Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 73

Nov 24

Recap: Orlando Magic 108, Cleveland Cavaliers 104

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

Lately, the Nikola Vucevics and Moe Harklesses of the Magic’s roster have been impressing as they’ve worked their way to a record improbably close to .500. But taking on the Kyrie Irving-less Cavs, it was Orlando’s veterans who carried the day.

This game was always going to be ugly. The Magic don’t have a lot of talent as it is and the Cavs were missing their best player. The Magic’s veterans provided key contributions, which ultimately prevailed over the shorthanded Cavs’ relative inexperience. Big Baby did plenty of head-scratching Big Baby things on offense, but he also took advantage of Cavs rookie center Tyler Zeller.

Arron Afflalo looked much more comfortable shooting from deep, an encouraging development given his recent shot-selection issues. He hit one of the biggest shots of the game with just under two minutes on the clock — a three-pointer that gave the Magic a two-possession lead and a little bit of breathing room after a hard-fought battle back from a first-half deficit.

Jameer Nelson had the kind of performance that makes his offseason re-signing seem smart and reminded us how important he can be when healthy. He did a little bit of everything for the Magic, scoring confidently inside and out as well as adding six rebounds and six assists. His three-point shooting (4-for-8) gave the Magic another deep threat other than Afflalo and when coupled with his ability to attack the rim, he made it difficult for the Cavs to respond.

Rookie Dion Waiters has been up-and-down during his rookie season and he had a pretty solid performance, but the Magic did well to make him take 22 shots to get his 25 points.

But it was J.J. Redick who put the game away, even as he went cold from the field. He missed all five shots he took in the fourth quarter after starting the game a perfect 4-for-4. However, he made up for this by nailing eight free throws down the stretch.

The contributions from the Magic’s young players were hit-or-miss. Vucevic did an excellent job countering yet another monster game from Anderson Varejao, finishing with 10 points and 8 rebounds. Andrew Nicholson looked good in his 12 minutes, but foul trouble severely limited his effectiveness. Harkless grabbed three offensive rebounds.

Had Irving played, this game might not have been close. Jeremy Pargo had a good shooting game starting in his place for the Cavs, but he isn’t nearly the ballhandler or distributor Kyrie is. And Pargo was simply overmatched by Nelson. Jameer’s ability to exploit matchup advantages over clearly inferior opponents has proven instrumental in the Magic’s solid start to the season and this victory was no different.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Redick’s 18 points weren’t a team-high (Afflalo had 19 and Nelson had 22). But he was a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line and all eight of those makes came down the stretch, which ultimately put the game away for the Magic.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

Tristan Thompson had a wholly unremarkable game for the Cavs and got benched down the stretch for rookie Tyler Zeller.

X-Factor

The Magic collected 16 turnovers, many of them avoidable, and somehow only trailed by six at the half. They only turned it over twice in the final two quarters, which was in large part responsible for their pulling out the victory.

Nov 23

Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: November 23, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Cavaliers: 3-8
  • Magic: 4-7

Probable starters

Cavaliers:

  • Jeremy Pargo
  • Dion Waiters
  • Alonzo Gee
  • Tristan Thompson
  • Anderson Varejao

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Cavaliers:

  • Pace: 94.1 (3rd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.4 (23rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.3 (27th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.3 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 95.9 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 100.3 (4th of 30)

Read about the Cavaliers

Cavs: The Blog

Nov 23

#ORLrank 7: Nick Anderson

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Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

G MP PER VORP WARP WS/82
1994-1995 76 2588 17.5 3.44 10.0 8.9
Nick Anderson’s best season with the Magic

 
If you were to play word association with casual NBA fans, the word most associated with Nick Anderson would be “choker.”

Facing off against the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals, with the score at 110-107 in the closing moments of regulation, Nick Anderson missed four free-throws that could have iced the game for the Orlando Magic. All Anderson had to do was make one free-throw and the game would have essentially been over.

