- Joe Kaiser of ESPN Insider lists Gustavo Ayon as one of the NBA’s top trade chips: “Ayon is the perfect backup big man — an energy guy who rebounds, defends and comes at a low cost. But if you’re Orlando, a loser of nine straight with its sights suddenly more on next season and its future wrapped up around Nikola Vucevic, it’s probably worth seeing what contending teams might be willing to offer for him.”
- Arron Afflalo talks about playing in his first game back in Denver since the four-team blockbuster trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason.
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post on Nikola Vucevic’s impact as a rebounder for the Orlando Magic this season: “With Vučević on the bench, Orlando holds the slimmest of rebounding advantages, grabbing 50.1 percent of available boards. With Vučević on the floor, however, Orlando’s rebounding advantage increases to 51.4 percent.”
- Could Vucevic become the next Marc Gasol?
- Heading into tonight’s game, the Denver Nuggets are looking to atone a 102-89 loss suffered at the hands of the Magic on November 2.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Rob Hennigan’s decision not to match the Hornets’ four-year, $34 million offer sheet for Ryan Anderson in July during the offseason was a polarizing one.
On the one hand, Anderson was the reigning Most Improved Player and had proven himself a more-than-reliable floor-spacing big, and a contract in the neighborhood of $8.5 million per year seemed perfectly reasonable for him.
On the flipside, even though the blockbuster trade wouldn’t happen for another month, everyone knew Dwight Howard was as good as gone, and it was hard to fault Hennigan’s decision not to re-sign expensive role players when the Magic weren’t going to contend for another few years.
Plus, the Magic were able to snare the much less expensive Gustavo Ayon in the Anderson sign-and-trade. The Mexican big man impressed in his first year with the Hornets, as both Magic Basketball’s Noam Schiller and Eddy Rivera wrote at the time. If the Magic had to lose a player as good as Anderson, they at least didn’t let him go for nothing and got a cheap prospect out of the deal.
Fast forward to two months into the season and it’s starting to look like the deal was a misstep, but hardly a franchise-killing one.
The Magic have a roster full of rookies and unproven players and several of them — including Andrew Nicholson, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, and DeQuan Jones — have performed well above expectations. Ayon cannot be counted among that group. He’s playing fewer minutes per game on a similarly thin, lottery-bound roster to the one he was on in New Orleans last season. While his rebounding has slightly improved per 36 minutes, he’s regressed a smidge both offensively and defensively.
Anderson, meanwhile, has absolutely proven himself to be the real deal since joining the Hornets. His 20.0 Player Efficiency Rating is a hair above his career PER (18.6). He’s shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc, the highest clip of his career, and he’s doing it with a career-high 7.8 attempts per game. His rebounding has taken a slight dip from where it was last year, but he’s still been pulling down a perfectly respectable 7.6 boards per 36 minutes.
- Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: “‘Melo waiting by the bus brought a reminder of when former Nuggets coach George McCloud punched then-Magic star Ron Mercer after a game in 2000. Mercer’s head hit a steel beam after the punch.”
- With a 125-119 overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in last night’s game, the Orlando Magic are now on a season-high nine-game losing streak.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com on Jameer Nelson’s record-setting night, in which he moved by Scott Skiles into first place for most career assists in Magic franchise history: “Nelson entered Monday’s game needing one assist to tie Scott Skiles, and he did that in the opening minutes of the game. Then, with 4:13 left in the first quarter, Nelson put on a clinic in one play on how to set up a defense for a basket and his record-setting assist.”
- Denton also provides an injury update on E’Twaun Moore (sprained left elbow), Glen Davis (sprained left shoulder), and Gustavo Ayon (right thigh contusion).
Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
The Blazers and Magic have a number of similarities, but are riding streaks of opposite types at the moment.
Both teams came into the season with little to no expectation of success and feature new coaches who have done impressive work replacing mainstays in their respective cities. They both have rosters with some well-regarded veterans, but a lot of inexperienced and unproven talent of varying levels.
But the Blazers are currently riding a hot streak nobody could have seen coming, while the Magic have slid to a season-high ninth straight loss. Orlando is staying competitive during this losing streak, but they’re having trouble putting themselves over the top against teams with superior talent.
This was a game of two halves for the Magic, both in terms of where they found their production and their approach defensively.
Arron Afflalo led the charge in the first half, scoring 16 of his 24 points in the first two quarters. His shot selection was interesting — all of his makes were at the rim or from midrange, and he didn’t attempt a single three-pointer.
Defensively, Jacque Vaughn opted not to have the Magic double LaMarcus Aldridge at all in the first half, letting him get pretty much whatever he wanted and focusing more on neutralizing Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard. The strategy seemed to work and the Magic rode it to a nine-point lead at halftime.
In the second half, Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic began paying more attention to Aldridge, but Batum, Lillard, Wesley Matthews, and J.J. Hickson heated up. The Blazers’ defense also improved noticeably after halftime, and they outscored the Magic 37-28 in the third quarter and 60-51 in the second half to send the game to overtime.
