Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 68

Dec 24

J.J. Redick the playmaker

For years, J.J. Redick was known as just a shooter and for good reason. At Duke, Redick tortured opponents with his deadly marksmanship, setting an NCAA record for most three-point field goals made during his four-year tenure as a Blue Devil. When Redick took his talents to the NBA, he continued to show off his shooting prowess.

Then something funny happened. In between his rookie season with Brian Hill and his final season with Stan Van Gundy, the scouting report on Redick became outdated. “Redick the shooter” had evolved into “Redick the playmaker.”

In the early stages of his career in the league, Redick’s offense was generated mainly by him spotting up on the perimeter or coming off screens for catch-and-shoot opportunities. That’s how Redick made his living in his first few seasons with the Orlando Magic.

The problem was that Redick wasn’t really going anywhere in the NBA as strictly a shooter. Redick wasn’t getting much playing time under Hill and Van Gundy and people were openly wondering if he was going to go from being a lottery pick to a flameout. For Redick to survive, and ultimately thrive, in the NBA, he needed to expand his boundaries and become much more than just a shooter.

So Redick did.

Redick became well-versed in the art of the pick-and-roll, which fueled his breakout season in 2010. Redick began to understand the little nuances of NBA offenses — making dribble penetration a regular part of his offensive diet — and how they can be manipulated to his advantage. Redick showed remarkable improvement in his passing — he’s no Steve Nash, but watching Redick make pocket passes is a real treat.

In other words, Redick turned into a playmaker.

And this season for the Magic, under head coach Jacque Vaughn, Redick’s playmaking ability has been relied upon more than at any other point in his career. Case in point: Redick has the highest usage rate of his career right now (21.5 percent) and his assist numbers have gone way up compared to previous years — his assist percentage (25.8 percent) and assists per game (4.9) are both career-highs.

The following is a breakdown of Redick’s playmaking ability.

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Pocket passing

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On this possession, Orlando runs a staggered 2/4 pick-and-roll with Redick, Arron Afflalo, and Andrew Nicholson.

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Dec 24

Recap: Utah Jazz 97, Orlando Magic 93

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AP Photo/Scott Iskowitz

BOX SCORE

In a 93-90 loss against the Toronto Raptors on Friday, the Orlando Magic shot themselves in the foot by committing 18 turnovers. In a game decided by one possession, turnovers played a large role in the defeat.

You would think that Orlando had learned their lesson heading into Sunday’s game against the Utah Jazz, but apparently not. Like the Toronto game, the Magic outshot and outrebounded their opponent by a wide margin but they were doomed by turnovers — 19 to be exact.

Orlando raced out to an early 16-point lead thanks to a combination of crisp offensive execution and porous defense by the Jazz.

Arron Afflalo, in particular, was red hot offensively, making six of his first seven field goal attempts for 13 points. Afflalo was making jumpers all over the court — free-throw line extended, along the left baseline, and from the right wing. It’s safe to say that Kendrick Lamar, had he been watching the game (maybe he was), would have been jealous of Afflalo.

With Afflalo doing no wrong and the offense humming, the stage was set for the Magic to blow the game wide open. That didn’t happen. Instead, Afflalo and Orlando bogged down offensively in the second quarter. Afflalo missed all five of his shot attempts in the period, while the turnover bug bit the Magic.

Orlando committed seven turnovers in the second quarter (Utah committed one), which opened the door for the Jazz to get back in the game. Utah did just that. The Jazz’s second unit, led by Derrick Favors, erased a 16-point deficit in short order.

As a result, from the waning moments of the second quarter to the end of the game, the Magic found themselves in a dog fight. And ultimately, Utah won the fight with a little help from Orlando and Gustavo Ayon.

With the Magic trailing 95-93 with 2.4 seconds left, Ayon found himself at the free-throw line after he was fouled by Randy Foye. That came after Ayon found himself wide open under the basket, but was unable to get a clean look at a layup, as Orlando frantically tried to tie the game. Unfortunately for Ayon, he missed both free-throws, which allowed the Jazz to quell the comeback and seal the victory.

