Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 79

Dec 04

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Jordan White of Hardwood Paroxysm details Maurice Harkless’ defensive impact on the Orlando Magic so far this season: “When Harkless is on the court, opposing teams’ Offensive Rating drops nearly four points, from 105.2 to 101.4. His offense is miles behind his defense, but credit the rookie for realizing that his best shot at early playing time would be to use his long-limbed frame and freaky athleticism to make an impact on defense, and credit Vaughn for rewarding his efforts.”
  • The Magic have a crunch time lineup that is one of the best in the NBA.
  • Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: “Magic showing some life with quality back-to-back road wins against the Lakers and Golden State. One constant about the young Magic: They play hard.”
  • Watch Glen Davis beat the buzzer in last night’s game between Orlando and the Golden State Warriors.
  • Senior vice president Pat Williams says the Magic made the best deal possible when asked about the aftermath of the Dwight Howard trade.
  • Davis is a star of the night for his efforts (24 points and six rebounds) against the Warriors in the Magic’s 102-94 win.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk credits Orlando, who beat Golden State on Monday, for not suffering an emotional letdown after taking down Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
  • A look back at the Magic’s fourth quarter heroics against the Warriors.

Dec 04

On being the future of the franchise

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

A phrase that gets thrown around a lot is “future of the franchise.” We often attribute this accolade to a guy who is a rising star or a guy who started proving himself right out of the gate as an unbelievable and capable talent. Kyrie Irving is the future of the Cavs, for instance. Anthony Davis is the future of the Hornets. We get that.

In recent months, Maurice Harkless’ name has been tossed around by a few writers as possibly being the future of the Magic and you know something? They’re right.

Orlando doesn’t have Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, or any young player close to that caliber. They didn’t cash in on on a blue chipper in the draft that could stand as an honest to goodness “future of the franchise.” At least not yet.

Instead, Orlando assembled a group of young, pretty good players who have to find their own way and carve their own niche in this league. The Magic coupled those youngsters with some veteran players who can show them the way.

We talk about guys like Andrew Nicholson as being a solid talent who has some room to grow and appears to be doing a lot of things right, if not a bit patiently. That right there is what the future of this team is and Harkless fits right into that camp.

Which is a really nice look for an Orlando team that just upped their record to 7-10 with back-to-back wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors. OK, those wins don’t mean a ton in the long run, but what it points to is a Magic team that is clearly not tanking, is full of young (and slightly timid) talent, and that does have a future.

Looking at Moe’s numbers, he seems anything but futuristic. Quietly boasting 4.4 points and 4.3 rebounds a game to go with a modest 12.1 Player Efficiency Rating, Harkless is spending the majority of his 18.4 minutes per game on the court acclimating himself to the climate of the NBA.

After all, it was just weeks ago that the rookie admitted his admiration for Carmelo Anthony and his excitement to play against Kobe Bryant. That doesn’t make him soft, it just makes him regular. He’s not big pimpin’ Kyrie Irving, who hits a million three-pointers in the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend in Orlando his first year in the league. He’s a cerebral, intelligent, basketball player who is slowly working his way into the water instead of cannon-balling into the deep end.

Harkless has all the makings of being one of the best wing defenders in the NBA and he’s earned himself a starting role in the absence of Hedo Turkoglu. These are the types of things you have to look at as a Magic fan and say, “yeah, this guy really is the future of Orlando, or at least part of it, and that future doesn’t seem that bad!”

As guys like Harkless and Nicholson adapt to the league, and start getting more aggressive and more comfortable, they will become dangerous. And just when that starts to happen, look for Orlando to bring on a star (I’m talking a year or two from now). They are slowly developing the future. At least that’s what I’d be doing if I were in the front office.

Watch a few things about Harkless in the next few games. He’s fearless, but not overconfident. He’s smart, but doesn’t over-think. He’s creative, but doesn’t force the issue. Most importantly, he wants to impact this league, but knows he can’t right now.

Harkless can play in this league and his small steps so far have shown us that. Orlando is fortunate enough to have a guy wise enough at only 19 years old (or perhaps well-coached enough) to develop at the right pace.

Dec 04

Recap: Orlando Magic 102, Golden State Warriors 94

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

BOX SCORE

Fresh off Sunday’s season-defining victory over Dwight Howard and the Lakers, the Magic continued to impress on their West Coast road trip with another victory over a quality opponent in the Warriors. This one was much more of a back-and-forth affair than the Lakers game, which was pretty well in hand for L.A. until a stunning late comeback by Orlando.

On Monday, the Magic played the Warriors close, leading at the half and tying after the third quarter. It was a combination of balanced late-game execution on offense (particularly on the part of J.J. Redick) and defensive stops that allowed the Magic to come away with the victory and improve their record to 7-10.

Redick was instrumental in putting this game away. He scored 17 of his 22 points on the night during the second half and was hitting almost any shot he took. He set up teammates well too, picking up three of his seven assists in the fourth quarter. His second-half scoring outburst was essential in combating a similar hot streak from Stephen Curry. Curry was on fire in the second half as well, scoring 20 of his 25 points and helping the Warriors stay in the game until Redick and Arron Afflalo closed the door in the final 12 minutes.

Jacque Vaughn’s defensive mindset continued to impress against the Warriors, as the Magic were able to get key stops late to prevent the Warriors from climbing back into the game once Redick opened up a lead with his hot shooting. The Warriors are one of the most balanced teams in the Western Conference and the Magic defense did an excellent job of severely limiting their range of weapons. Three Warriors players (Curry, David Lee, and Jarrett Jack) handled the bulk of the scoring load and Orlando defenders were able to neutralize just about everyone else.