As a result of Anderson’s inability to close out the Rockets, Kenny Smith nailed a game-tying three-pointer on the ensuing possession, the game went into overtime, and the Rockets held on to win 120-118. Houston would go on to sweep the Magic and win their second consecutive championship.

Those four missed free-throws defined Anderson’s career and that’s a shame, because he had plenty of memorable moments in a Magic uniform.

“The Steal” was one of those moments.

Trailing 91-90 with 18.1 seconds left in Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals against the Chicago Bulls, Anderson poked the ball away from Michael Jordan from behind as he was dribbling it up the floor. Penny Hardaway collected the loose ball, raced down the court, and fed Horace Grant for a dunk that put Orlando up 92-91 with 6.2 seconds remaining in the game. After Jordan turned the ball over again on the following possession, the Magic made two free-throws and improbably came away with a 94-91 victory.

Thanks to Anderson’s heroics, “The Steal” is still regarded as the most memorable moment in Magic franchise history to this day. Which is why it’s ironic that Anderson is also associated with, what’s seen by many Magic fans, as the lowest moment in the team’s history when he missed those four free-throws.

It took a while for Anderson to recover from the Finals. His confidence shattered, particularly in his free-throw shooting, Anderson’s game slowly deteriorated until it reached its lowest point in the 1996-1997 season. Anderson shot 40.4 percent from the line that year. In fact, he was so hesitant to attack the basket and get fouled, Orlando was forced to include an incentive in his contract to encourage him to get to the free-throw line.

After Anderson consulted a sports psychologist, he returned to form and in the following season, he provided the Magic fan base with another memorable moment.

During the 1997-98 season, Shaquille O’Neal made his first game appearance in Orlando as a visitor since signing with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent during the summer of 1996. In front of a sellout crowd and nationally televised audience, Anderson scored 30 points and hit a game-winning three-pointer with 7.1 seconds left to give Orlando a 96-94 win over Los Angeles. It was an emotional victory not only for the Magic but for Anderson — who could forget him bobbing his head after nailing the game-winner?

Despite the ups and downs, no other player for Orlando has provided the type of iconic moments that Anderson has.

Anderson was the first draft pick in franchise history in 1989 and the last remaining member of the expansion team in 1999. A fitting bookend to a memorable career. All in all, Anderson may be known as a choker or a hero, but he’ll always be known as “Mr. Magic.”

Voter breakdown for Nick Anderson

Drexler Highkin Rivera Schiller Scribbins
Scale (1-to-10) N/A (11) 5 8 7 6
Average rank: 7.4

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.

Nov 21

Recap: Orlando Magic 90, Detroit Pistons 74

AP Photo/John Raoux

BOX SCORE

Facing off against the Detroit Pistons for a second time in six days, the Orlando Magic skipped the dramatics this time around (following a 110-106 come-from-behind victory in Detroit) and instead used a big third quarter to put the Pistons away early after trailing at halftime.

Entering the third quarter, Detroit was up 48-45 on the Magic. At the start of the fourth quarter, Orlando was up 71-56. What happened?

In the third quarter, the Magic got off to a quick start offensively. Glen Davis got things started by making a righty hook in the paint, then Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic made back-to-back layups. Orlando’s 6-0 start to the period prompted a quick timeout from head coach Lawrence Frank.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, it would only get worse.

The Magic continued to score with relative ease against Detroit’s defense. Nelson nailing a wide open three-pointer off a staggered 1/5 pick-and-roll with Davis and Vucevic, as well as Redick making an uncontested layup on a beautiful backdoor cut (with Josh McRoberts setting a back-screen and Kyle O’Quinn making a nice feed) were examples of Orlando executing their half-court sets without much resistance from Detroit defensively.

On the flipside, as the quarter progressed, the Pistons were having a difficult time scoring on the Magic’s defense. Part of it was because Detroit shot themselves in the foot with turnovers (some of them unforced), but part of it was also because Orlando did an excellent job of contesting shots in the paint and forcing the Pistons to beat from the perimeter. Detroit, a shaky jumpshooting team, failed to do so.

As such, the Magic went on a 21-0 run.