It’s easy to pin the blame for the Magic’s loss on Ayon’s missed free-throws. But the fact of the matter is that Orlando had a 16-point lead against Utah and blew it mainly because of 19 turnovers.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Gordon Hayward came off the bench and provided a big lift for the Jazz (17 points on 7-for-10 shooting). Hayward made a key block on Afflalo’s step-back jumper late in the game as Utah was clinging to a 92-90 lead. 

Defining Moment

After Paul Millsap made one of two free-throws to put the Jazz up 95-93, on the ensuing possession, Ayon was fouled after finding himself wide open under the basket. However, Ayon missed both free-throws and Utah held on to win. 

That Was … Late-Game Drama

After being down by as many as 16 points early in the second quarter, the Jazz escaped with a 97-93 victory in a tightly contested game. Crunch time consisted of clutch baskets, missed free-throws, and some ugly turnovers. 

Dec 23

Preview: Utah Jazz at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Utah Jazz at Orlando Magic
  • Date: December 23, 2012
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Jazz: 14-14
  • Magic: 12-14

Probable starters

Jazz:

  • Jamaal Tinsley
  • Randy Foye
  • Marvin Williams
  • Paul Millsap
  • Al Jefferson

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Gustavo Ayon
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Jazz:

  • Pace: 91.3 (20th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 106.8 (11th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.4 (24th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.3 (11th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.1 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.7 (6th of 30)

Read about the Jazz

Salt City Hoops

Dec 22

Recap: Toronto Raptors 93, Orlando Magic 90

Screen Shot 2012-12-22 at 2.43.34 PM

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jesse Johnston

BOX SCORE

For a good chunk of the game, the Toronto Raptors were in control against the Orlando Magic. As has been his custom during the Raptors’ winning streak, Jose Calderon quarterbacked the offense while Toronto got enough help from the supporting cast — including a surprising contribution from rookie Terrence Ross (13 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the floor including two thunderous dunks).

The Magic further helped the Raptors’ cause by not taking care of the basketball. Orlando committed 18 turnovers for the game. By comparison, Toronto had nine turnovers. So even though Orlando outshot and outrebounded the Raptors by a wide margin, turnovers proved to be their undoing.

The crazy part is that this game was there for the taking for the Magic despite the turnovers.

With 4:13 left in the game and Toronto leading 91-80, Orlando went on a 10-0 run to pull themselves within one.

Arron Afflalo, who had one of his best games of the season with a James Harden-esque 26 points on 11 shots, kicked things off by breaking down Alan Anderson off the dribble, making a layup plus drawing a foul, and converting a traditional three-point play.

A little bit later, Gustavo Ayon kept the run going by making an offensive rebound putback, then drawing a foul himself with the Magic in the bonus and making two free-throws.

Then with less than a minute to go, Jameer Nelson made a three-pointer at the top of the key with Calderon draped over him. Nelson can thank the jab-step he took, just before launching the three-point shot, for creating enough space for him to get a clean shot off.

After two Amir Johnson free-throws gave the Raptors a 93-90 lead with 42.6 seconds left, Orlando had a chance to cut their deficit to one or tie the game. But Ayon committed a turnover after he was unable to catch a difficult pass from Redick, who dribble penetrated and tried to make a dump-off pass to Ayon in traffic. Yet a foolish decision by DeMar DeRozan gave the Magic another chance.

Rather than run out the clock and leave Orlando with very little time left, DeRozan took an ill-advised contested jumper with 14.3 seconds left and seven seconds left on the shot clock.

Unfortunately for Orlando, they were unable to capitalize. Redick missed a long three-pointer from the right wing on a sideline out-of-bounds play with former Magic teammate Mickael Pietrus contesting the shot. Orlando was able to get the offensive rebound with about five seconds left, but Nelson committed a turnover before the Magic could get another shot off.

