Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 69

Dec 17

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Minnesota Timberwolves at Orlando Magic
  • Date: December 17, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Timberwolves: 12-9
  • Magic: 10-13

Probable starters

Timberwolves:

  • Luke Ridnour
  • Alexey Shved
  • Andrei Kirilenko
  • Kevin Love
  • Nikola Pekovic

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Timberwolves:

  • Pace: 91.9 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.8 (16th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.5 (5th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.3 (12th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 99.8 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.2 (8th of 30)

Read about the Timberwolves

A Wolf Among Wolves

Dec 17

Monday’s Magic Word

  • In December, the Orlando Magic have owned the top defense in the NBA.
  • The Magic earn kudos for handing the Golden State Warriors their lone loss on their six-game East Coast road trip.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “Don’t tell anyone, but coach Jacque Vaughn has [the Magic] playing really good defense lately. That’s how they beat the Warriors this week when the Heat couldn’t.”
  • A look at how J.J. Redick got a wide open layup against the Warriors on Friday.
  • Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio (who recently returned from a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee), and the Minnesota Timberwolves face off against Orlando in tonight’s game.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel with a status update on Arron Afflalo: “Afflalo tweaked his right knee in the closing minutes of the Magic’s win Saturday night in Charlotte but returned to the court shortly afterward. Afflalo, the Magic’s leading scorer, hasn’t experienced any setbacks since.”
  • Jameer Nelson plays a prank on the Magic rookies.
  • Will Orlando try to sign J.J. Redick to a long-term contract?
  • More from Robbins, who thinks Redick is pulling a prank of his own: “Call me skeptical, but something tells me that J.J. Redick is perpetrating another prank on the all-too-gullible sports media corps. Redick said today he plans pull a page out of pro rassler Ric Flair’s repertoire and adopt Flair’s signature “wooo!” when he makes key 3-pointers from now on.”

Dec 17

Revisiting the Glen Davis-Brandon Bass trade

Capture

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been a year since Brandon Bass was shipped out of Orlando for Glen Davis (and Von Wafer) and already the circumstances around the trade have changed dramatically.

Davis was acquired, in part, to appease Dwight Howard, who is no longer with the Magic. Davis and Howard are friends dating back to their AAU days. Last year, former general manager Otis Smith was criticized for giving Davis a four-year, $26 million contract opposite Bass’ expiring deal, but Bass then signed a three-year, $20 million deal with Boston during the offseason, which pretty much equates the salary both big men will be pocketing over the next three seasons.

This means that one year later, with a large enough sample size, we can make an attempt to ditch context and compare the players for nothing but their abilities.

On offense, Bass has adapted well to Boston’s Rajon-Rondo-and-long-twos system. This year, Bass takes half of his shots from 16-23 feet and makes 47 percent of them on 4.2 attempts per game, an elite figure that makes him a perfect outlet for Rondo’s penetration. Bass rarely strays away from this role — he rarely registers assists (“no pass Bass” anyone?) or turnovers and nearly 90 percent of those midrange jumpers are assisted.

Bass does gets to the rim just enough to force opponents to respect his driving skills and converts if he’s sent to the line, but at this point, offensively, he is the embodiment of a pseudo-stretch four. While there are strengths in that, it has also caused his efficiency to drop dramatically from his earlier days in Dallas and Orlando. After four straight seasons with a Player Efficiency Rating around 16 and a True Shooting percentage in the high 50s, those marks have dropped to 14.1 and 52.4 percent in his first Boston season and are now down to 11.4 and 49.6 percent so far this season.

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Dec 16

Recap: Orlando Magic 107, Charlotte Bobcats 98

Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 12.33.20 PM

Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

For the Orlando Magic, Saturday night was a prime example of what is good, what can go wrong, and how to preserve the latter when faced with adversity.

Early on, the offense was clicking, the ball was moving, and life was sublime. This included your usual suspects such as Jameer Nelson breaking the Bobcat defense off the dribble, Nikola Vucevic setting up shop in the post and finding open cutters, and just general good effort from J.J. Redick.

That being said, there really was a team-wide commitment to finding the open man. It got Baby (20 points, 7-for-11 shooting) and Afflalo (20 as well, 8-for-14) good looks off the move, it got Redick countless open threes (though he only went 3-for-9), and it got Vuce and Nicholson wide open under the basket.

Perhaps the best part, though, was that we finally caught a glimpse of New Orleans Gustavo Ayon. Ayon is clearly a player who thrives when the ball is crisply going from man to man — he’s an excellent passer from the high post and is at his best as a scorer when he gets the ball moving towards the basket. All of these were on display late in the first and early in the second, when Ayon found Redick off a gorgeous backdoor cut, Nicholson down low with a touch pass, and got a nice layup in semi-transition off a good look from E’Twaun Moore.

All in all, the offense was a joy to watch. The Magic scored 119 points in 90 possessions and that figure could have easily been higher if the Magic shot a bit better from three. Orlando went 5-for-17 on the night, including missing 7 straight at one point — a lot of which were good looks for Redick.