The Pistons didn’t score their first points in the period until the 2:15 mark, thanks to two Rodney Stuckey free-throws, and they didn’t score their first field goal until the 1:57 mark, thanks again to Stuckey.

When it was all said and done, Orlando had outscored Detroit 26-8 in the third quarter (tying a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a third quarter) and would cruise to a 90-74 win.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

The Magic defense. The fewest points allowed by Orlando in a third quarter in franchise history? Eight. First on February 10, 1999 against the then-New Jersey Nets, then again in tonight’s game versus the Pistons. 

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

Go ahead and hand the LVP “award” to the whole Detroit team after a dreadful performance. Here’s the Pistons’ stat-line in the third quarter — eight points on 2-for-21 shooting from the floor (.095 percent) and six turnovers. Oof. 

Defining Moment

Trailing 48-45 at halftime, the Magic outscored Detroit 26-8 in the third quarter (the first 21 points were unanswered). The Pistons were held scoreless until the 2:15 mark in the period when Rodney Stockey made a pair of free-throws. 

That Was … Impressive

No, not Orlando’s third quarter performance. It was Andrew Nicholson who was impressive, not just with his offense (15 points on 7-for-9 shooting), but doing the little things like setting good screens and being willing to take a charge defensively.

Nov 21

Preview: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic
  • Date: November 21, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Pistons: 2-9
  • Magic: 3-7

Probable starters

Pistons:

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

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Pistons:

  • Pace: 91.9 (19th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.2 (20th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.0 (23rd of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.0 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 96.1 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.6 (13th of 30)

Read about the Pistons

Piston Powered

Nov 20

Beginning to consider the 2013 NBA draft lottery

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

There have been no shortage of conspiracy theories surrounding the NBA Draft lottery since its inception in 1985, but I have an only-half-joking hunch that the Magic are going to end up with the top overall pick in 2013. This doesn’t mean they’ll finish with the worst record in the league, although anything is possible.

Over the last three years, an unprecedented number of top-tier players have changed teams, leaving their old clubs temporarily without direction. The teams that lost the biggest stars have been paid back in the form of the prize of that particular year’s draft class.

LeBron James spurned Cleveland for Miami in 2010 and the Cavs ended up with Kyrie Irving the following year. Then, last offseason, Chris Paul navigated his way to the Clippers from the Hornets, who were rewarded with Anthony Davis in June. If the pattern holds, it would stand to reason that everything the Magic have had to deal with over the past 18 months with Dwight Howard would land them at the top of the lottery.

Half-baked conspiracy theories aside, it’s become clear that this Magic team isn’t good and they have a solid shot of finishing the season in range of one of the top few selections. This is a surprise to no one.

College basketball is underway and three weeks into the NBA season, it’s safe to say that we have an idea of what Orlando can do this year. Which is why now is as good a time as any to begin diving into the pool of prospects.

Unfortunately, the early analysis of the 2013 draft class is that it’s a weaker one than the much-lauded 2012 crop. The general consensus is that there are three players favored to be the top picks in some order: UCLA guard Shabazz Muhammad, Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, and Indiana center Cody Zeller.

After a controversial NCAA investigation into his eligibility that delayed the start of his college career, Muhammad finally made his UCLA debut on Monday to mixed reviews. He scored 15 points and shot 2-for-3 from three-point range, but it was clear that the 19-year-old’s game is still a work in progress. Noel has been similarly inconsistent thus far, putting up solid numbers and displaying flashes of his phenomenal physical ability, but still showcasing a raw set of skills. Zeller is the most polished of the three, but has perhaps the least long-term upside. There’s no clear number one like Davis or Blake Griffin and not even these three players can be considered sure things. 

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports had one particularly telling quote from an executive:

As one Western Conference executive was leaving Barclays on Monday night, he knew he’d have to see Shabazz Muhammad over and over this season. After watching Zeller and Muhammad, he did have a suspicion about this spring’s draft. “I think you’re going to see a team who gets that first overall pick who will seriously think about trading down and moving out of it.”

