Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 72

Jan 10

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: “The Orlando Magic continue to acquit themselves well. They play hard and truly attempt to compete athletically with opponents night in and night out, but this team just doesn’t have the spring to make it work.”
  • Video of a pair of dunks from DeQuan Jones and Josh McRoberts in last night’s game between the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets.
  • During their season-high 10-game losing streak, the Magic have missed Glen Davis’ presence particularly in crunch time. Instead, Orlando has used McRoberts in Davis’ place and the results have not been pretty.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk on the Magic’s 108-105 loss to the Nuggets: “[T]he Magic have to be kicking themselves because they led by seven late in the fourth quarter then Denver went on a 15-5 run and grabbed the win.”
  • “Arron Afflalo is tired of losing.”
  • Matt Moore of CBSSports.com gives Afflalo a “D” for his performance against Denver: “Arron Afflalo came home to Denver for the first time since being traded to Orlando in the Dwight Howard trade and he was greeted rudely by his former team. The Nuggets held him to 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Afflalo also fouled out, had four turnovers and just one assist. Hopefully, everybody was nice to him on his way out.”
  • In the midst of a losing streak that has reached 10 games, Jameer Nelson says, “The one thing we have to do is we can’t separate. It’s easy to separate when adversity hits. But we know we can’t allow ourselves to do that as a team, and I’m not going to allow us to do it as a captain.”
  • Yesterday, the Nuggets committed just seven personal fouls. Orlando, by comparison, was called for 27 personal fouls. Nelson and head coach Jacque Vaughn try to curtail the subject when asked about the foul discrepancy.
  • Hedo Turkoglu’s surgically repaired left hand is still bothering him. He sat out yesterday’s game against Denver, but hopes to play against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com suggests that Nikola Vucevic should be a lock to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend in Houston.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Magic have made it clear from Day One that they will not ‘tank’ games to get the highest lottery pick possible, not after the Dwightmare. But I think they’ve largely accomplished what they wanted to accomplish. Their goal has been to play hard and be ultra-competitive despite the loss of Dwight, proving to a veteran group and the league that they are committed to winning.”

Jan 10

Recap: Denver Nuggets 108, Orlando Magic 102

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AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez

BOX SCORE

With the score tied at 99 apiece and 2:14 remaining, the Orlando Magic found themselves in a familiar place — in position to win the game late. This time against the Denver Nuggets. Once again, Orlando came away with a loss. And once again, it was a game full of missed opportunities for the Magic.

With 1:27 left, Ty Lawson converted a traditional three-point play that gave the Nuggets a 102-99 lead. Lawson found himself isolated against Jameer Nelson and broke him down off the dribble, drawing the foul while converting the layup.

On the ensuing possession, the Magic had a chance to cut the deficit to one or tie the game. With Andre Iguodala defending him, J.J. Redick executed a backdoor cut, Josh McRoberts delivered a perfect pass, but Redick missed the reverse layup.

Orlando continued to dig themselves a hole by allowing a wide open dunk to Danilo Gallinari on a baseline out-of-bounds play shortly thereafter. Arron Afflalo, who had a forgettable night in his first game back in Denver since being traded to Orlando in the Dwight Howard blockbuster, lost track of Gallinari defensively.

Afflalo compounded the mistake by missing a lefty layup on the next play. Gallinari found himself switched onto Afflalo on the perimeter and did a good job of contesting the layup. Kenneth Faried corralled the rebound and was fouled, but missed both free-throws.

Trailing 104-99, Afflalo drilled a three-pointer from the right wing with 36.3 seconds remaining, keeping the Magic’s hopes alive of producing a come-from-behind victory.

But Iguodala responded by making a layup, increasing the Nuggets’ lead to 106-102 with 19.2 seconds left, and effective ending the game.

During their season-high 10-game losing streak, Orlando has had chances to win games in crunch time against not only Denver but also the Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, New Orleans Hornets, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Portland Trail Blazers. And a common theme emerged in those games: the Magic didn’t make enough plays at the end. A lack of execution has been Orlando’s downfall in recent weeks.

The Magic have also been unlucky. Orlando has now lost six games by margins of five or fewer during their losing streak.

It’s easy to pin the Magic’s losing streak on a lack of talent. In part, that’s exactly what it is. But it’s not been for a lack of trying.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

The “Manimal” was unleashed and there was not much the Magic could do to contain him. Kenneth Faried (19 points and 19 rebounds) was everywhere all over the court for the Nuggets, particularly in the fourth quarter.

Defining Moment

Despite a lackluster performance, Andre Iguodala made his presence felt when it mattered most. With Denver clinging to a 104-102 lead, Iguodala’s layup with 19.2 seconds left extended the advantage to four and effectively ended the game.

That Was … a Model of Efficiency

The three most efficient shots in basketball are the layup, free-throw, and three-pointer. In related news, 102 of the Nuggets’ 108 points were in the paint, at the free-throw line, or beyond the arc. Not surprisingly, Denver won.

Jan 09

Preview: Orlando Magic at Denver Nuggets

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Denver Nuggets
  • Date: January 9, 2013
  • Time: 9:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Pepsi Center

Records

  • Magic: 12-22
  • Nuggets: 20-16

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • DeQuan Jones
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Nuggets:

  • Ty Lawson
  • Danilo Gallinari
  • Andre Iguodala
  • Kenneth Faried
  • Kosta Koufos

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.4 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.4 (24th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.8 (16th of 30)

Nuggets:

  • Pace: 93.9 (5th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 108.0 (8th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.2 (13th of 30)

Read about the Nuggets

Roundball Mining Company

Jan 09

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • 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.

Jan 09

Revisiting the Ryan Anderson trade

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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 08

Tuesday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • 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).

Jan 08

Recap: Portland Trail Blazers 125, Orlando Magic 119 (OT)

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Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

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.

X-Factor

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.

Defining Moment

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.

Jan 07

Preview: Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers
  • Date: January 7, 2013
  • Time: 10:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Rose Garden

Records

  • Magic: 12-21
  • Blazers: 18-15

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • DeQuan Jones
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Blazers:

  • Damian Lillard
  • Wesley Matthews
  • Nicolas Batum
  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • J.J. Hickson

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.4 (19th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.9 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.2 (14th of 30)

Blazers:

  • Pace: 90.6 (23rd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.8 (14th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.2 (24th of 30)

Read about the Blazers

Portland Roundball Society

Jan 07

Monday’s Magic Word

  • 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.”

Jan 07

Jameer Nelson: From pick-and-rolls to prosperity

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.

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