Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 69

Feb 14

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • The Orlando Magic got “punked” by the Atlanta Hawks in last night’s game.
  • Video of Stuff, the Magic’s mascot, doing the Harlem Shake.
  • Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “If anyone on the 15-37 Magic is a master of any craft, it’s Vučević with his rebounding. At age 22, he’s the league’s fourth-leading rebounder, hauling in 11.5 boards per game. His 29-rebound effort on New Year’s Eve broke Orlando’s single-game record formerly held by some guy named Shaquille O’Neal. And Vaughn thinks Vučević can improve.”
  • Josh Smith and Al Horford dominated Orlando in yesterday’s game.
  • J.J. Redick was named a “CourtVision All-Star” by Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland primarily for his three-point shooting.
  • Dwight Howard had two of the top 10 best Slam Dunk Contest dunks, according to Ben Golliver of The Point Forward, for his efforts in 2008.

Feb 14

The Magic’s two rising stars

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Over the weekend, the NBA announced that Magic rookie forward Andrew Nicholson would replace injured Pistons center Andre Drummond in the Rising Stars Challenge, joining Nikola Vucevic as the other player representing the Magic at All-Star Weekend in Houston.

While this event is, needless to say, entirely meaningless, it’s a cool honor and a nice gesture on behalf of the league that shows that at least someone has noticed how effective Nicholson has been when he’s been on the floor. Nicholson and Vucevic taking part in this competition is fitting, too, as they have emerged this season as the two most promising young players on Orlando’s roster.

Vucevic has been entrenched as the Magic’s starting center since the start of the season, but Nicholson’s role has been more inconsistent. And while the recent injury to Glen Davis was a heavy blow dealt to the Magic season, his absence in the lineup has opened the door for both of them to take on a greater level of responsibility on the floor. So far, both have delivered.

Vucevic’s rebounding has been mightily impressive the entire season, but he’s been particularly on a tear since Big Baby’s injury in that regard.

In the seven games since Davis went down, Vucevic has averaged 12.0 rebounds per game, as compared to 11.2 in the first 45 games of the season. His rebounding rate has gone up across the board as well. Before Davis’ injury, he pulled down 20.1 percent of all available rebounds, including 12.3 percent of offensive rebounds and 27.7 percent of defensive rebounds. In the past six games, that number has jumped to 21.2 percent, including 13.5 percent of offensive rebounds and 29.8 percent of defensive rebounds. His scoring has spiked too, jumping from 13.3 points per 36 minutes before Davis’ injury to 16.4 points per 36 minutes since.

Nicholson’s efficiency as a scorer has been off-the-charts since Davis’ injury. He was shooting 52.6 percent from the field through the first 45 games and has skyrocketed to 59.0 percent since then. He’s been scoring the same number of points per 36 minutes (around 18) on 3.3 fewer attempts. Here’s his shot chart from before Davis’ injury:

nicholson pre baby

And here’s his chart for the last seven games:

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As Nicholson has taken on a larger offensive role, his offense has found itself drawn more towards the basket. He was shooting more consistently from midrange earlier in the season, but he’s cut down on those attempts and instead become more efficient closer to the basket. Over the long haul, if he can retain his ability to hit the outside twos while still focusing on the higher-percentage looks he’s been getting lately, he could prove enormously effective for the Magic going forward.

These numbers aren’t enough of a sample size to draw any definitive conclusions from by any stretch, but they are a preview of the types of rosters Nicholson and Vucevic will be playing for going forward in Orlando.

Big Baby and his contract aren’t a part of Hennigan’s long term plans, and it will make sense in the future to move the team’s veterans and focus instead on the youth movement. Between these Nicholson and Vucevic, the team is in good hands.

Feb 14

Recap: Atlanta Hawks 108, Orlando Magic 76

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AP Photo/John Raoux

BOX SCORE

For the Orlando Magic, the Atlanta Hawks have been the bane of their existence for quite some time now. Heading into tonight’s game, the Hawks had won their last eight meetings with the Magic in the regular season.

Not to mention Atlanta beating Orlando in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, a year after the Magic recorded the largest margin of victory in a four-game sweep in league history over those very same Hawks.

You’d have to go all the way back to November 8, 2010 to find the last time Orlando beat Atlanta in a regular season game. Back when Dwight Howard and Vince Carter led the Magic to a 93-89 win over the Hawks, and with Stan Van Gundy roaming the sidelines.

Needless to say, it’s been a while since Orlando has beaten Atlanta during the regular season and the Hawks made sure the streak continued with a 108-76 blowout victory.

The Magic got off to a relatively quick start for their standards, leading the Hawks 15-11 midway through the first quarter. Arron Afflalo was the driving force, scoring six quick points thanks to some aggressive drives to the basket.

But Atlanta responded by going on a 19-4 run that spanned the first and second quarters, and opening up a double-digit lead. At that point, you got the sense that the game was getting away from Orlando and that’s precisely what happened. The Hawks went on a scoring spree in the second quarter to take a 57-36 halftime lead.

Atlanta would go on to cruise to an easy win.

The Hawks were led by Josh Smith (30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks) and Al Horford (26 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and two steals). Both played exceptionally well, each dominating the game in different ways.

For Smith, not only was his notoriously inefficient jumper falling but he did a nice job of finding his teammates for easy baskets with some nifty passes. As for Horford, when he wasn’t too busy making layups, he was nailing midrange jumpers with aplomb.

It’s no surprise that the Magic’s frontline was outclassed by Smith and Horford, given that they’re very good players.

With the loss, Orlando heads into the All-Star break with a 15-37 record, without Glen Davis for potentially the remainder of the season, and with news that Hedo Turkoglu will be suspended 20 games for violating the NBA’s Anti-Drug policy.

It’s safe to say the Magic have seen better days.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Smith and Horford were the co-MVPs. They both came out of the gate scorching hot and finished the game with double-doubles. As a result, Atlanta was able to enjoy an easy victory.

Defining Moment

Trailing 15-11 midway through the first quarter, the Hawks went on a 19-4 run to turn a four-point deficit into a double-digit lead in the second quarter. Atlanta never looked back.

Feb 13

Preview: Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic
  • Date: February 13, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Hawks: 28-22
  • Magic: 15-36

Probable starters

Hawks:

  • Jeff Teague
  • Devin Harris
  • Anthony Tolliver
  • Josh Smith
  • Al Horford

Magic:

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

Advanced stats

Hawks:

  • Pace: 91.6 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.3 (18th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.1 (10th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.4 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.5 (24th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.8 (24th of 30)

Read about the Hawks

HawksHoop

Feb 13

Hedo Turkoglu suspended 20 games for violating NBA’s Anti-Drug Program

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Photo by Gary Bassing/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

Hedo Turkoglu of the Orlando Magic has been suspended without pay for 20 games for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for methenolone, it was announced today by the NBA.

Turkoglu’s suspension will begin tonight when the Magic play host to the Atlanta Hawks at Amway Center.

Hedo Turkoglu statement:

“While I was back home in Turkey this past summer, I was given a medication by my trainer to help recover more quickly from a shoulder injury. I didn’t know that this was a banned substance and didn’t check before taking it.

“I take full responsibility for anything that goes into my body. This was a complete error in judgment on my part and I apologize to the Orlando Magic organization, the league, my teammates, and the Magic fans. I know I have let down a lot of people and I am truly sorry for my mistake.”

Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan statement:

“Hedo unknowingly took a banned substance. There are more than 125 banned substances on the NBA List, and we spend a lot of time educating our players on the contents of that list and will certainly continue to do so moving forward. We believe this was an honest mistake.”

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.

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