All of this is to say, Hennigan will have plenty of options in June. Even though the Magic stand a good chance of having one of the top picks, there’s no telling what Hennigan will do with it.

This roster is still very much in flux. Through the early season, a few youngsters (Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, and E’Twaun Moore) have impressed, but there is nobody on the team who could be considered “untouchable” in a trade of any kind. And depending on how the rest of the college basketball season shakes out, a pick near the top of the 2013 lottery may turn out to be similarly movable.

Nov 20

Recap: Atlanta Hawks 81, Orlando Magic 72

AP Photo/David Goldman

BOX SCORE

Entering Monday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, head coach Jacque Vaughn had let it be known that he wanted to see the Orlando Magic get off to a better start in the first quarter. In seven of the Magic’s nine games this season, they trailed by at least eight points in the opening period. Not coincidentally, Orlando lost seven of those nine games.

After the Magic led 23-21 after the first quarter against the Hawks, it was clear that the players heeded Vaughn’s message. The problem was that Orlando didn’t build off of their (relatively) strong start to the game.

Instead, Atlanta turned a close game in the first half into a blowout in the third quarter before the Magic’s bench went on an 18-3 run in garbage time during the fourth quarter to make the final score look respectable. The reason Atlanta turned the game into a laugher was because of Orlando’s inability to score.

The Magic struggled all game long to create quality looks for themselves, particularly in half-court sets, which is a problem that has consistently popped up for them in the early stages of the regular season. For the most part, Orlando was attempting shots that were usually contested. When the Magic did get a clean look, they typically didn’t convert.

It wasn’t as if the Hawks blew the doors off offensively against Orlando, either. Atlanta scored 81 points on 95 possessions. The Magic were just worse, scoring 72 points on the same number of possessions.

It didn’t help that Glen Davis, sporting the highest usage rate on Orlando’s roster (26.9 percent), continues to be a black hole on offense. Davis’ True Shooting percentage entering Monday was an anemic 45.1 percent. Following a dreadful 11-point performance (5-for-13 from the floor and 1-for-3 from the free-throw line), that percentage won’t get better.

It also didn’t help that Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick played sick. Nelson and Redick deserve credit for gutting it out and trying to play under the weather, but it didn’t work out for either of them. They combined to score 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting and struggled to play with energy.

To sum it up, nearly everyone didn’t play well for Orlando. Not only did Davis, Nelson, and Redick play poorly, but players like Arron Afflalo (six points on 3-for-10 shooting) and E’Twaun Moore (eight points on 4-for-12 shooting and seven turnovers) struggled as well.

If there’s a silver lining to this game for the Magic, it’s that — as Stan Van Gundy used to say — it counts as just one loss.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Al Horford (15 points and nine rebounds) was one of the few standout performers in an otherwise ugly game. Considering how poorly some other players performed, like Josh Smith, Horford looked like a world-beater at times.

Defining Moment

Leading 41-37 at halftime, the Hawks used a 17-2 run during the third quarter to break the game wide open. Their double-digit lead ballooned to as many as 24 points in the final period.

Nov 19

Preview: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks
  • Date: November 19, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: NBA TV
  • Arena: Phillips Arena

Records

  • Magic: 3-6
  • Pistons: 4-4

Probable starters

Magic:

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

Hawks:

  • Jeff Teague
  • Devin Harris
  • Kyle Korver
  • Josh Smith
  • Al Horford

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.6 (18th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 98.5 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.7 (17th of 30)

Hawks:

  • Pace: 92.1 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.5 (20th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.7 (8th of 30)

