Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 60

Feb 05

To tank or not to tank?

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Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Orlando Magic currently sit 8.5 games out of the Eastern playoff picture with 36 games left on their schedule. They have the league’s third-worst record (14-34) and sixth-worst efficiency differential (-5.1 points per 100 possessions), per NBA.com.

The stingy defense that fueled their early season success has all but dissipated. The Magic have allowed an astonishing 111.9 points per 100 possessions over their last 23 games as the team has gone 2-21 in that stretch, per NBA.com. To put that number in perspective, the Charlotte Bobcats’ league-worst defense allows 108.3 points per 100 possessions.

It begs the question — is it time for Orlando to tank?

It seems somewhat absurd to ask if a 14-34 team should aim lower, but the idea of tanking in the NBA isn’t limited just to losing. From roster moves to coaching decisions, there are a host of options that would be immediately hurtful yet beneficial to the long-term fortunes of the franchise.

Here’s a look at some moves Orlando can make that would fall under the tanking umbrella and how prudent making those moves would be at the present.

Play the youngsters
Jacque Vaughn has done a fairly decent job giving future pieces burn so far, but there is still more room to grow.

The linchpin of Vaughn’s developmental plan so far has been second-year center Nikola Vucevic, who has started every game and leads the team with a 17.9 Player Efficiency Rating. Vuc has already improved by leaps and bounds since last season, and Vaughn deserves a lot of credit for it.

However, when it comes to the Magic’s next two long-term prospects, there is more that could be done. Maurice Harkless went through a short stint in the doghouse during January, which is borderline indefensible for a team that was already far out of playoff reach by then. The desired trend is the one we’ve seen in the past four games, when he played 30 or more minutes in each contest, including a very impressive showing against Milwaukee on Saturday (19 points, 14 rebounds, and four steals — all career-highs).

Even with Hedo Turkoglu back in the rotation, there is nobody on the roster that should take minutes from Harkless at this point.

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 05

Recap: Philadelphia 76ers 78, Orlando Magic 61

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Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

There’s not a lot of things the Orlando Magic are good at. The Magic struggle to score and they can’t play defense. If there’s one thing the Magic do well, it’s lose games.

Facing off against the Philadelphia 76ers, without the services of Jameer Nelson (bruised left forearm), J.J. Redick (sore right shoulder), Arron Afflalo (strained left calf), and DeQuan Jones (sore left ankle), Orlando was forced to play with a skeleton crew and the result was a 78-61 loss to the Sixers.

For the Magic, they tied a season-high with their 10th consecutive loss and have now lost 21 of their last 23 games. The 61 points were a season-low.

Playing short-handed, Orlando didn’t stand a chance in this game and that was evident in the first quarter as Philadelphia jumped out to a 22-6 lead. Not known as a fast-paced team, the Sixers used their transition offense (14 fast break points) to open up a double-digit lead against the Magic in the opening frame.

Nick “Swaggy P” Young led the charge for Philadelphia with his swaggy ways, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the first quarter — including a 360-degree dunk off a fast break.

Orlando tried to make a game of it, making things interesting by cutting their deficit to two points late in the second quarter. But you always got the sense that Philadelphia — with a considerable advantage in talent and depth — was in cruise control, knowing they could turn on the switch at any time and put the game away.

That switch turned on in the third quarter, as the Sixers effectively put the game away by increasing their lead to 16 points. Jrue Holiday was the architect of the scoring surge and he did it with his passing. He didn’t score a single point in the period, but that didn’t stop him from accounting for 13 of Philadelphia’s 18 points thanks to six assists.

On the flipside, the third quarter was a disaster for Orlando. Knowing that the Magic were lacking playmakers and shooters, the Sixers packed the paint and dared Orlando to beat them from the perimeter. The end result was an 11-point quarter for the Magic, in which they shot 4-for-19 from the floor (21.1 percent).

