Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 59

Mar 18

Monday’s Magic Word

  • John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “Maurice Harkless is yet another young Magic player who has opened some eyes. The rookie has scored in double-figures in 15 of his last 17 games, shooting 51 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3-point range in that stretch. The Magic’s young core of Harkless, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Nik Vucevic is promising. The Magic’s defense, on the other hand, is still terrible.”
  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “Check back next Monday. If Miami can get through this week unscathed — road games in Boston and Cleveland, followed by home dates with lowly Detroit and Charlotte — Orlando hosts the Heat on March 25, after having nearly beaten them in Miami on March 6. The streak would be at 26 by then.”
  • Monta Ellis took over in the fourth quarter, as the Milwaukee Bucks were able to come back from a 13-point deficit to defeat the Orlando Magic on Sunday.
  • Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstiped Post sheds light on the Magic’s crunch time woes: “According to NBA.com/stats, Orlando has played in 20 games in which the score was within two points in the final two minutes, but has won only four of those games; only the New Orleans Hornets, at 5-17, have a worse record in such games, per NBA.com. The Hornets are also the only team with a worse efficiency differential in crunch time than Orlando, which is outscored by 38 points per 100 possessions in the clutch.”
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk is wondering why Tobias Harris didn’t get more playing time with the Bucks.

Mar 17

Highlights: Maurice Harkless’ career day in Milwaukee

Mar 17

Grades: Milwaukee Bucks 115, Orlando Magic 109

Capture

AP Photo/Morry Gash

 

Milwaukee Bucks 115 Final
Recap | Box Score
109 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
10-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 15 REB | 4 AST | 20 PTS | -8

Fun fact: Vucevic leads the NBA with 42 games of 11 rebounds or more. More than Dwight Howard (41 games), Omer Asik (39), and J.J. Hickson (38). That’s an impressive list for Vucevic to be on and it exemplifies the type of season he’s been having for the Magic. That he outdueled the venerable LARRY SANDERS! should come as no surprise.

Maurice Harkless
9-17 FG | 2-4 3P | 2 STL | 9 REB | 23 PTS | -4

It was a banner day for the 19-year-old rookie, who had his best game as a pro. Harkless got off to a quick start on offense, scoring 17 of his career-high 23 points in the first half, before tapering off after halftime. Overall, you couldn’t have asked for better shot selection from Harkless. Most of his points came on dunks, layups, and corner threes.

Arron Afflalo
11-20 FG | 1-6 3P | 4 REB | 4 AST | 24 PTS | -9

Normally when a player scores 10 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, as Afflalo did, that warrants some attention, even in a losing effort. But these weren’t normal circumstances. Monta Ellis went supernova in the final period and outshined Afflalo in the process. Defensively, Afflalo tried his best to slow Ellis down once he went into god mode, but to no avail.

Jameer Nelson
7-19 FG | 1-6 3P | 4 STL | 7 REB | 16 PTS | -6

Nelson hit back-to-back layups late in the fourth quarter as the Magic were trying to quell the Bucks’ rally, but it wasn’t enough. One interesting play that Orlando has been running for Nelson lately is a 1-2 pick-and-roll with Afflalo. The Magic ran it twice in the second half and both times it resulted in a layup for Nelson.

Milwaukee Bucks

Monta Ellis have it all. That statement, uttered by the man himself in a now-infamous interview, was never truer than on Sunday afternoon. Ellis went HAM, scoring 25 of his season-high 39 points in the fourth quarter. How unstoppable was Ellis? He made all five of his 3-pointers in the period despite being a 25.8 percent 3-point shooter for the season. He single-handily won this game for Milwaukee.

Mar 17

Preview: Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks
  • Date: March 17, 2013
  • Time: 1:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: BMO Harris Bradley Center

Records

  • Magic: 18-48
  • Bucks: 32-32

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Tobias Harris
  • Nikola Vucevic

Bucks:

  • Brandon Jennings
  • Monta Ellis
  • Marquis Daniels
  • Ersan Ilyasova
  • Larry Sanders

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.9 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.2 (25th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.1 (26th of 30)

Bucks:

  • Pace: 94.6 (4th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.6 (21st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.9 (11th of 30)

Read about the Bucks

Bucksketball

Mar 16

Grades: Oklahoma City Thunder 117, Orlando Magic 104

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 11.27.02 AM

Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

 

Oklahoma City Thunder 117 Final
Recap | Box Score
104 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
8-15 FG | 5-5 FT | 14 REB | 1 AST | 21 PTS | -1

The good? Vucevic got his customary double-double. The bad? He wasn’t much of a rim protector. At this point, it’s clear that Vucevic can get a double-double in his sleep. However, he has to become a better defender if he really wants to be an impactful two-way player for the Magic. Right now, his defense leaves a lot to be desired.

Jameer Nelson
10-22 FG | 5-12 3P | 4 REB | 7 AST | 26 PTS | -3

Nelson scored plenty of points, but his shot selection was questionable at times. There were several instances where he attempted 3-pointers that were from the Oklahoma City Amtrak station — well beyond the limits of his range. Other times, Nelson was a little too trigger-happy in transition, pulling up for 3s when he was better served pulling back and setting up the offense for a quality shot.