Read about the Hawks

HawksHoop

Nov 19

Monday’s Magic Word

  • In Kurt Helin’s latest power rankings at ProBasketballTalk, the Orlando Magic came in at No. 25: “If you want some bright spots, Jameer Nelson is back and the ball movement looks better. Plus there was the dramatic fourth-quarter comeback against Detroit. It’s not much but at least their losing streak has ended.”
  • Meanwhile, the Magic rank No. 26 in ESPN.com’s Marc Stein’s power rankings with an important tidbit: “[Their] case for finding a third team in the Dwight Howard deal so the Magic wouldn’t have to take back Andrew Bynum has never been stronger.”
  • For those that don’t know, it’s been reported that Bynum suffered a setback in his rehab by injuring his left knee while bowing.
  • A recap of Orlando’s loss against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
  • The Magic will be facing off against their nemesis tonight.
  • Should Orlando re-sign J.J. Redick? He’s in the last year of his contract.
  • Redick, who missed Sunday’s game against the Raptors due to an illness, is a game-time decision tonight against the Atlanta Hawks.
  • Head coach Jacque Vaughn wants to see the Magic get off to a better start in first quarters.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “The top priority tonight for the Magic (3-6) against the Hawks (4-4) is to get off to a better start so that they are not fighting from behind all game. That has been a trend most of this season as Orlando has trailed by at least eight points in the first quarter of seven of nine games so far.”
  • John Schumann of NBA.com with this statistical nugget: “Somehow, Glen Davis has taken 148 shots from the field and has only 19 free throw attempts. He’s had his shot blocked more times (21) than he’s been to the line.”

Nov 18

Recap: Toronto Raptors 97, Orlando Magic 86

AP Photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS, Frank Gunn

BOX SCORE

Nothing like a little dejavu. Sort of.

Against the Detroit Pistons on Friday, the Orlando Magic came back from a 13-point deficit to escape with a win.

Against the Toronto Raptors, the Magic came back from a 13-point deficit and led 74-73 with 8:29 left in the game. That’s where things took a turn for the worse for Orlando, however.

The Raptors proceeded to go on a 19-4 run and came away with an 11-point victory, all thanks to Jose Calderon’s precision passing. Calderon systematically picked apart the Magic’s defense, assisting on 15 of Toronto’s 19 points during the run.

Calderon started things off with a drive-and-kick pass to Linas Kleiza for a three-pointer from the right wing. Then on the ensuing possession, Amir Johnson took a handoff pass from Calderon and drilled a three-point shot from the right corner. A few minutes later, Calderon executed a 1/5 pick-and-roll with Andrea Bargnani, with Bargnani making an 8-foot jumper in the paint. Then on the next play down, Bargnani made a 15-foot jumper alongside the right baseline on a feed from Calderon — Johnson did a nice job of setting a pin-down screen for Bargnani, freeing him up for the shot.

At this point, the score was 87-78 in favor of Toronto and Orlando was reeling. That’s when Calderon finished the Magic off and put them out of their misery. First, he found DeMar DeRozan for an alley-oop dunk in transition following a steal from Bargnani. Then Calderon executed a 1/4 pick-and-roll with Johnson on the left side of the court and made a skip pass to Kleiza for a three-pointer in the right corner.

Ballgame.

It’s rare that a player dominates a game with his passing, unless you’re name is Rajon Rondo (who does it regularly), but that’s what Calderon did against Orlando. Consider this: Calderon, by himself, had as many assists (18) as the Magic had as a team. In the decisive fourth quarter, Calderon had 10 assists and accounted for 23 of the Raptors’ 30 points in the period without scoring a single point. Those are mind-blowing numbers.

While Orlando was struggling to create shots for themselves offensively (especially with J.J. Redick unable to play due to an illness), Calderon was doing it effortlessly for Toronto and it’s why they won.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Starting at point guard for an injured Kyle Lowry (bone bruise), Calderon picked apart the Magic’s defense with his passing all afternoon. Stat of the day? Calderon: 18 assists (including 10 in the fourth quarter alone). Orlando: 18 assists.

X-Factor

Amir Johnson (15 points) and Linas Kleiza (12 points) gave the Raptors a huge lift off the bench, particularly in the fourth quarter, where they combined to score 24 of Toronto’s 30 points in the period.

Defining Moment

After coughing up a 13-point lead and trailing 74-73 early in the fourth quarter, the Raptors responded by going on a 19-4 run that allowed them to regain control of the game. Calderon’s passing wizardry mystified the Magic during the run.

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