Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 73

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.

Jan 05

Recap: New York Knicks 114, Orlando Magic 106

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AP Photo/John Raoux

BOX SCORE

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.

X-Factor

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.

Jan 05

Preview: New York Knicks at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: New York Knicks at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 4, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Knicks: 22-10
  • Magic: 12-20

Probable starters

Knicks:

  • Jason Kidd
  • Ronnie Brewer
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Marcus Camby
  • Tyson Chandler

Magic:

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

Advanced stats

Knicks:

  • Pace: 91.2 (21st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 111.7 (2nd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.8 (18th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.3 (20th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.5 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.7 (13th of 30)

Read about the Knicks

KnickerBlogger

Jan 04

Friday’s Magic Word

  • 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.

Jan 04

#ORLrank Recap

 

Rank

Player

Avg. Rank
1
1.8
2
2.0
3
2.2
4
4.0
5
5.8
6
7.0
7
7.4
8
8.0
9
9.2
10
9.2

 
* Rank: Tiebreakers are based on highest individual ranking given by voter.

What is #ORLrank?

Magic Basketball ranks the top 10 players in Magic franchise history. #ORLrank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

You can also follow along here: @erivera7

How did we rank the players?

Five MBN writers ranked each player 1-to-10, in terms of the quality of each player.

Thanks to Daniel Myers, Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference, and Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus for contributing to the project.

Jan 04

#ORLrank 1: Dwight Howard

Screen Shot 2013-01-04 at 12.01.04 PM

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

 

G MP PER VORP WARP WS/82
2010-2011 78 2935 26.0 6.55 20.5 15.1
Dwight Howard’s best season with the Magic

 
How can you quantify a man so loved and then so despised? Generally, it is exactly how most Magic fans have resigned themselves to the subject of Dwight Howard. He was great, now he’s gone, and there’s not much more to say than that.

Before his final season in Orlando last year, Dwight missed just seven regular season games in seven seasons (2005-2011). He averaged 36 minutes per game in his time in Orlando. He was fouled just short of a billion times. Most importantly, after three years where the Magic failed to reach the postseason, Dwight entered the scene and eventually turned Orlando not only into a playoff team but a championship contender once again. If ever there was a white-collar workhorse, Dwight was it.

For almost a decade, you could not mention Orlando without thinking about Dwight Howard. In a place and time where most assumed the pain of Shaq’s departure could never be forgotten, this is truly monumental. Dwight was a man who not only filled Shaq’s shoes, but in some ways outgrew them.

It’s hard to pick an angle on a guy who brought so much to the table. Points, rebounds, defense, swagger, polarization, gravity, kindness, humor, and scandal. When you add it all up, it’s a bit overwhelming. And to sit and think of a way to sum up Dwight’s tenure succinctly is a bit jarring. But isn’t that the beauty of it? How many players in our generation are this difficult to capture?

My tendency, at any rate, is to start with his defense, or at least his size and athleticism, which led to this intangible impact that Dwight had on the court. Players, though they rarely would admit it, feared the paint when Dwight was in the game.

It was a pilgrimage, of sorts, to guard Dwight as well. Players and teams alike threw out the playbook for the Magic. You just had to start from scratch.

It was this force that caused us to liken Dwight to a celestial object. It was this force that lifted the Magic into the primetime realm. It was this force that sold out games, influenced the construction of the sparkling Amway Center, and lit a fire in Orlando that hadn’t been seen since the days of Penny and Shaq. And it was this force that caused such turmoil when the man left.

So few players in the NBA today pack this punch.

Now glance over Dwight’s career achievements: six-time NBA All-Star, three-time Defensive Player of the Year (NBA record), five-time All-NBA first team selection, four-time All-Defensive first team selection, and MVP runner-up in 2011. The list goes on.

A word like legendary is perhaps too heady, but if you’re from Orlando, it probably could easily escape your mouth. This reason, to me, is the most important reason that Dwight is No. 1 in #ORLrank. He was the best player the Magic ever had, and though we hate that he is gone, we cannot help ourselves from basking in the memories of his dominant tenure in Orlando.

Voter breakdown for Dwight Howard

Drexler Highkin Rivera Schiller Scribbins
Scale (1-to-10) 1 1 3 3 1
Average rank: 1.8

What is #ORLrank?

Magic Basketball ranks the top 10 players in Magic franchise history. #ORLrank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

You can also follow along here: @erivera7

How did we rank the players?