And yet, the Magic almost gave this game away because they couldn’t contain dribble penetration. Give or take a few post-ups for Byron Mullens and Bismack Biyombo, most of which went badly, Charlotte’s entire offense was based on the ability of guys like Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions, and Gerald Henderson to get to the rim. The Bobcats constantly did so, both in transition, where they scored 23 points off 14 Orlando turnovers, and in the half-court. Walker was the main catalyst here, torching both Nelson and Moore en route to a career-high 32 points. The Bobcats also used this to get to the line 29 times, even getting Nelson into a rare bout of foul trouble that forced Orlando to go to Moore as their only ball handler early in the fourth quarter.

Eventually, though, the Magic persevered.

Charlotte, now losers of 11 straight, isn’t a very talented team, but every win counts both in the standings and for the psyche of a young team such as Orlando. Games such as these, where everybody contributed to a good team effort (even Harkless, who was mostly non-existent on offense, pulled his weight defensively, including an insane block of a mid-air Michael Kidd-Gilchrist jumper), are important going forward.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Walker was scorching from inside, outside, and all around. He got his teammates involved early, with 7 assists through the first three quarters, and went to work on his own when it was needed, scoring 12 in the fourth. All in all, 32 and 7 for the second-year guard.

Defining Moment

After five quick points by Walker put the Bobcats up 93-92 with 4:07 left, the Magic didn’t allow another point until Biyombo’s dunk with 1:15 remaining in the game. In those three minutes, the Magic scored eight points of their own to seal the deal.

That Was … Scary

As he was defending a Gerald Henderson drive, Arron Afflalo fell to the floor and didn’t get up for a few minutes. The replays looked horrible but after what looked like a serious injury, Arron eventually got up, walked back to the bench on his own, and eventually re-entered the game.

Dec 15

Preview: Orlando Magic at Charlotte Bobcats

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Charlotte Bobcats
  • Date: December 15, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Time Warner Cable Arena

Records

  • Magic: 9-13
  • Bobcats: 7-15

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Bobcats:

  • Kemba Walker
  • Jeff Taylor
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
  • Bismack Biyombo
  • Byron Mullens

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.4 (10th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 99.0 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.9 (7th of 30)

Bobcats:

  • Pace: 92.6 (9th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.6 (25th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.9 (29th of 30)

Read about the Bobcats

Queen City Hoops

Dec 15

Recap: Orlando Magic 99, Golden State Warriors 85

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

One of the main reasons why the Orlando Magic have overachieved up to this point in the season is because their youth have been able to contribute. Guys like Nikola Vucevic, E’Twaun Moore, Maurice Harkless, and Andrew Nicholson have each played a role in the Magic’s surprising success.

The Magic’s 99-85 win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday was the latest example of youth being served for Orlando.

The Warriors, who had been perfect in their East Coast road trip and riding a five-game road winning streak (which included an impressive 97-95 win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday) heading into Friday’s game, looked a step slow and lethargic against the Magic. Perhaps South Beach had something to do with that.

In any case, Orlando took advantage, thanks in large part due do their efforts on defense and the collective performance of their youngsters.

Defensively, the Magic were able to hold Golden State to 85 points on 91 possessions. A big reason for that early on was Orlando’s imposing interior defense. The Warriors tried in vain to score at the rim, as Nicholson, Harkless, and Gustavo Ayon collectively channeled their inner-Dikembe Mutombos and combined to block seven shots in the first quarter alone. For the game, Nicholson and Harkless finished with four blocks apiece (both career-highs), while Ayon had two blocks.

For the Magic, that block party set the tone defensively and Golden State drifted further away from the basket as the game wore on.

Overall, Redick, Nicholson, Moore, and Vucevic led the way for Orlando.

Redick riddled the Warriors with his three-point marksmanship and off-ball movement, making four three-pointers and finishing with 16 points, four rebounds, and four assists.

Nicholson was a smooth operator offensively, once again showcasing his excellent footwork and touch in the paint as well as his midrange jumper. As a result, Nicholson had another efficient outing, putting up 15 points (6-for-9 shooting) and tying a career-high with nine rebounds to go along with his career-high four blocks.

Like Redick, Moore did much of his damage behind the three-point line. Moore did nail a few long twos off the dribble, but it was his three three-pointers (all from the corners) that helped fuel his standout performance coming off the bench. Moore finished with 15 points and five assists.

As for Vucevic, he was a terror on the glass, pulling down a career-high 17 rebounds to go along with his 12 points.

When the Magic can get contributions like this from their youngsters to augment the core group of veterans, they’ll continue to be competitive against any team in the NBA. And when the youth plays like this, it shows the future is bright for Orlando.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Despite playing just 25 minutes against Golden State, there was little doubt that Nicholson was the Magic’s best player when he was on the floor. With each passing game, Nicholson is growing more comfortable and it’s being reflected in his numbers.