A fitting way to end the game for Orlando — their four-game winning streak snapped.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

A number of Magic players had solid performances. Afflalo was uber-efficient and Nikola Vucevic (16 points and 12 rebounds) and Ayon had double-doubles (12 points and 13 rebounds). But at the end of the night, it wasn’t enough.

X-Factor

In Orlando’s first game of the season decided by three points or less, 18 turnovers proved to be their downfall. It’s appropriate that, on the last two possessions of the game, the Magic ended both of them with turnovers.

Dec 21

Preview: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors
  • Date: December 21, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Air Canada Centre

Records

  • Magic: 12-13
  • Raptors: 8-19

Probable starters

Magic:

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

Raptors:

  • Jose Calderon
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Mickael Pietrus
  • Ed Davis
  • Jonas Valanciunas

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.4 (8th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.0 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.5 (6th of 30)

Raptors:

  • Pace: 91.0 (22nd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.8 (18th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.7 (26th of 30)

Read about the Raptors

Raptors Republic

Dec 21

Friday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • “Can the Orlando Magic actually make the playoffs?” That’s the headline of today’s profile on the Magic by Zach Lowe of Grantland — a must-read. Lowe lists three trends that suggest Orlando has a chance to reach the postseason. Here’s one of them: “Orlando’s own fantastic defense. The Magic, having lost Dwight Howard and a defensive mastermind coach in Stan Van Gundy, rank sixth in points allowed per possession. Each member of of last year’s top-10 overall in that category made the postseason, and 91 of 100 such teams did so in the last 10 seasons. It’s very hard to miss the playoffs with a top-10 defense. They’ve been even better since getting Nelson back, re-jiggering their rotation, and getting better minutes from Nikola Vucevic, Gustavo Ayon, and some other unheralded pieces; over their last 10 games, the Magic have given up just 95.2 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would top the league for the season.”
  • Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated: “After winning four in a row, Orlando is just one game away from the No. 8 seed in the East. (For those scoring at home, Howard and the Lakers trail the West’s No. 8 seed by 1.5 games.) If the Magic are serious about the playoffs, they’ll need to do something to improve their offense, which ranks 29th in points per possession and just lost co-leading scorer Glen Davis for 4-6 weeks with a dislocated shoulder — another blow given that Al Harrington and Hedo Turkoglu remain out indefinitely.”
  • Reactions from head coach Jacque Vaughn and J.J. Redick on Glen Davis’ injury (sprained left shoulder).
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Magic coach Jacque Vaughn wouldn’t reveal after Friday morning’s shootaround whom he will start for injured power forward Glen Davis, but rookie Andrew Nicholson might get the call. Shooting guard J.J. Redick sounded as if Nicholson would face the Toronto Raptors tonight, making his first pro start. No matter if he starts or not, he will need to be a factor.”

Dec 21

The early returns on Nikola Vucevic

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

As the 2012-13 Magic were tipping off, I named the performance of Nikola Vucevic as one of the five biggest questions for Orlando this upcoming season.

Vucevic was given the inside track to the Magic’s starting center position almost by default and cemented his status as the team’s man in the middle with a strong preseason. But after his rookie season in Philadelphia consisted of two opposite poles of play, the Magic couldn’t be sure which Vucevic they were getting.

Well, the early returns from Vucevic have been similar to those of the entire squad — wildly encouraging. Vucevic has sustained many of his rookie season strengths while either improving or going away from his weaknesses. He’s been a huge cog in Orlando’s offense as a passer in the high post and looks like a mainstay within the Vucevic-Nicholson-Harkless frontcourt core.

The first thing that jumps out of the page with Vucevic is his rebounding numbers, which were a strength last season as well. Vucevic is snaring 24.6 percent of all available defensive rebounds, which ranks him 14th in the league, and has been a huge part of Orlando excelling on that end. He complements that mark with an offensive rebound percentage of 11.1 percent. Any way you look at it, Vucevic is one of the league’s prime rebounders: he’s 15th in the league with a total rebound percentage of 18.1 percent (right behind Dwight Howard ironically enough) and 15th in rebounds per game at 9.5 rebounds per game.