Needless to say, the final period was a merely formality, as Philadelphia cruised to a relatively easy victory over an overmatched opponent.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

On a night where Nikola Vucevic played in Philadelphia for the first time since being traded to Orlando as part of the Dwight Howard blockbuster, his counterpart — Spencer Hawes — thoroughly outplayed him (21 points and 14 rebounds).

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

As a team, the Magic scored a season-low 61 points on 84 possessions and shot a season-low 33.8 percent from the floor. In other words, it was a trainwreck performance.

Defining Moment

After relinquishing a double-digit lead in the first half, the Sixers went on a 14-1 run midway through the third quarter to reopen their double-digit lead and put Orlando out of their misery.

Feb 04

Preview: Orlando Magic at Philadelphia 76ers

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Philadelphia 76ers
  • Date: February 4, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Wells Fargo Center

Records

  • Magic: 14-33
  • Sixers: 20-26

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Ish Smith
  • E’Twaun Moore
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Josh McRoberts
  • Nikola Vucevic

Sixers:

  • Jrue Holiday
  • Evan Turner
  • Nick Young
  • Thaddeus Young
  • Spencer Hawes

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.4 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.1 (24th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.0 (25th of 30)

Sixers:

  • Pace: 91.0 (21st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.8 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.3 (15th of 30)

Read about the 76ers

Philadunkia

Feb 04

Monday’s Magic Word

  • The Orlando Magic are going to be without Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Arron Afflalo, and DeQuan Jones for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
  • John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “The Magic have lost nine straight and are now 1-12 without Glen Davis, who is out for the season after breaking his foot on Wednesday. Jameer Nelson (they’re 1-9 without him) and Arron Afflalo (0-4 without him) are also banged up. And it might be time again to mention how bad they’ve been defensively, allowing a league-worst 112.6 points per 100 possessions in 2013.”
  • The Magic earn “Team of the Weak” honors from David Aldridge of NBA.com. This is starting to become a bit of a recurring theme.
  • Orlando ranks dead-last in Marc Stein’s latest power rankings for ESPN.com.
  • Expect a number of Magic rookies to get extended playing time against the Sixers.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel with a fun fact: “Orlando is attempting 16.0 free-throw attempts per game. Philadelphia is shooting 16.9 foul shots per game. If the teams continue at their current paces, they’d obliterate the all-time league record for the fewest foul shots per game over an entire season. The 2005-06 Phoenix Suns hold the record, attempting 18.0 foul shots per game.”
  • Hypothetical trade scenarios involving Redick.

Feb 04

Recap: Milwaukee Bucks 107, Orlando Magic 98

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Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

Going into this game, it didn’t seem very likely that the Magic would have a shot. They were without three starters (Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, and Glen Davis) and the Bucks’ depth looked to be too much for the inexperienced portion of Orlando’s roster that was healthy to handle. And that’s pretty much exactly how it played out.

The Magic looked lethargic from the get-go, falling behind to the Bucks and never really climbing back into it. The nine-point final margin of victory for Milwaukee is about indicative of how the game went. Orlando stayed in it just enough to not be blown out, but never really made a serious run. They’d make a shot or two and the Bucks would respond with a run of their own, halting any momentum the Magic may have been building. That’s, more or less, how it went for 48 minutes.

There were some silver linings for the Magic. Maurice Harkless had his best game of the season with 19 points and 14 rebounds in a rare start. Kyle O’Quinn also made the case for more minutes, scoring nine points in 11 minutes on an efficient 4-for-7 shooting. Nikola Vucevic was outstanding, finishing with 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks.

But without Jameer Nelson, E’Twaun Moore was forced to start at point guard, which is usually a recipe for disaster. He had an atrocious shooting night (3-for-14 from the floor) and had four turnovers. Ish Smith wasn’t much better.

Even the Magic’s best player and most reliable distributor outside of Nelson, J.J. Redick, had an off night offensively — and this was before a shoulder injury took him out of the game late. Hopefully that’s nothing too serious because the last thing the Magic need right now is another injury to a key player (as well as their best trade chip).

