Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 66

Feb 13

Wednesday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com previews tonight’s game between the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks: “The Hawks have beaten the Magic eight straight times, including twice this season. The Magic lost 81-72 in Atlanta on Dec. 19 and 86-80 in Orlando on Dec. 12. They haven’t beaten Atlanta in a regular-season game since Nov. 8, 2010.”
  • Bradford Doolittle of ESPN Insider suggests a creative way for the Magic to use their $17.8 million trade exception: “Let’s say the Philadelphia 76ers were desperate to get a healthy body because of the injuries to Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson. Bynum has an expiring contract worth $16.9 million this season. Orlando could send Redick to Philly to replace Richardson in the rotation and absorb Bynum with its TPE even though there is more than a $10 million difference in salary. In this scenario, the Sixers would also have to throw in some kind of sweetener, probably a draft pick.”
  • The odds of Nikola Vucevic or Andrew Nicholson winning the MVP in the Rising Stars Challenge are low.
  • A look back at the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest, which was known best for Dwight Howard winning the contest in large part because of his “Superman” dunk.

Feb 11

Recap: Orlando Magic 110, Portland Trail Blazers 104

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BOX SCORE

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Finally.

The Magic didn’t just pull out a win, finally snapping a season-high 12-game losing streak. More than that, they won a game in convincing fashion. They led for the majority of the game, more or less, once J.J. Redick checked into the game in the first quarter.

And what’s more, the outstanding performance of Gustavo Ayon off the bench is a welcome development and hopefully something he (and the team) can build on. Ayon stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists.

Just as he did when the Magic lost in overtime in Portland in early January, Redick was the catalyst for the Magic’s offense on Sunday. He was the most consistent shooter on the floor for either team and stayed in the game after appearing to re-aggravate his shoulder. He picked up five assists to go along with Jameer Nelson’s career-high 15 dimes.

Much of Orlando’s scoring took place inside (60 points in the paint). Granted, the Blazers have been one of the worst interior defensive teams all season, so I’m not sure how much to read into the strong performances by the Magic’s bigs.

But the story was Ayon, who played his best game in a Magic uniform. He was the second-most reliable weapon offensively outside of Redick. Nikola Vucevic outperformed J.J. Hickson at both ends of the floor, and Kyle O’Quinn and Andrew Nicholson were efficient in shorter minutes.

Nelson (4-for-18) and Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (1-for-16) both had horrific shooting nights, but the Magic’s balanced offensive attack mitigated this more than Portland’s did.

Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews scored efficiently for Portland, but while LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 25 points, it took him 21 shots to do it.

The key to the Magic’s success was limiting Lillard’s effectiveness and it paid dividends.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

J.J. Redick overcame a shoulder injury scare late in the second quarter and powered the Magic’s offense from end-to-end, finishing with 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting and five assists.

X-Factor

Second-chance points and offensive rebounding. The two teams pulled down the same number of defensive rebounds (33), but Orlando dominated the offensive glass, outrebounding Portland 17-5. They won the second-chance points battle 15-6.

That was … Tantilizing

Gustavo Ayon finally started to show some of the promise that caused Rob Hennigan to trade Ryan Anderson for him. He turned in his best game in a Magic uniform, finishing with a double-double.

Feb 10

Andrew Nicholson to replace Andre Drummond in 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge

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Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic was named to the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge to be played Friday, Orlando Magic forward Andrew Nicholson will replace injured Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (back) on TEAM SHAQ in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. A 6-9 rookie forward out of St. Bonaventure, Nicholson is averaging 7.6 points and 3.5 rebounds.

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic was named to the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge to be played Friday, Nicholson will join Orlando teammate Nikola Vucevic in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. Vucevic will be playing on TEAM CHUCK.

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic was named to the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge to be played Friday, This marks the second straight year rookies and sophomores will be mixed together on teams. Last year in Orlando, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving netted a game-high 34 points and MVP honors as he led TEAM CHUCK over TEAM SHAQ 146-133.

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic was named to the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge to be played Friday, The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge will be will be played Friday, Feb. 15, in Houston and televised live nationally on TNT at 9 p.m. ET and also will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio, while NBA.com will make live audio available to fans in multiple languages.

Feb 10

Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Portland Trail Blazers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: February 10, 2013
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Trail Blazers: 25-25
  • Magic: 14-36

Probable starters

Trail Blazers:

  • Damian Lillard
  • Wesley Matthews
  • Nicolas Batum
  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • J.J. Hickson

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Trail Blazers:

  • Pace: 91.1 (20th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.0 (13th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.3 (22nd of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.4 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.3 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.7 (24th of 30)

Read about the Blazers

Portland Roundball Society

Feb 09

Recap: Cleveland Cavaliers 119, Orlando Magic 108

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AP Photo/Mark Duncan

BOX SCORE

At this point in the season, wins and losses don’t matter for the Orlando Magic. Even though the Cleveland Cavaliers extended the Magic’s losing streak to a season-high 12 games, what matters more for Orlando is player development.