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Dec 21

#ORLrank 3: Tracy McGrady

Capture

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

 

G MP PER VORP WARP WS/82
2002-2003 75 2954 30.3 8.55 23.5 17.6
Tracy McGrady’s best season with the Magic

 
Earlier this month, a video emerged of Tracy McGrady elbowing a player in the chest during a Chinese Basketball Association game. It was a fitting peep into where McGrady stands at this point of his career: distant from both mind and heart, violently clinging on to a shred of our consciousness for the wrong reasons.

At the tender age of 32, when most superstars are gracefully descending into a final chapter, T-Mac is already years removed from relevance, for all intents and purposes a basketball pariah.

The expectation game is a fickle and cruel one, one which McGrady has clearly lost. His immense talent raised the bar to heights that only few have ever reached and McGrady couldn’t clear it for whatever reason — his bad back, his bad teammates, his bad psyche, whichever one you choose. He couldn’t even get close. For all intents and purposes, history will look back at McGrady’s career as a “could have, should have, wasn’t” ordeal.

Which is a shame because that misses the point entirely. Yes, T-Mac didn’t win rings or even a single playoff series; yes, his prime ended so swiftly that there wasn’t even a farewell tour, just an immediate disconnect; yes, he wasn’t everything that he should have been. But these points are irrelevant.

In 40 years, when we are feeble and old and our grandchildren demand stories of the greats, we won’t wax poetic about consistency throughout 10-year stretches. What sticks with our memory over all is singular points of transcendence, those special nights when something just goes right for a guy who happens to be on television as we go ballistic on our couch.

And for that short, marvelous period that was Tracy McGrady in an Orlando uniform, those experiences came nightly. The man had a control over the game of basketball that was virtually unparalleled, one that was enhanced by his nonchalant demeanor and those darn eyelids that looked like he was asleep at all times.

M.J. and Kobe worked maniacally to be at the points where they would overwhelm the opposition; Shaq bothered to be in shape for that one special 1999-00 season; Duncan was always smarter; Magic and Bird clearly loved and cared about the game more than anything else.

But with McGrady, transcendence was inherent and almost coincidental, like a guy who just woke up and happened to step in a pool of divinity before he put his socks on, cursing about how his feet got wet while proceeding about his way in reluctant magnificence.

That 2002-03 campaign was as dominant a statistical campaign as we’ve seen. The man was the beginning, middle and end of everything the Magic did. The raw numbers (32.3 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, and 5.5 assists per game) and the advanced stats (a 30.3 Player Efficiency Rating, one of just 8 players to cross the 30 threshold in PER, and a True Shooting percentage of 56.4 percent) are mind-blowing even without the YouTube archives. It had to be watched to be believed. He was a unique combination of other-worldly athleticism and every single skill the basketball court offers.

He was special. So inherently special that he couldn’t put forth the effort to maximize that skill-set, so good just by walking into the gym that he couldn’t put in the work to translate his gift into the accolades by which common perception measures greatness.

And then the guy, whose best teammates were a constantly injured Grant Hill and a declining Darrell Armstrong, loses to the Pistons in the first round of the 2003 NBA Playoffs after expressing relief that “it feels good to get in the second round” after going up 3-1 in the series. Then the guy’s body breaks down and he’s a failure for eternity. It’s fair, given the results-oriented nature of our society. It’s also completely misplaced.

It is impossible to separate greatness from wins, but it is impossible to use any other adjective to describe whatever it was that Tracy McGrady was doing through his short prime. McGrady’s own talents reached such magnitudes that they overblew what he had to accomplish to outgrow his own shadow; at that, he failed. Miserably so.

It doesn’t matter. He was transcendent all the same.

Voter breakdown for Tracy McGrady

Drexler Highkin Rivera Schiller Scribbins
Scale (1-to-10) 3 3 1 2 2
Average rank: 2.2

What is #ORLrank?