The Magic were simply outplayed by the Bucks at both ends of the floor from start to finish. That happens to every team, but it happens more often to a team like the Magic and especially when they’re playing without three of their steadiest veteran scorers.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Maurice Harkless had something of a breakout game in a losing effort, notching his first career double-double and adding four steals.

X-Factor

The Magic were playing extremely shorthanded, being without Jameer Nelson (bruised left forearm), Glen Davis (fractured left foot), and Arron Afflalo (strained left calf). Nelson’s absence in particular was felt, as E’Twaun Moore is not a point guard by any means.

That Was … Potentially Scary

J.J. Redick suffered a shoulder injury late and will miss at least the Magic’s next game, just one of a myriad of injuries to key players the Magic have been dealing with lately.

Feb 02

Preview: Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks
  • Date: February 2, 2013
  • Time: 8:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Bradley Center

Records

  • Magic: 14-32
  • Bucks: 24-21

Probable starters

Magic:

  • E’Twaun Moore
  • J.J. Redick
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Bucks:

  • Brandon Jennings
  • Monta Ellis
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
  • Ersan Ilyasova
  • Larry Sanders

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.3 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.1 (23rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.9 (25th of 30)

Bucks:

  • Pace: 94.2 (6th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.1 (22nd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.7 (10th of 30)

Read about the Bucks

Bucksketball

Feb 02

Recap: Boston Celtics 97, Orlando Magic 84

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Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

With Glen Davis sidelined with a fractured left foot and Arron Afflalo out with a strained left calf, it was expected that the Orlando Magic — one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA — would struggle mightily on offense against the Boston Celtics. Especially when you consider the fact that the Celtics ranked 8th in Defensive Rating heading into Friday’s game.

Lo and behold, that’s what happened, as the Magic scored 35 points in the first half and struggled to generate points in their half-court offense. Nikola Vucevic, J.J. Redick, and Andrew Nicholson were the only players for Orlando to have any kind of success offensively.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the Magic, it did. Late in the second quarter, Jameer Nelson suffered a bruised left forearm on a routine play. Paul Pierce grabbed a rebound and Nelson tried to strip the ball. While that was happening, Pierce’s elbow collided into Nelson’s left arm. Nelson, in pain, had to come out of the game and didn’t play in the second half.

In a way, Orlando was lucky to have only been down by 11 points in the first half.

In the second half, the Magic — without Davis, Afflalo, and Nelson — kept fighting and were able to cut their deficit to just three points midway through the third quarter.

But the Celtics were able to seize control of the game and go on a 15-5 run to end the period to extend their lead to 12. In the fourth quarter, Boston’s lead ballooned to as many as 23 points before Orlando went on a late run to make the final score respectable.

With the defeat, the Magic lost their eighth consecutive game and for the 19th time over their last 21 games.

At a certain point, with the losses piling up and the trade deadline approaching, you have to wonder if it’s time for Orlando to blow it up and focus on developing the young players — especially guys like Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, and Kyle O’Quinn.

Redick’s name has been throw around in trade rumors and when you consider his cap-friendly contract, as well as the fact that he’s having arguably the best season of his career, you have to imagine that general manager Rob Hennigan is thinking long and hard about what Redick might fetch in a trade.

With every loss, you have to wonder if now is the time for the Magic to position themselves fully for the future.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Jeff Green came off the bench for Boston and made a big impact with his athleticism. No play signified that more than in the third quarter when he pump-faked Hedo Turkoglu and finished with a thunderous dunk.

That Was … Anti-Climactic

It’s safe to say, with Orlando continuing to lose, that this is what the Magic fanbase expected when Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson were traded and Stan Van Gundy was fired.