The inexplicable exception to the Blazers’ defensive improvement was Redick, whom they left open and he made them pay, single-handedly keeping the Magic in the game during the Blazers’ third-quarter scoring explosion.
A three-pointer with 8.9 seconds left in regulation by Jameer Nelson and a failed isolation attempt by Lillard shortly thereafter forced an overtime. Lillard proceeded to take over in the extra period and the Magic had no response.
The Blazers’ recent hot streak is deceptive. Portland continues to lean heavily on their starters and get almost nothing out of their bench on a nightly basis, but their top-level talent is still superior to a team like the Magic. In that sense, it’s encouraging that Orlando was able to hang with them in Monday’s game.
Considering the lottery implications, the losses piling up aren’t the worst thing in the world for the Magic. But it wouldn’t hurt for Orlando to get over the hump and actually win one of these close games.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
J.J. Redick could not miss in the third quarter, single-handedly keeping the Magic in the game as Damian Lillard heated up and the Magic’s defense fell apart. Redick finished with 29 points on 11-for-17 shooting.
Points in the paint. The Blazers outscored the Magic 60-44. Part of it was riding a hot shooting night from Redick, but Portland’s bigs were more successful inside than Orlando’s.
Jameer Nelson hit a late three to tie the game, which ended up going to overtime after a failed Lillard isolation. In the extra period, Lillard scored or assists on eight of the Blazers’ 17 points to guide them to victory.
- Teams: Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers
- Date: January 7, 2013
- Time: 10:00 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Florida
- Arena: Rose Garden
- Magic: 12-21
- Blazers: 18-15
- Jameer Nelson
- Arron Afflalo
- DeQuan Jones
- Andrew Nicholson
- Nikola Vucevic
- Damian Lillard
- Wesley Matthews
- Nicolas Batum
- LaMarcus Aldridge
- J.J. Hickson
- Pace: 91.4 (19th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 101.9 (26th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 105.2 (14th of 30)
- Pace: 90.6 (23rd of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 104.8 (14th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 107.2 (24th of 30)
Read about the Blazers
- The Orlando Magic earn “Team of the Weak” honors from David Aldridge of NBA.com: “The Magic’s flirtation with .500 has come back to earth with an eight-game losing streak, almost directly in correlation with Glen Davis’ absence following a shoulder injury. But Orlando has competed almost every night, as exemplified by Nicola Vucevic’s 20-point, 29-rebound night in an overtime loss to Miami.”
- John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “The Magic are now 0-8 without Glen Davis and still playing some awful defense, allowing more than 113 points per 100 possessions in the eight games. But they went down to the wire against the Heat, Bulls and Knicks last week. Nikola Vucevic totaled a ridiculous 59 rebounds in those three games, mastering the art of tipping the ball to himself. He’s now averaging a double-double.”
- Jameer Nelson is two assists shy of breaking Scott Skiles’ record for total assists in Magic franchise history.
- According to Hollinger’s NBA Playoff Odds, Orlando (12-21) has a 2.2 percent chance of reaching the postseason. Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider says a playoff run is unlikely.
- The Magic have fallen to No. 29 in ESPN.com’s Marc Stein’s latest power rankings, though that didn’t stop him from praising Nikola Vucevic for his recent play.
- An eye-catching stat from Rob Mahoney of The Point Forward: “[L]eading all nominal guards in offensive rebounding percentage is 19-year-old Magic rookie Moe Harkless — whom Jacque Vaughn recently parked on the bench with a pair of DNP-CDs.”
In sports, we often hear the term “game of his life” to describe a phenomenon where the stars align for a player for one night and he plays to his full potential. It’s a rare event, but when it happens, it’s something to behold.
Back in 2009, Jameer Nelson had the game of his life seemingly every night and it translated into the best season of his career, where he was named a reserve on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Nelson was brutally efficient offensively and it reflected in his numbers. His 20.6 Player Efficiency Rating was a career-high. Plus, his True Shooting percentage (61.2 percent) was among the league leaders and buoyed by some obscene numbers — he shot 45.3 percent from three-point range and 52 percent from 16-23 feet.
Nelson had a career year because of the pick-and-roll. With Dwight Howard as his pick-and-roll partner, Nelson punished opposing teams that chose to go under the screen by consistently taking and making jumpshots. It was a phenomenal shooting display that was cut short after Nelson suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder and was limited to 42 regular season games.
Many Magic fans expected Nelson to remain the same player following the 2008-09 season, an All-Star caliber point guard in the same realm as Tony Parker, but that didn’t happen. The law of averages caught up with Nelson and he reverted back to being an average to above-average point guard.
But every once in a while, “2009 Jameer” makes a cameo appearance.
