ignite the team on all game days during the 2011 playoffs. Some highlights of the fan activities surrounding the 2011 Orlando Magic Playoffs will include the following:

  • For Game 1 in the First Round, 20,000 cheer cards presented by Sun Sports and FOX Sports Florida and 5,000 rally rackets will be given away.
  • Gina Marie Incandela will sing the National Anthem at the first game of each round.
  • Fan Fest on Church Street in front of Amway Center will open three hours prior to tip-off for all home playoff games. Fan Fest will feature the Bacardi Together Block Party with $4 Bacardi specials, $2 beers and $2 hot dogs during happy hour (4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 16), while other food and beverages will be available for purchase. Come out and enjoy Bacardi’s Blue & White Ignite specialty drink, offered exclusively at the Bacardi Together Block Party, and enjoy the huge fan zone with a tailgate atmosphere that will give fans a reason to arrive early for the festivities. No ticket is required to attend Fan Fest and guests can stay to watch the game on the 16×9 foot HD outdoor television.
  • The Blue Zoo presented by MetroPCS is the newest addition to the Amway Center, providing a seating area in the OZONE for the most passionate Magic fans. The only way fans can obtain tickets to the Blue Zoo presented by MetroPCS is by demonstrating how much they love the Orlando Magic. Fans should be geared up with their best Orlando Magic outfits, face paint, hair dye and other fun items ready for their chance to earn their way into the Blue Zoo. Stay tuned to Orlando Magic social media outlets for updates from the Orlando Magic and MetroPCS on how to get into the Blue Zoo!
  • This year, the Orlando Magic have created Sixth Man Zones around Orlando to bring the excitement of the 2011 Playoffs to you! Keep an eye out for Magic events such as watch parties, giveaways, social media activities, contests and appearances by Magic Live performers at these Sixth Man Zones. While there, don’t forget to pick up your free playoff items, including car magnets, yard signs and cheer cards, at participating Panera Bread and Cold Stone Creamery locations, while supplies last.

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Apr 14

Dwight Howard earns Aleve-Publix ‘Hustle Player of the Year’ honors

AP Photo/John Raoux

Via the Orlando Magic:

Dwight Howard was named the Aleve-Publix ‘Hustle Player of the Year’ at halftime of the Orlando Magic’s regular season finale Wednesday evening against the Indiana Pacers. At the close of each month this season, Aleve has highlighted the top hustle plays of the month in-game and has allowed Magic fans the opportunity to go online to OrlandoMagic.com to vote for the player they felt showed the most heart and hustle. Due to his constant commitment to playing every game with more excitement than the last, Howard was selected as the recipient of the 2010-11 Aleve-Publix ‘Hustle Player of the Year’ honor.

Howard accepted the award from Larry Bond with Bayer Healthcare, who represented Aleve, and Maria Brous with Publix Super Markets. In honor of Howard’s accomplishments, Bayer Healthcare is donating $5,000 to CECO – the Conductive Education Center of Orlando. CECO is also a 2011 grant recipient from the Orlando Magic Youth Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund.

Apr 14

Complete Orlando Magic first round playoff schedule announced

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via the Orlando Magic:

The National Basketball Association has announced the complete schedule for the Orlando Magic’s first round, best-of-seven playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks:

Game 1 – Saturday, April 16, 7:00 p.m., Sun Sports/ESPN (Orlando, Amway Center)

Game 2 – Tuesday, April 19, 7:30 p.m., FOX Sports Florida/NBA TV (Orlando, Amway Center)

Game 3 – Friday, April 22, 8:00 p.m., FOX Sports Florida/ESPN 2 and ESPN 3D (Atlanta)

Game 4 – Sunday, April 24, 7:00 p.m., Sun Sports/TNT (Atlanta)

Game 5 – Tuesday, April 26, Time TBD, FOX Sports Florida/National TV TBD, (Orlando, Amway Center), If necessary

Game 6 – Thursday, April 28, Time TBD, Local TV TBD/National TV TBD (Atlanta), If necessary

Game 7 – Saturday, April 30, Time TBD, Local TV TBD/TNT (Orlando, Amway Center), If necessary

  • All Times Eastern
  • All games on Magic Radio Network (Flagship: AM 580 WDBO) and in Spanish (AM 1270 WRLZ).
  • Local Sun Sports/FOX Sports Florida Television Schedule TBA.

