Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 69

Jan 24

Recap: Toronto Raptors 97, Orlando Magic 95

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AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

BOX SCORE

The Orlando Magic have made a habit out of losing close games this season. The Magic’s narrow two-point defeat at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, thanks to DeMar DeRozan’s buzzer-beating game-winner, was the latest example. With the loss, Orlando is now 3-7 this season in games decided by five points or less.

Let’s fast-forward to the fourth quarter.

Trailing 93-89 with 1:05 left in the game, things were looking bleak for the Magic, as they appeared headed toward another close loss. But J.J. Redick’s four-point play with 53.1 seconds left tied the score at 93-93 and breathed new life into Orlando.

The sequence began when Glen Davis tried to score on the right block against Amir Johnson, but was unable to create space for himself and get a clean look at the rim. Instead, he kicked the ball out to Jameer Nelson on the right wing. Then Nelson dribble penetrated and kicked it out to Arron Afflalo at the top of the key. With the shot clock winding down, Afflalo drove into the lane and for whatever reason, Terrence Ross decided to leave Redick open on the perimeter to provide help defense.

Ross’ decision to contain Afflalo’s dribble penetration proved costly. Redick, open on the left wing, stepped up to take advantage of Afflalo’s drive-and-kick pass. Redick got the ball, then hoisted up a three-pointer while drawing contact from Ross, who was late recovering on the perimeter. In the process, Ross fouled Redick, who made the shot and converted a game-tying four-point play.

With the score tied at 93 apiece with 53 seconds remaining, the Raptors responded with a basket of their own. Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson executed a 1/4 pick-and-roll. Calderon made a swing pass to DeRozan, who caught the ball, dribble penetrated, then pulled up for a 12-foot jumper near the right elbow over Redick.

On the ensuing possession, Afflalo missed a three-pointer from the right wing that would have given the Magic a one-point lead. However, the Raptors were unable to secure the rebound. As a result, E’Twaun Moore snagged the offensive rebound, then immediately put up a floater, which tied the game at 95.

Then with 4.3 seconds left, after Glen Davis committed a foul (Orlando had one to give), DeRozan struck back by making a game-winning shot at the buzzer.

On the last play of the game, DeRozan curled around a screen set by Johnson on the right elbow. Calderon passed the ball to DeRozan, who darted to the left corner in front of the Magic bench, then hoisted up an incredibly difficult fadeaway jumper over Davis and Afflalo. The shot went in.

It was an impressive fourth quarter for DeRozan. He scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, including a highlight-reel dunk early in the period. His shot selection was questionable at times, including the game-winner, but there’s no denying the end results — the Toronto’s third win of the season against Orlando.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Who else but DeRozan? He scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter (7-for-8 shooting in the period) and hit the buzzer-beating game-winner to give the Raptors the win over the Magic.

X-Factor

Even though he didn’t play in the final period as coach Jacque Vaughn opted to go with a small lineup, Nikola Vucevic deserves an honorable mention for his performance (19 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks).

Defining Moment

With the score tied at 95 apiece with 4.3 seconds left, DeRozan nailed a difficult fadeaway jumper over Davis and Afflalo from the left corner in front of Orlando’s bench to win the game for Toronto.

Jan 24

Preview: Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 24, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Raptors: 15-27
  • Magic: 14-27

Probable starters

Raptors:

  • Jose Calderon
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Landry Fields
  • Ed Davis
  • Amir Johnson

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Raptors:

  • Pace: 89.9 (25th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 106.5 (11th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.7 (26th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.6 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.2 (21st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.2 (24th of 30)

Read about the Raptors

Raptors Republic

Jan 23

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • “Big Baby wants a PB&J sandwich.”
  • Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “No, the Rising Stars Challenge isn’t glamorous, and the level of defensive intensity makes the All-Star Game itself look like an old Detroit Pistons/Boston Celtics slobberknocker. However, it’s still an honor for a player to earn a spot on either of the rosters for the event, and Vucevic is as deserving as nearly any second-year player.”
  • Led be Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, the Detroit Pistons used a big third quarter to put the Orlando Magic away.
  • Zach Harper of CBSSports.com gives the Magic a “B” for their midseason grade: “Not sure you could ask for much more from this Orlando team. Jacque Vaughn’s coaching looks bright for the future, they’ve competed on many nights, Nikola Vucevic is averaging a double-double while getting fans all in a tizzy and the team is only three games worse than Dwight Howard’s new team.”
  • Davis talks about his role with Orlando.