Magic Basketball ranks the top 10 players in Magic franchise history. #ORLrank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

You can also follow along here: @erivera7

How did we rank the players?

Five MBN writers ranked each player 1-to-10, in terms of the quality of each player.

Thanks to Daniel Myers, Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference, and Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus for contributing to the project.

Dec 20

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • According to Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus, the Orlando Magic have been the best team in the Eastern Conference in the month of December. Confused? Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post explains: “Orlando’s adjusted scoring differential, which accounts for strength of schedule, of plus-4.4 in December ranks it sixth in the league and first in the East.”
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has a status update on Glen Davis, who was injured in last night’s game against the Washington Wizards. In short, Davis has a sprained left shoulder, he won’t need surgery, and a timetable for his return is to be determined.
  • Who will replace Davis in the starting lineup? Dunlap makes an educated guess: “None of Vaughn’s options to replace Davis is ideal, but the view here is that starting Nicholson is the right choice. As an offensively minded player, he gives the Magic the best lineup continuity in Davis’ absence, and he also happens to be a terrific prospect who will only improve with more playing time. However, I expect Vaughn will call upon McRoberts, at least ceremonially, much in the same way Harkless starts but games but only logs about 18 minutes per.”
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com thinks Davis could be out 4-6 weeks.
  • With a win against the Wizards, which brings them closer to .500 at 12-13, the Magic continue to exceed expectations.

Dec 20

Recap: Orlando Magic 90, Washington Wizards 83

Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 11.20.49 PM

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

After a competitive first quarter, the Orlando Magic were able to cruise to their season-high fourth consecutive win with a 90-83 victory against the Washington Wizards. And the Magic have J.J. Redick and E’Twaun Moore to thank for that.

For Redick, it’s not puzzling that he played well. Redick is one of the best sixth men in the NBA, given that he’s an excellent shooter, underrated playmaker, and heady defender. What’s puzzling is that the Wizards, a good defensive team (ranked 13th in Defensive Rating heading into Wednesday’s game), didn’t make life difficult for Redick.

Redick shot 5-for-9 from the floor (4-for-5 from three-point range) for 17 points.

Redick buried a barrage of three-point shots — several of them came off of screen-and-curls. On one of Redick’s three-pointers, Gustavo Ayon set a pin-down screen and Redick curled around the screen for a catch-and-shoot opportunity off a pass from Moore. On another of Redick’s three-pointers, he received a handoff pass from Ayon, curled around the screen, took one dribble, and shot the ball in rhythm.

Quite frankly, Washington’s guards did a horrendous job of defending Redick in screen-and-curls and he made them pay dearly for their incompetence.

As for Moore, he did a nice job of mixing it up offensively — scoring mainly by spotting up on the perimeter and dribble penetrating into the lane. As a point guard, Moore is still a work in progress but as a scoring guard, he already has the tools to be effective.

Even though Redick and Moore were bright spots coming off the bench to lead Orlando to a win that brings them closer to .500 at 12-13, it wasn’t all roses against the Wizards. Late in the game, Glen Davis injured his left shoulder as he went up for a shot and was fouled by Emeka Okafor with 47.8 seconds remaining. Davis fell to the ground in severe pain and had to be taken back to the locker room.

The Magic fear Davis dislocated his left shoulder, but the extent of the injury won’t be known until an MRI is done on Thursday.

It’s a shame that the game had to end on a sour note for Orlando against lowly Washington, but them’s the breaks.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Redick has been the Magic’s best player all season long and tonight was no different. Redick gave Orlando a nice lift off the bench, finishing with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting from the floor (4-for-6 from three-point range).

X-Factor

The Magic’s starting backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo could not get anything going offensively against the Wizards. Luckily for Orlando, their back-ups — Moore and Redick — were able to pick up the slack.

That Was … Ugly

Afflalo (15 points on 6-for-18 shooting) and Davis (12 points on 6-for-18 shooting) were not models of efficiency on offense. They both put up a lot of shots with little to show for it in the box score.

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