As I wrote at the Heat Index last week when previewing the grudge match between the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat, the key to victory for the men in blue came down to one thing.
Pick and rolls.
Scouting the Heat’s loss against the New Orleans Hornets and witnessing Chris Paul butcher a defense in the pick and roll made me realize that the Magic could do the same thing (a fun exercise is to watch to compare both games and see how similar they are in terms of offensive execution).
Instead of Emeka Okafor on the receiving end of alley-oop passes from Paul, it’d be Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard. Instead of David West and Jason Smith on the receiving end of open looks for mid-range jumpers in pick and pops, it’d be Rashard Lewis and Brandon Bass. Head coach Stan Van Gundy is one of the most diligent coaches in the NBA when it comes to scouting opponents and he must have seen the same footage.
Even though Nelson isn’t as great as Paul, he’s good enough to break down Miami’s defense as long as he was aggressive offensively and attacked. And that’s what Nelson did on Wednesday. Orlando ran a steady diet of pick and rolls from the opening tip until the final buzzer and Nelson was the orchestrator of a systematic breakdown of one of the best defenses in the league.
If there was any doubt that Jameer Nelson has fully returned to being an All-Star caliber point guard like he was in 2009, his performance against the Miami Heat proved that he’s playing to the peak of his ability once again.
Led by Dwyane Wade, the Heat made a furious comeback in the fourth quarter after trailing by as many as 12 points earlier in the game. All it took was a 12-3 run that spanned roughly three minutes for Miami to take an 88-87 lead. Magic fans had seen this movie too many times before, and it seemed like Wade was going to steal another win for the Heat against their rival.
However, Nelson — with a verbal push from Brandon Bass — “let it fly” in the late stages of the fourth quarter when the Magic needed buckets. Nelson scored 11 points in the period and Orlando was able to come away with a much-needed win versus Miami, even if they’re not playing to their full potential. With that scoring flurry, Nelson reminded everyone why he’s the engine that makes the Magic go.
The one thing that stands out the most from the video, however, is that on two separate possessions, the Heat elected to use Wade and LeBron James to defend Nelson on the perimeter. Didn’t work. And this last point won’t comfort supporters of Miami but at the 0:33 mark of the video, look at Chris Bosh’ worthless attempt at help defense as Nelson attacks the basket.
Instead of meeting Nelson as he enters the paint, Bosh waits until the very last minute before putting up any resistance defensively.
Something to keep in mind when the Magic and Heat face off again.
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “There’s little question Dwight Howard is the best center in the league and one of the league’s most dominant players along with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. But there’s one discernible difference between Howard and those other guys, if you ask Stan Van Gundy: Howard gets criticized much, much more. His free throws. His perceived lack of a low-post game. His foul trouble. His turnovers. Many are fair criticisms — some, maybe not. But they’re always topics of conversation in the national media. […] Those other guys, meanwhile, produce very tangible results. Durant and Kobe fill up the points column, and do it beautifully. Chris Paul racks up the traditional point-guard stats — points, assists and steals — better than any player in the NBA. LeBron and Wade make racket in every statistical category. Howard, meanwhile, is the league’s best rebounder, but bulldogs such as Reggie Evans and Kevin Love are close behind. Nobody in the NBA blocks shots better than Howard, but Darko Milicic and Javale McGee aren’t bad. That’s not exactly elite company, at least in the traditional sense. Howard’s far and away the best at skills that go overlooked by the casual NBA observer. His highlight dunks and blocks make YouTube, but it’s his less aesthetically pleasing abilities that make him the best big man in the NBA.”
- Tracy McGrady doesn’t think the union between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will work.
- Dwight Howard for MVP? Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel is on board: “I wrote a few weeks ago that there are few players more important to their team than Dwight, and he might be THE frontrunner. In my mind, he’s never had a better start in The Chase. His scoring — always a factor in MVP voting, as overrated as it is — is up to No. 12. It would be even better if he could bump up his free-throw shooting. The two-time Defensive Players of the Year is in the top 5 in rebounding and blocks. He’s older, more mature and has expanded his offense to satisfy some critics. I do think he has been the MVP so far in the East after the first month of the season. It definitely feels as if there’s no other lead-horse candidate.”
- Are the Orlando Magic going to wear their alternate uniforms too much?
- The Magic are ready to make a trade if a superstar is made available.
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “It’s tough to figure what a trade package built around Carter’s semi-expiring contract, a young rotation player or two, and future draft picks likely to be late first-rounders could net. It is, however, safe to assume Orlando has targeted reasonably young perimeter players who can generate offense.”