Jan 23

Recap: Detroit Pistons 105, Orlando Magic 90

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Photo by J. Dennis/Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

After a back-and-forth first half, the Detroit Pistons busted the game open in the third quarter and cruised to a 105-90 victory over the Orlando Magic. The Magic have now lost 14 of their last 16 games and, after a surprising 12-13 start, finish the first half of the regular season with a 14-27 record.

Against the Pistons, Orlando jumped out to a 22-11 lead in the first quarter thanks in large part due to J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson. Redick and Nelson got off to hot starts offensively — both players accounted for 18 of the Magic’s first 22 points in the period. Redick and Nelson did their damage exclusively at the rim and behind the three-point line.

Unfortunately for Orlando, Detroit responded by finishing the quarter on a 15-3 run to take a one-point lead heading into the second quarter. You can excuse the Magic for feeling a sense of dejavu when they coughed up a double-digit lead in the first quarter, given that the same thing happened in their loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.

After blowing an 11-point lead, there were several lead changes in the second quarter between Orlando and the Pistons, as neither team was able to build more than a five-point cushion in the period. A late scoring surge by Detroit allowed them to take a 54-52 halftime lead.

Everything changed in the third quarter. After struggling to slow down the Magic offensively in the first half, the Pistons’ defense dug in and held Orlando to just 14 points in the period.

Meanwhile, Detroit’s offense carried over their success from the first half. Greg Monroe scored 10 of his 16 points in the third quarter, scoring primarily in the paint with little resistance as the Magic were unable to defend anything inside. When Monroe wasn’t bringing the lightning, Andre Drummond was bringing the thunder as he overwhelmed Orlando’s frontline with his freakish athleticism.

When the third quarter was all said and done, the Pistons had built a 16-point lead and would go on cruise to a double-digit victory.

If there’s anything else worth noting, it would be Arron Afflalo’s peculiar performance offensively against Detroit. Normally not gun shy, his first shot didn’t come until late in the third quarter when the game was essentially decided. He deferred quite a bit and finished the game without scoring a single point (0-for-4 shooting from the floor).

In a game where Redick was excellent and Davis was awful, Afflalo’s scoreless night stuck out like a sore thumb.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Despite being on the wrong side of a blowout loss, Redick had an outstanding game (26 points on 9-for-10 shooting). He was judicious with his shot selection and it translated into an efficient outing.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. With each missed shot, Glen Davis looked more and more like an insane player on offense. He shot 4-for-16 from the floor.

Defining Moment

The Pistons outscored the Magic 28-14 in the third quarter to blow the game wide open and cruise to a double-digit victory. After a porous first half, Detroit’s defense clamped down and Orlando was unable to recover.

Jan 22

Preview: Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons
  • Date: January 22, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: The Palace of Auburn Hills

Records

  • Magic: 14-26
  • Pistons: 15-25

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Pistons:

  • Brandon Knight
  • Kyle Singler
  • Tayshaun Prince
  • Jason Maxiell
  • Greg Monroe

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.6 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.3 (21st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.0 (23rd of 30)

Pistons:

  • Pace: 90.1 (24th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.1 (16th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.3 (14th of 30)

Read about the Pistons

Piston Powered

Jan 22

Tuesday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • Tom Haberstroh of ESPN Insider revisits the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade and provides an updated view on the Orlando Magic’s haul: “Largely overlooked in the trade, Vucevic, 22, has been a revelation at center for the Magic, and is averaging 11.7 points and 11.1 rebounds this season. Here’s the list of active players who have averaged 11-and-11 by age 22: Howard, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand and Tim Duncan. [...] We just don’t see that level of production at this age. Whether the Magic knew exactly what they were getting in Vucevic, this is the kind of shrewd move that can turn a franchise around.”
  • The Magic face off against the Detroit Pistons in tonight’s game.
  • Limiting Greg Monroe is one of the keys to the game for Orlando against the Pistons.
  • With the Magic reaching the midway point of the regular season, John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com looks back at what’s transpired so far: “The Magic notched two of their biggest wins of the season in Los Angeles, beating the Lakers and Howard in early December and toppling the Clippers in early January to end a 10-game losing streak.”