Arron Afflalo
10-24 FG | 0-6 3P | 2 REB | 3 AST | 20 PTS | -3

Afflalo just isn’t a volume scorer. There’s no reason for him to be attempting 24 field goals, even in a fast-paced game. The tradeoff in efficiency isn’t worth it. Afflalo also made a poor decision in crunch time that stood out. With 1:47 left and the Magic trailing 112-104, Afflalo forced up a 3-point shot that was blocked by Kendrick Perkins and essentially ended Orlando’s comeback bid.

Tobias Harris
4-10 FG | 10-10 FT | 3 STL | 6 REB | 19 PTS | +1

Harris was the antithesis of Afflalo offensively. He attacked the rim with reckless abandon, either scoring in the paint or earnings trips to the free-throw line. In fact, his 10 free-throw attempts were a season-high for a Magic player this season. Harris had a whale of a time trying to deal with Serge Ibaka on the other end of the floor, but he put up a valiant effort.

Oklahoma City Thunder

In the first half, it seemed like the Thunder were on their way to another blowout victory. The scary part was that it didn’t even look like they were trying. But that lackadaisical effort eventually caught up with them, as the Magic kept pushing and prodding until they made a game of it in the fourth quarter. However, thanks to Durantula, OKC shut the door on Orlando in crunch time.

Mar 16

Video: Nikola Vucevic triggers a fast break

Mar 15

Preview: Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Date: March 15, 2013
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Chesapeake Energy Arena

Records

  • Magic: 18-47
  • Thunder: 48-17

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Tobias Harris
  • Nikola Vucevic

Thunder:

  • Russell Westbrook
  • Thabo Sefolosha
  • Kevin Durant
  • Serge Ibaka
  • Kendrick Perkins

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.7 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.3 (25th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.1 (26th of 30)

Thunder:

  • Pace: 93.6 (8th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 112.9 (1st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.8 (7th of 30)

Read about the Thunder

Daily Thunder

Mar 15

Friday’s Magic Word

  • The Orlando Magic’s defense is in for a challenge against the Oklahoma City Thunder — owners of the league’s most efficient offense.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “The Magic (18-47) will face the ultimate road challenge tonight when the play the Oklahoma City Thunder (48-17) at noisy Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder have been especially good playing in front of their boisterous crowd, going 29-4 at home this season. To put into perspective just how much of a difference the home atmosphere means to the Thunder, they are just 19-13 on the road this season.”
  • Were Magic fans right to boo Dwight Howard on Tuesday? According to Andrew Unterberger of The Basketball Jones, they were.
  • Adi Joseph of USA TODAY Sports predicts the Magic-Thunder game will be a blowout.
  • Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated compares Orlando’s season to The Hangover: “You had to expect this type of year after the Magic gave into Dwight Howard’s trade demands. Orlando has at least seen strong play from some of the pieces acquired in that deal — Arron Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic — but there are only two cures for this type of hangover: cap room and lottery picks. Luckily for Orlando, it’s assembling the pieces needed to shake this one off.”

Mar 15

Replicating the OKC model

Capture

Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

Tonight’s game between the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder is very likely to end a certain way. The Thunder are one of the league’s best teams, perhaps the only reasonable candidate, aside from the San Antonio Spurs, to topple the Heat from their throne. The Magic are starting rookies and sophomores while working under the 20-win threshold. There’s room for variance in sports, but we’re unlikely to find it here.

However, as the Magic take the court in Oklahoma City, they will be facing off against more than just an overwhelming opponent. For the Magic, the Thunder are the goal line, the final realization of a plan that will hopefully lead the franchise back to better days.

When Rob Hennigan was hired as the Magic’s general manager this summer, it was a fairly clear declaration of intent. Hennigan had grown under Sam Presti’s supervision in the OKC greenhouse, where the optimal model for rebuilding an NBA franchise from the ground was re-established: hoard draft picks and young prospects who will hopefully pan out, keep maximum financial flexibility, avoid the questionable temptation of signing average veterans to long-term deals, and put your resources into player development. Oh, yeah, and luck into a superstar or two (or three, and trade the third away).

It’s that last part that is the most crucial piece of the puzzle. Fittingly, it’s also the hardest to emulate. It is perhaps somewhat unfair that Hennigan’s execution will ultimately be judged on his ability to stand idly by while ping pong balls are sorted out in the correct way in the correct year, but such is the nature of the business.

Meanwhile, as the Magic wait for a Kevin Durant or a Russell Westbrook to fall into their laps, they have already made several moves in the right direction since their last superstar — Dwight Howard — has left.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 13

Dwight’s return much ado about nothing

Capture

AP Photo/John Raoux

It’s no secret that both fans and media tend to over-exaggerate, over-hype, and oversell events to create a more desirable vibe. Most recently, it was Dwight Howard’s return to Orlando as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, and only days after some controversial comments toward his former teammates.

The media did not have to try too hard to sell this one. In fact, the only thing Tuesday’s game was missing was a national TV spotlight and a two-hour pregame special with Dwight on a chair in a studio publicly retracting his comments and sharing his love for the city of Orlando.

Instead we got a League Pass game, a Lakers broadcast, and a fairly uneventful evening that actually told us a lot about Dwight Howard and our own misconceptions about the way things like this ought to play out.

The lens in which you watched the game probably dictated how you felt after it was over. Fans commonly misconstrue situations like this one to think that this was the Orlando Magic against Dwight Howard. Similarly, they might think that this was Dwight Howard trying to punish the Orlando Magic.

What we really have is Dwight Howard against himself, Orlando against the hard pursuit of rebuilding, and both teams against the ever-present distraction that is the media. These guys just wanted to play basketball, just like they do every night, and eventually they did.

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