While supplies last, single game tickets for the 2011 Orlando Magic playoffs are available for purchase:

  • Online at www.orlandomagic.com
  • At the Amway Center box office (cash, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover)
  • At all TicketMaster outlets (cash only)
  • By calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover)

Playoff tickets start at $12.

Apr 14

Previewing the Orlando Magic’s first round series with Synergy

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks will square off in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. On Monday, I discussed Pythagorean wins and win profiles. Today, we will look at specific tendencies the teams utilize.

Ranked by points per possession

Orlando’s offense and Atlanta’s defense are evenly matched. The Magic have the 11th best offense in the NBA, and the Hawks have the 13th best defense in the NBA.

Orlando is the best team in the league in scoring with their roll man off the pick-and-roll, and Dwight Howard deserves much of the credit. Orlando’s first play in their recent contest in Charlotte is the epitome of their prowess in this area. Dwight set a screen on the man who was guarding Jameer Nelson, and then he slammed home Nelson’s lob pass to give Orlando a 2-0 lead. Unfortunately for Larry Drew, Atlanta ranks near the bottom of the league, 19th, in stopping the roll man.

The Magic are also successful when the pick-and-roll ball handler attempts a shot. They score the 4th most points per possession in the NBA on this play, and Atlanta is in the middle of the pack (15) at stopping the ball handler. Nearly 50% of Jammer Nelson’s possessions make use of the pick-and-roll, and he is the 30th best player in the NBA in scoring from that set up.

The Magic are near the top in the league scoring off cuts, and Atlanta has issues defending this play. However, Orlando only cuts to the rim about 1 out of every 20 plays.

To no one’s surprise, Orlando is the second best team in the league on scoring after offensive rebounds. When the MVP candidate secures the ball right at the rim, he usually scores. Atlanta is dead last in the NBA at thwarting opponents from scoring on offensive rebounds.

Expect a fierce battle when Orlando spots up on offense. The Magic sharp shooters are the 5th best in the NBA on this type of play, and the Hawks are the 6th best at stopping teams from scoring on spot ups.

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Apr 14

The perception and reality of a boring series

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Getting past Atlanta will be a relief for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s flat out unsettling to have to play a team that has beaten you three times in the regular season. Second, no matter how you spin it this is probably the least exciting matchup in the East, and in that regard I’m already looking toward the second round.

There is a sense of confidence that comes out of that argument. It’s the confidence that Magic fans have, that their team belongs in the upper echelon. Bring on Chicago! We’ve got no time for riff-raff in the first round. Or the last 20 games of the regular season, for that matter.

You get that vibe from Orlando fans and players alike, and hopefully it doesn’t doom a potentially strong playoff team.

I say potentially for a couple of reasons. As we’ve seen all season, the Magic pick and choose when they are going to show up, and sometimes struggle against the Atlanta’s of the league. Granted, anyone watching closely can find a decent excuse for each of the three losses against the Hawks. Jameer was out for the first loss, Redick was out for the third, and of course the second loss came right after all the trading. For the record, I don’t think Redick’s absence led to a midseason loss, but I’m willing to concede that the 1-3 season record is a bit conditional.

The bigger problem for me going into this series is the total lack of national interest. Even on Saturday, there are two far more compelling games earlier in the day. All eyes will be on Chicago, as all the non-NBA fanatics will get their first or second glimpse at a team they just realized is the number one seed. Similarly, it’s not as if Miami will somehow become any less scrutinized and anticipated than they’ve been all year long. The more I think about it, Saturday afternoon ought to be a fairly riveting basketball-watching afternoon.