Games against the New Orleans Hornets (28 points on 11-for-17 shooting), Chicago Bulls (tying a career-high with 32 points on 11-for-20 shooting), and New York Knicks (29 points on 10-for-20 shooting) in the last two weeks are proof that Nelson still has the skills that makes him a deadly pick-and-roll player.
What makes Nelson tick in pick-and-rolls is his aggressiveness. When he’s looking for his own shot, as he has been in recent games (out of necessity due to Glen Davis’ sprained left shoulder), the results speak for themselves.
AP Photo/John Raoux
On a good offensive night for Orlando, the Magic needed more defense, especially down the stretch, to fend off the Knicks in a 114-106 loss.
It was the night of the backcourt for Orlando. Nelson (29 points on 10-for-20 shooting) and Afflalo (29 points on 10-for-14 shooting) abused the New York defense, seemingly with ease, on Saturday night. Both guards shot the ball well and, more importantly, were able to attack the rim and get buckets in the paint with consistency throughout the entire game.
Unfortunately, the tandem wasn’t good enough down the stretch and Carmelo Anthony was. It’s tough not having a closer or even a star, and in another close game, the Magic came up on the short end of the stick. For Orlando, it’s their eighth consecutive loss — a season-high.
The Magic scored 36 points in the first quarter and it didn’t seem like a fluke. Sure, New York was not particularly sharp at the defensive end, but Orlando did a few things extraordinarily well. First, they got to the paint and either scored or found an open man. Second, they only turned the ball over twice. Lastly, they hit open shots and shot 62.5 percent for the quarter.
The big story in the first half, though, was Orlando’s inability to maintain a lead after such a great start. Whether that was their own fault or just a product of the Knicks waking up from hibernation, the game shifted in the second quarter and New York enjoyed a 59-55 lead at the half.
The Magic, however, got their swagger back offensively in the third quarter and put up 34 points in the period. It all started with Jameer Nelson, who continued to drive with confidence and shoot the ball well from deep. Afflalo showed a spark as well, and despite limping around after a few tough falls on his hip, was extremely effective offensively.
Orlando had an eight-point lead to start the fourth quarter, but New York began exploiting weaknesses in the Magic defense and asserting themselves offensively. On the other end, the Magic were running out of, well, magic on offense. Carmelo hit some tough shots, but the Knicks were open near the hoop way too many times down the stretch while the game was close.
Despite Orlando being within one point with under five minutes to go in the game, I racked my brain thinking of how they would emerge victorious facing Carmelo Anthony, who at the time had 35 points and was in god mode. Unfortunately for the Magic, my hunch was correct. Without a true gunner, the game slipped away in the final minutes and the Knicks were able to close things out.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Carmelo Anthony had 40 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Carmelo was dirty in the fourth quarter (scoring 16 points in the period) and closed out the game in style.
Jameer Nelson (or Andrew Nicholson’s minutes). Seriously, though. Nicholson needs to play more. Nicholson’s playing time notwithstanding, Nelson was insane, torching Jason Kidd off the dribble and lighting it up on offense in 2009 form.
That Was … a Great Game
The Knicks got going when they needed to, and despite big nights from Nelson and Afflalo, they closed the door and hammered it home late in the fourth behind Carmelo Anthony.
- Teams: New York Knicks at Orlando Magic
- Date: January 4, 2013
- Time: 7:00 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Florida
- Arena: Amway Center
- Knicks: 22-10
- Magic: 12-20
- Jason Kidd
- Ronnie Brewer
- Carmelo Anthony
- Marcus Camby
- Tyson Chandler
- Jameer Nelson
- Arron Afflalo
- DeQuan Jones
- Andrew Nicholson
- Nikola Vucevic
- Pace: 91.2 (21st of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 111.7 (2nd of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 105.8 (18th of 30)
- Pace: 91.3 (20th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 101.5 (28th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 104.7 (13th of 30)
Read about the Knicks
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic won’t attempt to convince Dwight Howard to rejoin their team when Howard becomes a free agent in July, an NBA source with knowledge of the Magic’s thinking told the Orlando Sentinel.”
- Since Glen Davis sprained his left shoulder on December 19 against the Washington Wizards, the Orlando Magic’s defense has regressed and offense has improved. Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post thinks there’s a correlation.
- Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated: “The return of Hedo Turkoglu hasn’t been able to wake the Magic’s offense from its slumber. Orlando has lost seven straight games, eclipsing 100 points just once. Turkoglu will need to step up quickly after averaging just 5.7 points in three games since returning from a broken wrist. The Magic’s offense is producing just 101.4 points per 100 possessions, third worst in the league.”
- According to a report, the Minnesota Timberwolves are interested in acquiring J.J. Redick by the trade deadline.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com on head coach Jacque Vaughn’s calm demeanor: “There is a method to the, well, lack of madness, Vaughn said. He believes that players respond best to positivity, honesty and fairness, while also driving them hard and holding them to high standards.”
- A note on Nikola Vucevic’s 20-20 game against the Miami Heat on New Year’s Eve.