John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “Last week, we kind of downplayed Tobias Harris’ solid Orlando debut. And then he went and shot 27-for-36 (5-for-9 from 3-point range) in his next three games, averaging 22.0 points and 7.7 rebounds.”
Al Harrington, fully recovered from a staph infection in his right knee, has emerged as the backup center for the Orlando Magic. Kyle O’Quinn’s playing time has diminished as a result.
Nikola Vucevic’s production has tailed off as of late. Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post takes a look at a few reasons why that is.
Vucevic is third in the NBA with 33 double-doubles this season after having just two with the Philadelphia 76ers last season (via Marc Stein of ESPN.com).
The hi-lo is one of the most complex sets in basketball. On the surface, it looks like a simple pass between two big men, but it needs perfect timing and chemistry. Lately, the Orlando Magic have been running an interesting iteration of the hi-lo. Let’s go through it step-by-step.
Things begin with a guard handling the ball at the top and a wing coming off a big man’s down pick. While this initial action may be inconsequential towards the final result of this play, it’s movements like these that make good offense’s great.
The San Antonio Spurs are constantly running Tony Parker around screens, just to use him in a simple pick-and-roll. Constantly having to fight through screens can take a toll on defenders as the game wears on and when the fourth quarter comes, mere inches of space can mean everything.
The wing and big then transition into a side pick-and-roll. Another reason for the down pick is to keep the defense off-balance so that they can’t set up their side pick-and-roll defense. This involves the defending wing taking an extreme angle and not letting the pick-and-roll ball handler use the screen. As the pick-and-roll is being run, a weak-side big man runs along the baseline and ducks into the post.
The opposite big man receives the ball and immediately hits the roller on a bounce pass. The roller’s defender is behind — his responsibility is to hedge so that the ball handler doesn’t have a direct lane to the basket. If the weak-side defender rotates over and leaves his man in the corner, Nikola Vucevic can hit him for a wide open corner three.
Here are two examples of it being run:
The two most likely outcomes are a dunk and corner three, which correlates perfectly with the two best shots in basketball. What more could you want?
3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -19
In early January, there was an article on Grantland suggesting that Vucevic could become the next Marc Gasol: a player, perceived to be nothing more than flotsam in a blockbuster trade, that emerges to become a star for a rebuilding franchise. Needless to say, Gasol showed on Sunday night that Vucevic has a lot of work to do if he ever wants to be that good.
4-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 12 PTS | -14
It was a decent game for Moore. He wasn’t connecting on his jump shot, but he made a few layups in transition and converted on some of those patented floaters of his. He also made a couple of nice passes as well, like his alley-oop pass to DeQuan Jones, from just inside half-court on a fast break, during garbage time.
In the first quarter, Afflalo found himself with the ball at the top of the key and the shot clock winding down while being defended by Tony Allen and Gasol. Trapped along the sideline as he dribbled towards the left wing, Afflalo put up a 3-pointer that was blocked by Gasol. That sequence epitomized the difficulty in which the Magic had in trying to score on the Grizzlies defense.
Harkless scoring in double figures is becoming a trend. Since February 19, he’s scored in double figures in each of Orlando’s last eight games and is averaging 14.1 points per game. Many of Harkless’ points against the Grizzlies came in spectacular fashion, like his dunk off an offensive rebound in the second quarter, where he seemingly swooped in from the ceiling after Tobias Harris’ missed corner three.
Despite missing Zach Randolph, who was out with a sprained left ankle, an injury he suffered in their game against the Miami Heat on Friday, Memphis dominated an outmatched Magic team and Gasol was the primary reason why. Gasol piled up a career-high 11 assists, picking apart Orlando’s defense from the high post. Gasol’s passing was exquisite and the Grizzlies flourished offensively because of it.
8-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 18 PTS | -8
After a lackluster performance against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, Vucevic bounced back nicely with a double-double against the Rockets. Vucevic did his usual dirty work on the glass, but what stood out the most was the ease in which he scored on Omer Asik (one of the better defensive big men in the NBA).
Did anyone see this coming? After scoring a career-high 23 points versus the Kings, Harris’ encore performance against Houston was even better. He set new career-highs in points (27) and 3-pointers made (three). No one on the Rockets could contain Harris, who was able to score at will, especially off the dribble. It was a dominant offensive display that was executed in a smooth McGrady-like manner. Pardon the hyperbole.
Afflalo drew the primary assignment of defending James Harden, one of the elite scorers in the league, and did an adequate job of slowing him down as best he could. Harden got his points, but he definitely had to earn them. Given Afflalo’s competitive nature, it made for a fun matchup to watch. Especially in the fourth quarter of a close game.
7-8 FG | 3-3 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 17 PTS | -8
Nicholson missed one shot and made a point per minute. He absolutely destroyed Donatas Motiejunas, riddling him with an array of post moves. The gut reaction is to say that head coach Jacque Vaughn was foolish to not play Nicholson more, something that Magic fans have complained about before. But in this case, Harris was so good, there just wasn’t enough minutes to go around for Nicholson.
If you’ve never watched Houston play this season, you were in for a treat. The Rockets are always a fun team to watch because of their fast-paced, high-scoring nature and laissez-faire attitude about defense. So it should come as no surprise that Houston and Orlando engaged in a thrilling shootout that went down to the wire. Unfortunately for the Magic, they came up short.
2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 4 PTS | -13
It was an extremely underwhelming outing for Vucevic, who was a total non-factor (four points and two rebounds in 22 minutes) in the Magic’s blowout loss to the Kings. You can usually pencil in Vucevic for a double-double in the box score, but every once in a while, he’s capable of putting up a stinker. Tonight was a prime example of that.
Even though Orlando was beaten to a pulp by Sacramento, Harris was a bright spot. He came off the bench for the Magic and scored a career-high 23 points (9-for-12 shooting), doing a majority of his damage offensively at the rim (5-for-7). It’s only been his third game in a Magic uniform, but it’s clear that Harris can play. Look for him to continue getting playing time.
Afflalo’s stat-line closely mirrored his performance from the previous night against the Philadelphia 76ers. The difference this time around was the end result for Orlando. Even though Afflalo scored 15 points, it took him 15 shots to do it (he also committed a team-high six turnovers). A glaring problem is that he isn’t shooting any corner threes — a strength of his — to aid in his efficiency.
Facing off against his former team, Udrih played relatively well considering the circumstances. His jump shot wasn’t falling, but he circumvented the issue by getting to the free-throw line (7-for-7). Something to note: it’s clear that Udrih looks more comfortable running the show at point guard than E’Twaun Moore. Don’t think head coach Jacque Vaughn hasn’t noticed, given that he played the pairing together with Moore off the ball.
It’s ironic that Jason Williams, a former Kings legend and Orlando resident, was in attendance to watch this game because the Kings put on a passing clinic — utilizing a lot of back-cuts and drive-and-kicks. Sacramento isn’t normally known for being a passing team. But against the Magic, the Kings piled up 31 assists on 46 field goals by doing an excellent job of moving the ball.