Jan 22

Maurice Harkless: basketball Play-Doh

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 11.07.21 PM

Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

As the Magic’s impressive start to the season is left further in the past, this year becomes more and more of a trial run. There are a lot of different pieces on Orlando’s roster, many not a part of any reasonable long-term plan, but the only way to find out which ones are part of the future is baptism by fire. By letting the youngsters feel their way out, the braintrust atop the organization can figure out how they compute into the team’s long-term plans.

No one represents this philosophy as much as Moe Harkless. As fellow youngsters such as Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson show sustainable skills (rebounding and midrange shooting, respectively) that will, at the very least, make them viable NBA players for years to come, Harkless is like basketball Play-Doh. Stretchy, bouncy, and inherently fun, he’s completely lacking in shape and definition.

But while Play-Doh isn’t very effective in its initial, lumpy form, it can be molded into a variety of different shapes. The same can be said about Harkless — the Magic have been getting blown out with him on the court, mostly because the offense tanks when he’s playing. Though it’s worth noting that Orlando has been 3.8 points per 100 possessions better defensively with him on the floor, per NBA.com.

But all of that is basically irrelevant in comparison to what he can be a few years down the road. What is that exactly? Here are a few ideas.

Stay the course – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Harkless has a lot in common with Mbah a Moute. Both men are a slender, lengthy 6-foot-8 and are quick enough to guard much smaller players. Mbah a Moute has solidified his standing as a four-position defender in this league and the hope is that Harkless can be the same — already, his steals percentage of 2 percent ranks just a sliver under Mbah a Moute’s career-best 2.1 percent mark and he’s blocking more than twice as many shots per 36 minutes as Mbah a Moute ever had.

But though this version of Harkless would make his bread on the defensive end, I like the Mbah a Moute comparison the most offensively. This is where Harkless has shown his youth the most, making only six shots more than 5 feet away from the basket all season. Harkless’ main offensive value is his jaw-dropping athleticism, which leads to plays like this or this.

Harkless can do well to study Mbah a Moute here. The Cameroonian forward has similarly never developed a trustworthy outside shot, but he’s made a living from cutting off the ball and finishing at the rim. Mbah a Moute has averaged more than 1.2 points per possession off cuts since 2009-10, per Synergy. That makes him, if not an offensive asset, workable enough to keep him on the floor for his defense. If Harkless can be as effective as a one man, off-the-ball wrecking crew, he could have a long career.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 21

Recap: Dallas Mavericks 111, Orlando Magic 105

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AP Photo/John Raoux

BOX SCORE

Despite starting off hot and jumping out to an 18-4 lead over the Mavericks, the Magic lost this game in the first quarter. Orlando owned the first half of the opening period and it was looking as though they were headed for a morale-boosting blowout of a reasonably superior team. Glen Davis was getting in the paint and the long twos he was taking, while still not ideal, were at least falling.

But about halfway through the first quarter, after Rick Carlisle’s second desperation timeout, Orlando completely fell apart. They coughed up the ball four times in the final half of the quarter, their shots stopped falling, they were unable to stop anything Dallas tried to create on offense, and ultimately blew a 14-point lead in six minutes and ended the quarter trailing 26-24.

From there, the Magic were playing catch-up the rest of the way. They mostly hung around for the final three quarters, occasionally slipping into a double-digit deficit and occasionally cutting Dallas’ lead to a single possession. But after the blown early lead, the Mavericks controlled the game from there on out.

Dallas’ attack was led by their veterans — Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, and Elton Brand. Marion and Brand in particular were monstrously effective on both ends of the floor, as the Mavs overcame a relatively nondescript performance from Dirk Nowitzki to shut down the Magic.

The Magic got solid performances from J.J. Redick, Nikola Vucevic, and Big Baby, and Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo hit key shots as the Magic attempted to cut Dallas’ lead. But outside of Redick, they didn’t get much out of their bench, while Dallas’ entire starting lineup scored in double digits in addition to the contributions from Carter and Brand.