Feb 01

Preview: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics
  • Date: February 1, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: TD Garden

Records

  • Magic: 14-31
  • Celtics: 22-23

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Celtics:

  • Avery Bradley
  • Courtney Lee
  • Paul Pierce
  • Brandon Bass
  • Kevin Garnett

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.2 (18th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.4 (21st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.0 (25th of 30)

Celtics:

  • Pace: 91.1 (19th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.9 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.9 (7th of 30)

Read about the Celtics

Celtics Hub

Feb 01

Friday’s Magic Word

  • The Orlando Magic are on pace to break an NBA record for free-throw futility. Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post has more: “The Magic’s 78.7-percent mark on foul shots ranked fifth in the 2012/13 season through Wednesday’s games, but accuracy isn’t the problem for Orlando. Not anymore, anyway. No, the real problem is that the Magic don’t draw fouls. Through Wednesday, the Magic’s average of 16 free-throw attempts per game ranked last in the league. Not just for the season, but ever. Prior to 2012/13, no team in the history of the NBA had ever averaged fewer than 18 free-throw attempts. Orlando is one of two teams–the Philadelphia 76ers are the other–now under that threshold.”
  • The Magic are 1-10 without Glen Davis this season.
  • Al Harrington, who has yet to play a game this season as he recovers from knee surgery, says he’s close to returning.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has additional details on Harrington’s road to recovery.
  • More from Robbins: “Arron Afflalo didn’t participate in the Orlando Magic’s shootaround this morning at TD Garden because of his strained left calf, and he’s unlikely to play when the team faces the Boston Celtics tonight.”

Feb 01

3-on-3 roundtable: Reaction to Glen Davis’ fractured left foot

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Against the New York Knicks on Wednesday, Glen Davis suffered a left foot injury after stepping on Iman Shumpert’s foot early in the first quarter. It was revealed later that night that Davis fractured his left foot.

But it wasn’t until the next day when the Orlando Magic revealed the severity of the injury — Davis had fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot and was expected to be out 8-12 weeks. In other words, he could miss the rest of the season.

Magic Basketball reacts to news of Davis’ injury.

What were your first few thoughts when Davis went down?

Nate Drexler: Honestly, I didn’t think this would be a potentially season-ending injury. My first thought was that the Magic would struggle to cover Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler for the rest of the game, but it really didn’t occur to me that this was a serious injury.

Sean Highkin: A potentially season-ending injury sucks, no matter how frustrating the player in question has been this season. I feel bad for him and wish him the best in his recovery.

Noam Schiller: Mostly, it just sucks for Glen. He hasn’t been the funnest guy to watch this year, but he’s consistently tried hard to acquit himself to a bigger role. Then again. Andrew Nicholson!

What does this mean for the Magic this season?

Drexler: A few less wins, a few more losses, and a lot more minutes for Andrew Nicholson (hopefully). Like it or not, Glen Davis is a huge part of both the offense and defense, and comes equipped with a “win at all costs” mentality. This is honestly a blow to an already troubled squad.

Highkin: I don’t think it will really have that big an impact one way or the other on their win-loss record. The Magic are pretty good at losing games with or without Big Baby in the lineup. The silver lining here is that it opens up a lot of extra minutes for Andrew Nicholson, whose recent DNP-CD’s make no sense whatsoever. I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts the majority of games the rest of the way and I’ll be interested to see what he can do given that added responsibility.

Schiller: That the defensive team from November and December is done for. Davis has been the team’s best frontcourt defender by a mile, but his struggles with his shot have consistently taken the offense down. Without him, this is guaranteed to be an offense-first squad.

Is Orlando a better team without Davis?

Drexler: Maybe. It’s not a pot shot at Davis, but numbers don’t lie, right? The Magic are 5.0 points per 100 possessions worse with Davis on the floor, per NBA.com. Does that speak more to the team in general or to Davis’ inflated usage and shot volume? I’m not really sure. Right now, I’m more caught up thinking about how Orlando is going to do anything inside when Vucevic and Nicholson are not in the game.

Highkin: Yes. They’re not a good team regardless, but games will certainly be more watchable without him jacking up contested long two after contested long two.

Schiller: No. The Magic went on a 10-game losing streak when Davis went down in December and have been obliterated defensively when he wasn’t on the floor. Long term, it might be advisable to give his minutes towards younger guys, but it’s hard to argue that would be the case if the team were playing for anything at the moment.

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