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Apr 13

Recap: Orlando Magic 92, Indiana Pacers 74

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

With the regular season coming to a close, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Indiana Pacers by the score of 92-74. With the win, the Magic finish with a record of 52-30, matching the win-loss total from head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s first season with the franchise in 2008. Orlando was led by a balanced attack, as four players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard wrapped up an MVP-caliber year with 13 points, 13 rebounds, and four steals in 26 minutes of playing time. Ryan Anderson had 14 points, Hedo Turkoglu had 13 points, and Brandon Bass had 12 points — each of them playing sparingly in preparation for the 2011 NBA Playoffs which begin Saturday. As a result of Danny Granger and Jeff Foster not playing, coupled with the game being meaningless, it’s no surprise that the Magic’s victory felt like nothing more than a preseason game. Both head coaches emptied both benches in the second half and as such, the fans in attendance at the Amway Center or those watching on television were subjected to a brand of basketball that was about as ugly as it gets. Aside from Brandon Rush and Mike Dunleavy Jr., the Pacers struggled to find scoring from any of their players. Roy Hibbert committed five fouls in less than 10 minutes of action. As a team, Indiana shot 30.7 percent from the field. As for Orlando, they committed 28 turnovers. It was clear that the Magic and Pacers wanted to get things over with. The downside for Orlando is that Bass tweaked his left achilles early in the third quarter. Bass is expected to be fine for Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks.

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Apr 13

Preview: Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic

8:00 EDT | Fox Sports Florida
37-44 @ 51-30
Pythagorean Record: 38-43 Pythagorean Record: 55-26
Pace: 94.7 (6th) Pace: 91.3 (17th)
Offensive Rating: 105.2 (23rd) Offensive Rating: 107.9 (14th)
Defensive Rating: 106.1 (12th) Defensive Rating: 102.1 (3rd)
Amway Center | Magic lead season series 2-0

Apr 13

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “J.J. Redick and Gilbert Arenas will not play when the Orlando Magic face the Indiana Pacers at Amway Center in their regular-season finale tonight. Dwight Howard and everybody else will not have the night off. Redick, one of the key cogs on Orlando’s bench, has missed the Magic’s last 16 games because of a lower abdominal strain, but he is inching closer to a potential return. [Stan] Van Gundy said Redick took part in the team’s offensive drills during this morning’s shootaround. That’s the first time he’s did any work with teammates since he sustained his injury on March 11. Redick will get more work tonight and probably play some one-on-one. [...] He hopes to be available to play when the Magic begin their first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night. Arenas had an MRI Monday on his sore right knee, and Van Gundy and Arenas said the results of the exam showed no damage. Van Gundy said he has no doubt that Arenas will be ready to play in the playoffs, and Arenas added that he’s sitting out to rest the knee and also his left knee.”
  • Head coach Stan Van Gundy talks about Dwight Howard’s leadership qualities.
  • Should Howard sit out of tonight’s game against the Indiana Pacers?
  • The Orlando Magic may surprise in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
  • Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reveals his awards ballot.
  • Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “Howard’s MVP case starts of course at the defensive end. Watching defense isn’t just unpopular, it’s difficult. To really get a sense of what Howard does, you have to not watch the ball move. You have to focus on Howard, how he keeps his spacing, reacts to not just the ball’s movement, but how the offense shifts to try and create opportunities with the extra pass. How many times has an offense drawn help against the Magic, rotated the ball the corner where the offensive player attempts a pump-and-go baseline drive, only to find Howard have rotated from the far side over and completely cut off the lane? To put Howard into the simple context of just blocks is to ignore the real work of a defender, dissuading field goal attempts, disrupting passing lanes, and suffocating possessions. No one does it better than Howard.”
  • Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: “At this point, the notion of any other player winning Defensive Player of the Year while Howard is in his prime seems almost laughable. Howard no longer blocks shots at an exceptional rate (his 4.9 percent block rate ranked 12th in the league), but the tradeoff is that he’s improved his foul rate and can stay on the floor for almost 38 minutes a night. The strength of Howard’s game is his glass cleaning; he’s almost single-handedly responsible for Orlando leading the league in defensive rebound percentage. Overall, Howard is the biggest reason a Magic team that did not put any other players in consideration for my All-Defensive Teams ranked third in the league in Defensive Rating.”
  • Jason Richardson screws up on a possession against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.
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