Defining Moment

Yes, Orlando played really well offensively throughout the game but it was their defense that fueled the victory. Who would have thought that the Magic would be one of the best defensive teams in the league this season?

Dec 14

Preview: Golden State Warriors at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Golden State Warriors at Orlando Magic
  • Date: December 14, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Warriors: 15-7
  • Magic: 8-13

Probable starters

Warriors:

  • Stephen Curry
  • Klay Thompson
  • Harrison Barnes
  • David Lee
  • Festus Ezeli

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Warriors:

  • Pace: 93.3 (6th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.1 (12th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.1 (14th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.5 (10th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 98.5 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.3 (8th of 30)

Read about the Warriors

Warriors World

Dec 14

#ORLrank 4: Penny Hardaway

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

 

G MP PER VORP WARP WS/82
1995-1996 82 3015 24.6 6.73 19.3 14.4
Penny Hardaway’s best season with the Magic

 
Penny Hardaway was, in many ways, the quintessential Orlando Magic superstar. Since the franchise’s inception in 1989, a handful of the most exciting players of the past 23 years have donned the pinstripes and none have truly reached the limits of their physical gifts in a Magic uniform.

Shaq bolted for L.A. after four seasons. Tracy McGrady’s career with the Magic was derailed by injuries and then resurrected once he was traded to Houston. Dwight Howard bullied his way to the Lakers this past summer. Penny’s left knee betrayed his body before being traded to Phoenix.

The Magic have a tendency to feature superstars with outsized personalities and even more stratospheric on-court abilities, and these stars have an unfortunate propensity for having their time in Orlando end in disappointment. The unsung hero of this group is Hardaway, whose prime, like T-Mac’s, was cut short by some bad injury luck just as he seemed to be building a dynasty in Orlando.

Penny’s career is largely an afterthought in the greater public view, despite being one of the most iconic players and cult figures of the mid-to-late-’90s NBA. Part of that may simply be how far removed he is from having played in an NBA game and how irrelevant he was, for the most part, following the Magic portion of his career. None of this is fair to him and he deserves every bit of recognition he gets as not only an integral player in the Magic’s history, but also in the overall fabric of the game.

One viewing of this highlights mix is all it takes to remind you how unstoppable Penny was in his prime. Not for nothing did LeBron James grow up idolizing him. Penny was a do-it-all scoring threat in the same mold as Magic Johnson. His explosiveness and creativity made him nearly impossible for opponents to guard, especially attacking the basket. Everything he did looked effortless.

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Dec 13

Thursday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • Is it possible the Orlando Magic could sneak into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference?
  • Why do the Magic continue to get off to slow starts in games? Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post has the answer: “The current starting five of Jameer Nelson at the point, Arron Afflalo and Maurice Harkless on the wings, and Glen Davis and Nikola Vučević up front has logged 113 minutes together, according to NBA.com, and has been outscored by 48 points.”
  • Rob Mahoney and Ben Golliver of The Point Forward look back at the four-team deal that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason. Both Mahoney and Golliver agree that the Magic could have gotten a better haul for Howard: “If the Thunder acquired a Raptors first-round pick that’s only top-three protected in a deal for James Harden, the Magic surely could have done better than protected picks that could wind up falling in the 20s.”
  • Brett Pollakoff of ProBasketballTalk on Orlando’s loss last night: “Let’s just say that this one won’t exactly be sent to Springfield, Massachusetts for archiving.”

Dec 13

3-on-3 roundtable: A look at the Magic’s surprising start

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Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Orlando Magic have clearly been one of the surprise teams in the NBA this season. With Stan Van Gundy, Dwight Howard, and Ryan Anderson out of the picture, the Magic were projected to be one of the worst squads in the league.

Instead, Orlando has been borderline average, thanks in large part due to Jacque Vaughn’s coaching wizardry and the players competing hard on a nightly basis. Veterans like J.J. Redick have grown into bigger roles, almost out of necessity, and rookies like Andrew Nicholson have contributed immediately.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Magic can continue to overachieve as the dog days of the season near.

With one-quarter of the regular season in the books, the Magic Basketball crew gets together to examines some of the top storylines surrounding Orlando’s surprising 8-13 start.

Most pleasant surprise so far?

Nate Drexler: Orlando’s ability to win as a team. The old adage is that if you play hard as a unit, you will find success. The Magic are really proving that with their blend of young talent and veteran role players. It didn’t seem possible from the outset, but the way these guys are relying on each other to win games and executing in that reliance is both pleasant and surprising.

Sean Highkin: The two players the Magic got from the Sixers in the Dwight Howard trade — both of whom were seen as throw-ins when the trade was initially being dissected. Nikola Vucevic has blossomed into a reliable defender and rebounder as the Magic’s starting center. Moe Harkless has the beginnings of a solid defensive skill-set.

Noam Schiller: Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic started strongly as a rookie in Philadelphia, but by the second half of last season, he was shooting so poorly that Doug Collins found him unplayable. Be it a year of maturation or a friendly system that allows for mistakes, the Montenegrin big man has started every game and is performing relatively well.

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