Players like Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson — the future of the Magic — had standout performances against the Cavaliers. Vucevic finished with a career-high 25 points to go along with 13 rebounds, while Nicholson had 21 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks.

Vucevic got off to a quick start in the first quarter with 11 points and six rebounds. Matched up primarily against Tyler Zeller, Vucevic did whatever he wanted offensively. Whether it was Vucevic scoring on a layup in a pick-and-roll with Jameer Nelson, a lefty hook in the paint, or converting a traditional three-point play on an offensive rebound putback, it became clear that Zeller was outmatched.

The trend continued throughout the game, as Vucevic did whatever he wanted offensively against Zeller (and Marreese Speights on occasion). Lefty hooks? Righty hooks? Midrange jumpers? Offensive rebound putbacks? No problem.

Would Vucevic had put up this type of performance against Anderson Varejao? Probably not. Regardless, Vucevic displayed his full potential on offense, though he has a lot of work to do to become a net positive defensively.

As for Nicholson, his silky smooth jumper and refined post game was working in unison. Like Vucevic, Nicholson showed what he’s capable of offensively.

It’s games like these that make Magic fans wonder why he wasn’t getting more playing time before Glen Davis went down with a potentially season-ending injury. Now that Davis is hurt and Nicholson is starting at power forward out of necessity, perhaps now that question can be put to rest.

Perhaps the most encouraging development from this game was how well Nicholson and Vucevic looked together on offense. Because they both can operate either from the low post (on either block) or from midrange (at the elbows), you rarely, if ever, see them get into each other’s way offensively.
And it helps that Vucevic is a capable high-post passer.

The pairing needs to improve on defense, but it’s hard not to be impressed with how they performed on offense. And when you take into account Maurice Harkless’ slow but steady progress, the Magic fanbase may be getting a glimpse at the frontcourt of the future.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Kyrie Irving (24 points, eight assists, and six rebounds) was his usual sterling self. When the game got tight late as Orlando tried to mount a comeback, Irving shut the door in crunch time.

That Was … More of the Same

Another game, another loss. The Magic have now lost 23 of their last 25 games since a surprising 12-13 start to the season. Seems like yesterday people were talking about the playoffs.

Feb 08

Preview: Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Date: February 8, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Quicken Loans Arena

Records

  • Magic: 14-35
  • Cavaliers: 15-34

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Josh McRoberts
  • Nikola Vucevic

Cavaliers:

  • Kyrie Irving
  • Dion Waiters
  • Alonzo Gee
  • Tristan Thompson
  • Tyler Zeller

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.3 (18th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.0 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.4 (25th of 30)

Cavaliers:

  • Pace: 92.3 (10th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.1 (17th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.0 (27th of 30)

Read about the Cavaliers

Cavs: The Blog

Feb 07

3-on-3 roundtable: Which Magic player should be traded?

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Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

With the trade deadline steadily approaching and the rumor mill continuing to churn, it remains to be seen if J.J. Redick or any other player for the Orlando Magic gets moved (if Glen Davis was healthy, his name would be listed below).

With the Magic (14-35) mired in a season-high 11-game losing streak and having lost 22 of their last 24 games, it should be no surprise that veterans on a rebuilding team are linked to trade rumors. Players like Redick are best served playing for a contender.

But which players for the Magic should be traded? Magic Basketball investigates.

Keep him or trade him: J.J. Redick

Nate Drexler: Keep him. Sure, he’s the most likely trade piece because every contender would love to have him. But how will that benefit Orlando? Redick is a staple in Orlando and the Magic aren’t going to be this bad forever. I would love to see him finish his career here.

Sean Highkin: Trade him. Redick has been the Magic’s best player this season by a considerable distance, but he’s in the final year of his contract and re-signing him will likely interfere with the rebuilding timeline Rob Hennigan has mapped out. There are plenty of teams who could use him and the Magic should be able to at least get a first round pick in return.

Noam Schiller: Trade him. Redick very well may be the team’s best player at the moment, but his deal is up this summer. If he’s not traded, the Magic could lose him for nothing. A team so early in the asset-gathering stage can’t afford that.

Keep him or trade him: Jameer Nelson

Drexler: Keep him. You can’t take the floor general out of the equation at this point. He sells tickets, the fans love him, and there’s not really a great option for a back-up point guard if you let him go. His age is a question too, as it will limit what you might get in return. While he’s invaluable to the Magic, he might not carry that same worth in a different city.

Highkin: Keep him. By default. If anyone is willing to take his contract off the Magic’s hands, then by all means. But he’s in the first year of a three-year contract that doesn’t become unguaranteed until the final year. He’ll be more valuable at next year’s deadline than this one.

Schiller: Keep him. I was opposed to the Nelson contract when they gave it, especially when the team wouldn’t pay Ryan Anderson. But there is literally no other serviceable point guard on the roster other than Jameer. He could probably net more value next year when that partially guaranteed third year is closer.