Five MBN writers ranked each player 1-to-10, in terms of the quality of each player.

Thanks to Daniel Myers, Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference, and Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus for contributing to the project.

Jan 03

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Video of Glen Davis shooting baskets for the first time since suffering a sprained left shoulder on December 19 against the Washington Wizards.
  • Dan Savage of OrlandoMagic.com has more on Davis: “Orlando received some good news on Thursday when Davis stepped on the court following practice and went through a series of shooting, pick-and-pop and dribble-drive drills. [...] Although, there’s no exact timetable on his return, it’s expected that Davis is still a few weeks away from being back in the Magic’s lineup.”
  • Bradford Doolittle of ESPN Insider: “Guess who is the NBA’s newest rebounding superstar? It’s Nikola Vucevic, who entered the season as the second-best center named Nikola in the league. That’s probably still the case as Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic is really good, but it’s Vucevic who led the NBA in total rebounds during December. Vucevic grabbed 29 boards against Miami on New Year’s Eve, which is five more than any other player has had in a game this season.”
  • Josh McRoberts continues to underachieve.
  • Will J.J. Redick be traded at the deadline? Will the Magic unload talent? These are some storylines to keep an eye on as February 21 looms closer.
  • Despite having a chance to tie or win the game on the final possession after trailing by as many as 18 points, Orlando came up just short against the Chicago Bulls in Wednesday’s game.

Jan 03

Recap: Chicago Bulls 96, Orlando Magic 94

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 10.19.05 PM

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

We knew reality was going to settle in at some point. For all the much-deserved talk about how good a job Jacque Vaughn has done with this Magic roster, for the handful of games they probably shouldn’t have won that they did, for the fact that they aren’t quite as 2012-Bobcats-y as everyone thought they would be, this team isn’t very good and can’t be expected to beat better teams on a regular basis.

And as Orlando’s losing skid hit a season-high seven games, their longest losing streak since an eight-game slide in 2006, with a Wednesday loss to Chicago, that reality is starting to drive itself home.

Before the game, the Magic appeared to have caught a break when it was announced that Bulls center Joakim Noah was feeling under the weather and sitting out. With Nikola Vucevic coming off a career night against the Heat on New Year’s Eve, it seemed that one of the most notoriously tough frontcourts in the league was a little more vulnerable.

But Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson stepped up and, quite simply, outworked Orlando’s bigs on both ends of the floor. Vucevic looked good once again — he matched his career-high of 20 points and his 12 rebounds are disappointing only when they follow up a franchise-record 29. But Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson, and Gustavo Ayon were generally exposed by Gibson and Boozer, and the rest of the Magic’s players didn’t give them enough elsewhere to make up for the disparity.

The exception to that, of course, was Jameer Nelson, who had his most impressive performance of the season. All questions about his health after sitting out the last two games with a sore left hip were proven completely irrelevant. He put in, more or less, the ideal Jameer Nelson-circa-2009 performance: he scored inside and out, tying a career-high with 32 points on 11-for-20 shooting including 6-for-9 from three. He carried most of the scoring load, out of necessity, because other guys’ shots weren’t falling.

Arron Afflalo hit a three late to keep the game within reach for the Magic and had a solid game with 19 points. But J.J. Redick was mostly silent. The Magic got nothing out of Hedo Turkoglu.

Even despite this, the Magic were able to stay in the game until the end. That’s about all Magic fans can ask for from them at this point. The Bulls are just better and pulled out the win. A lot of teams are better than the Magic are currently. That’s reality and it’s to be expected.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Jameer Nelson had his best game of the season, scoring 32 points on an efficient 11-for-20 shooting and singlehandedly keeping the Magic in the game.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

J.J. Redick was off all night. His shot wasn’t falling (he was 1-for-8 from three-point range) and didn’t do enough else to make up for his cold shooting performance.

That Was … Predictable

The Magic haven’t just been losing a lot lately. They’ve been losing in heartbreaking fashion by hanging in there until the end against superior teams and falling just short.

Jan 02

Preview: Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 2, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Bulls: 16-13
  • Magic: 12-19

Probable starters

Bulls:

  • Kirk Hinrich
  • Richard Hamilton
  • Luol Deng
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Taj Gibson

Magic:

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

Advanced stats

Bulls:

  • Pace: 90.2 (25th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.9 (25th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.1 (5th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.6 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.2 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.4 (12th of 30)

Read about the Bulls

Bulls by the Horns

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