- Royce Young of CBSSports.com: “Orlando isn’t satisfied with its current scoring punch and is searching for a reliable go-to option. That’s the biggest scratch on the Magic’s armor and Vince Carter hasn’t been able to fix it. Against premier defensive units, Orlando’s drive-and-kick offense can easily be shut down. Dwight Howard’s post game is much improved, but there has to be an isolation option. There has to be a guy that can score eight straight points when shots aren’t dropping. Great big men are the foundation of a championship team and the Magic have that. But they need the walls and a roof still. And apparently, they’re willing to deal the furniture to get it.”
- Dwight Howard is excited about hitting a game-winner on Saturday.
- Are the Magic flexible or flawed? Bethlehem Shoals of NBA FanHouse attempts to find an answer to that question: “Orlando has the perennial Defensive Player of the Year in the middle, a system that seems to work, a coach whose basketball mind is matched only by his scrappy ardor, and a seemingly bottomless vat of good-not-great rotation players. It’s a formula of sorts, albeit one that will only take them so far.”
- UPDATE: Henry Abbott of TrueHoop points out that Howard takes his time when shooting free-throws. Perhaps too much time: “NBA rules state that from the time the player catches the ball at the free throw line, he has ten seconds to shoot it. Most players have no trouble with this rule. But there are some exceptions. Most assuredly Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is one of them. You can see for yourself by watching the seconds tick off on the little clock at the bottom of any number of YouTube videos of Howard shooting.”
Via the Orlando Magic:
The Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Monday, Nov. 22, through Sunday, Nov. 28. It marks the 13th time of his career and the second time this season that Howard has earned the league’s top weekly honor.
With double-doubles in all four games, Howard led Orlando to a 3-1 record, averaging 26.3 ppg. and 14.5 rpg. on .632 shooting. Howard hit the game-winning shot at Washington on Saturday with four seconds left to propel Orlando to its third consecutive win. Howard had a season-high 32 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in the victory, while he also recorded a season-high 18 rebounds in both the San Antonio and Miami games.
Here is a recap of the week for Howard:
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Nov. 22 @ San Antonio: Had 26 points, 18 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in a 106-97 loss to the Spurs
Nov. 24 vs. Miami: Posted 24 points and 18 rebounds in a 104-95 win over the Heat
Nov. 26 vs. Cleveland: Netted 23 points to go along with 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals in a 111-100 win versus the Cavaliers.
Nov. 27 @ Washington: Rounded out the week with his fourth double-double, tallying 32 points and 11 rebounds in a 100-99 victory over the Wizards.
Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki took home the weekly award for the Western Conference.
Orlando Magic, Harris and KaBoom! Team Up for Opening of Volunteer-Built Playground at Palm Bay’s Diamond Community School
Via the Orlando Magic:
Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of volunteers, children at Diamond Community School have a great place to play.
Representatives from Harris Corporation, the Orlando Magic, Diamond Community School and residents of the Palm Bay community will join children in celebrating the opening of the first KaBOOM! playground in Brevard County on Monday, Nov. 29 at 5 p.m. Orlando Magic players, the Orlando Magic Dancers and Magic mascot STUFF will join children from the area for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the playground.
The playground was built on November 19 by hundreds of volunteers from Harris Corporation, the Orlando Magic and Diamond Community School under the guidance of non-profit KaBOOM! and is based on drawings created by children who participated in a Design Day event in September.
Superman to the rescue.
Thanks to Dwight Howard‘s game-winning putback with 4.3 seconds left in the game, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Washington Wizards by the score of 100-99. For the third Saturday in a row, Jameer Nelson tried to be the hero on the Magic’s final possession of the game but he airballed a fadeaway jumper in a 1/5 pick and roll with Howard. Luckily for Nelson, Howard was there to clean up the mess and secure the victory for Orlando. Gilbert Arenas’ attempt at a game-winner after Howard scored came up long, and that was that. The Magic were led by Howard, who had a season-high 32 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks. Quentin Richardson continued his torrid shooting, finishing with 20 points on 12 shots. For the Wizards, it was the Arenas show as he turned back the clock and had 31 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Nick Young provided a spark off the bench for Washington, chipping in with 21 points.
The good news for Orlando is that they won. The bad news is that this game should have never been this close to begin with.
The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers by the score of 111-100 and move to a record of 11-4 in the regular season. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as every starter scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard had 23 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals, Jameer Nelson had 20 points and six assists, J.J. Redick had 15 points, five assists, and two steals, while Rashard Lewis and Quentin Richardson each had 14 points. Chris Duhon had one of his better games coming off the bench for Orlando, finishing with eight points and nine assists. Brandon Bass chipped in with 10 points.
Matt Guokas said it best on the Magic’s television broadcast. It felt like a preseason game.