Keep him or trade him: Arron Afflalo

Drexler: Trade him. You could get some good value for Afflalo and his contributions on the court are limited. He’s one of those value guys that I could see multiple teams being interested in. If you could grab a piece or two for the price of one, then I say go for it.

Highkin: Trade him. Afflalo is a good player, but he’s one of the few on a long-term contract on the roster. He’s not so valuable to the Magic that they couldn’t move him for a rookie-scale talent or a pick if the opportunity presented itself.

Schiller: Keep him. If a good deal comes up, go for it. However, like Nelson, teams trying to acquire Afflalo would ask for a discount because of the length of his contract. Orlando should be in with this rebuild for the long haul — there’s no need to saddle themselves with artificial deadlines.

Feb 06

Recap: Los Angeles Clippers 86, Orlando Magic 76

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AP Photo/John Raoux

BOX SCORE

It was a C-list type of night in Orlando and the Magic proved that, despite key injuries on both sides, they are capable of losing in almost any circumstance.

Jameer Nelson was “the plan” for Orlando and that plan got squelched for the entire second half, leading the Magic to their 35th loss of the season.

At halftime, Nelson said that he needed to value the ball a little bit more. What he should have said was, “If we’re going to win this game, it’s going to be because I score 40 points.” Nelson ended the first half with 18 points, three assists, and three rebounds. He didn’t score at all in the second half.

For Nelson, “valuing the ball” probably changes from night to night and from season to season. A year ago, it might have meant making sure Dwight Howard got 60 touches. Earlier this season, it might have meant penetrating and finding J.J. Redick or Arron Afflalo on the perimeter.

But in a game where five Magic players, including Redick, Afflalo and Glen Davis, were injured and sitting on the bench, valuing the ball meant keeping the ball in his own hands.

The Clippers, even without their stars, are a good team. And a good team knows how to adjust at halftime. In this game, the only adjustment was silencing Nelson.

Sean Highkin pointed out that the Magic tend to lose games in the first and fourth quarters. But against the Clips, because Nelson — the only Magic threat — was neutralized in the second half with a trapping defense, Orlando really lost this game in the third quarter. Nelson didn’t score in the third and the Magic were outscored 24-13.

The rest was, as they say, history, as there was no other real scoring option for Orlando.

Fans might have viewed this game as a wash. No stars, no implications, and once again, no win for the Magic.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Despite being silenced in the second half, Jameer asserted himself offensively in the first half. Without his presence, the Magic would have been blown out by a team full of bench players from Los Angeles.

Defining Moment

In the third quarter, the Clippers adjusted, trapped Nelson, and challenged Orlando to beat them with other options. Orlando couldn’t and after surrendering 11 points in the third, the Magic limped into another loss.

That Was … Like Watching a D-League Game

It’s hard enough to watch the Magic these days. When an elite team comes into town and their stars are wearing suits on the bench, it gets even harder. Just another day in the office for Orlando, though, notching their 35th loss of the season.

Feb 06

Preview: Los Angeles Clippers at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Los Angeles Clippers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: February 6, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Clippers: 34-16
  • Magic: 14-34

Probable starters

Clippers:

  • Eric Bledsoe
  • Willie Green
  • Caron Butler
  • Lamar Odom
  • DeAndre Jordan

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • E’Twaun Moore
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Josh McRoberts
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Clippers:

  • Pace: 91.7 (14th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 109.1 (5th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.0 (5th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.3 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.5 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.7 (25th of 30)

Read about the Clippers

ClipperBlog

Feb 06

Anatomy of a losing stretch

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Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

As Noam Schiller noted on Tuesday, a big reason for Orlando’s recent losing stretch is because they’ve regressed badly defensively. The Magic went from having a top 10 defense in the first month and a half of the season to having one of the worst defenses in the NBA.

As January bleeds into February, the losses for the Magic are continuing to pile up and grow more indistinguishable. It’s not just that the team is losing — and boy, are they ever losing. They’re sitting at 14-34 on the season and have lost 21 of their last 23 games.

But beyond just the loss column, they’re losing in the same way over and over. They get down big in the first quarter, make a run in the middle two periods, and then collapse down the stretch.

Their quarter-by-quarter splits bear this out. Orlando’s downfall has been in the two bookend periods since this stretch of futility began on December 21. They have been outscored by 9.5 points per 100 possessions in the first quarters of games and 12.1 points per 100 possessions in fourth quarters, per NBA.com. The middle two quarters are not exactly encouraging (net ratings of -6.5 and -8.0, respectively), but they’re still noticeably less the cause of the damage than the first or fourth quarters.

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Down the stretch in particular, the Magic’s efficiency has fallen off a cliff in the last 23 games.

This drop is most striking in looking at the three-point splits. The Magic have attempted more threes per game in fourth quarters than in any of the first three periods during this stretch and the drop-off is stunning.

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