I didn’t even notice it while watching the game, but reflecting on it afterwards, Andrew Nicholson’s DNP-CD is a little puzzling given the circumstances. Big Baby and Vucevic played well, so there weren’t a lot of extra frontcourt minutes to go around. But in a game where the Magic needed scoring off the bench, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that Josh McRoberts played 16 minutes and Nicholson stayed in his warm-up suit.

But honestly, the specifics of the final three quarters don’t matter much. The Magic led by 14 halfway through the first quarter and were outscored by four through the last three.

The game was lost with Dallas’ first-quarter run when Orlando got turnover-happy and stopped making shots. If they had made just a few more shots during that stretch and turned the ball over just one fewer time during that quarter, they probably would have pulled away with the win.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Glen Davis. Big Baby was the Magic’s most consistent scorer, putting up 24 points on a surprisingly efficient (for him) 10-for-16 shooting from the floor.

X-Factor

Turnovers. The Magic coughed up 14 turnovers that led to 24 Mavericks points and were only able to force 8 from Dallas.

Defining Moment

The Mavs’ first-quarter run erased the Magic’s double-digit lead early in the period and permanently shifted the momentum of the game in their favor.

Jan 20

Preview: Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 18, 2013
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Mavericks: 17-24
  • Magic: 14-25

Probable starters

Mavericks:

  • Darren Collison
  • O.J. Mayo
  • Shawn Marion
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Chris Kaman

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • DeQuan Jones
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Mavericks:

  • Pace: 94.0 (6th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.7 (18th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.8 (22nd of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.5 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.1 (21st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.7 (21st of 30)

Read about the Mavericks

The Two Man Game

Jan 19

Recap: Charlotte Bobcats 106, Orlando Magic 100

Screen Shot 2013-01-19 at 5.45.16 PM

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

In keeping with their schizophrenic nature this season, the Orlando Magic followed up a surprising win against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday with a loss to the lowly Charlotte Bobcats two days later.

It’s no secret that the Magic’s defense has regressed badly in recent weeks. After having a top 10 defense in the first month and a half of the season, Orlando is now a below-average defensive team.
The Bobcats helped continue the Magic’s defensive slide, posting a 116.8 Offensive Rating despite entering Friday’s game averaging just 101.9 points per 100 possessions (27th in the NBA).

Kemba Walker led the way for Charlotte with 25 points on 16 shots. He did whatever he wanted offensively, wreaking havoc in pick-and-rolls.

In the first quarter, Walker made his presence felt immediately by nailing several jumpers in pick-and-roll sets. His first basket of the game was a midrange jumpshot from the right elbow in a 1/4 pick-and-roll with Hakim Warrick.

Later in the period, Walker made two jumpshots in 1/3 pick-and-rolls with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The first was a midrange jumper from the right elbow. The second was a three-pointer from the right wing.
Both times, Jameer Nelson went under the screen and Walker made him pay.

As the game went along, Walker mixed things up in pick-and-roll sets. When he wasn’t nailing jumpers off the dribble, he was scoring at the rim.

One possession in particular stands out. Late in the second quarter, Walker ran a 1/4 pick-and-roll with Warrick. DeQuan Jones, defending Walker after he picked him up in transition, actually did a nice job of initially stopping him in the pick-and-roll set. But Walker eventually got the best of Jones, using a hesitation move to freeze him momentarily and create a driving lane for an uncontested layup.

When Walker wasn’t busy picking apart Orlando defensively in pick-and-rolls, he was drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line.

The key to this game, apart from Walker’s standout performance, was the Bobcats going on a 10-0 run late in the second quarter and building a double-digit lead over the Magic heading into halftime. Charlotte used that scoring surge to build a cushion between themselves and Orlando. From there, the Bobcats were able to hold off the Magic in the second half.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Even though Charlotte is in the middle of another miserable season as they continue to rebuild, Walker has been one of the few bright spots on the roster and he showed why against Orlando.

Defining Moment

Entering Friday’s game, Vucevic had pulled down at least 12 rebounds in the last eight games, which was the second-longest streak in the league. That streak snapped, as Vucevic finished with only nine rebounds against the Bobcats.

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