Nikola Vucevic was a monster on the glass at both ends (15 rebounds) and Jameer Nelson was able to play facilitator for everyone despite a cold shooting night (nine assists). Even Gustavo Ayon, who has struggled mightily in recent weeks, was able to make an impact on the defensive end.

This is exactly the kind of win that’s great to see from a growing team. For the most part, nobody made any dumb decisions and the Magic took care of the ball well — committing only eight turnovers for the game.

Even as Redick was handling the lion’s share of the scoring down the stretch, there was a definite sense that he trusted his teammates enough to look to create shots for them and that level of trust extended to every other Magic player.

The Magic were able to execute early and late and got defensive stops when they needed to. That they did it against a team like the Warriors, who are great at home, on the second game of a road back-to-back, makes this win even more satisfying.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

J.J. Redick absolutely carried the Magic in the second half, both scoring and making plays for his teammates. He finished with 22 points on 7-for-13 shooting, five rebounds, and seven assists off the bench.

X-Factor

Turnovers. The Magic did an outstanding job all game taking care of the ball, turning it over only eight times. Not only was their defense able to pressure the Warriors into 14 turnovers, they were also able to capitalize on those mistakes and convert them into 23 points.

That Was … Encouraging

Arron Afflalo had one of his more efficient games of the season, scoring 24 points on 9-for-16 shooting. He did a good job attacking the basket and hit enough of his midrange jumpers that you could live with the shot selection.

Dec 03

Preview: Orlando Magic at Golden State Warriors

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Golden State Warriors
  • Date: December 2, 2012
  • Time: 10:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Oracle Arena

Records

  • Magic: 6-10
  • Warriors: 10-6

Probable starters

Magic:

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

Warriors:

  • Stephen Curry
  • Klay Thompson
  • Harrison Barnes
  • David Lee
  • Festus Ezeli

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.6 (12th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 99.3 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.9 (14th of 30)

Warriors:

  • Pace: 93.3 (5th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.8 (16th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.8 (13th of 30)

Read about the Warriors

Warriors World

Dec 03

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “There is no real revenge for Dwight Howard, but that win Sunday night sure tasted good to Magic fans. As it should.”
  • Will the Orlando Magic, after winning an emotional game against Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, suffer a letdown in tonight’s game against the Golden State Warriors?
  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “The Magic would naturally be thrilled if Sunday night’s events at Staples Center plunged the Lakers into some sort of lasting crisis. Yet even if the misery doesn’t last, Central Floridians won’t soon forget the night that Orlando not only beat Dwight’s new crew but exposed his every flaw.”
  • Glen Davis had the play of the night in Sunday’s game against the Lakers — blocking Pau Gasol’s dunk attempt in emphatic fashion midway through the third quarter.
  • J.J. Redick on Twitter: “Sweet win. That’s for Orlando. On to the next one!”
  • Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated says Orlando was hell-bent on getting revenge on Howard: “Given all the damage Howard wrought — demanding a trade, undermining a general manager, forcing out a coach — it was not enough for the Magic to simply beat him. They had to humiliate him in the process.”
  • Jameer Nelson reflects on the Magic’s win against Howard and the Lakers, noting that the team really wanted to win the game because of what it meant to the city of Orlando and the franchise as a whole.

Dec 03

Recap: Orlando Magic 113, Los Angeles Lakers 103

Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

Before Dwight Howard was ultimately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team deal in August, for months, Magic fans had to endure endless chatter surrounding Howard’s future with the Orlando Magic, given that he had an early termination clause in his contract that allowed him to become a free agent after the 2011-2012 season.

And during that time, Howard further tortured the fan base by being indecisive about his trade demands, his trade wish list, and his opt-out clause, while also wanting Stan Van Gundy fired behind the scenes. Hence the reason why “The Indecision” and “Dwightmare” became a part of the sports lexicon.

Magic fans endured a lot of grief because of Howard. Which is why the Magic’s 113-103 win against Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday proved to be a cathartic experience for the fan base.

Orlando was able to come away with a victory thanks to an offensive explosion in the fourth quarter, in which they eviscerated the Lakers’ defense in the period with dribble penetration, particularly in pick-and-rolls, while simultaneously slowing down Los Angeles offensively by employing the hack-a-Howard tactic.

The players of the game for the Magic were Redick (14 points and seven assists), Nelson (19 points, 13 assists, five rebounds, and two steals), and Afflalo (30 points on 11-for-18 shooting, five rebounds, and five assists) — two former teammates of Howard’s, as well as the player who was the centerpiece of Orlando’s trade package for Howard.

Afflalo did much of his damage in transition, where he was able to make layups and PUJITS (pull-up jumpers in transition). And in half-court sets, Afflalo — who has struggled with his shot selection early in the season — eschewed midrange jumpers in favor of corner threes. All four of Afflalo’s three-point field goals made were corner threes. When Afflalo optimizes his shot selection, as he did on Sunday, he’s capable of putting up points in a hurry.

As for Nelson, there’s something about Staples Center that gets him going (see January 16, 2009). Maybe it had to do with playing against a former teammate. Maybe Nelson was due for a big game. Regardless, Nelson was one of the architects of the Magic’s 40-point fourth quarter, using his dribble penetration to put pressure on the Lakers’ defense. Not only that, but Nelson’s two three-pointers in the late stages of the period proved to be back breakers as Los Angeles was unable to recover from the Magic’s scoring surge.

And lastly, Redick put on a clinic in the first half on how to score off the ball, using a variety of screens and cuts to the basket to score with relative ease. But it was Redick’s passing in the fourth quarter that proved to be a game-changer. Redick had seven assists for the game, with five of them coming in the fourth quarter. Like Nelson, Redick used dribble penetration to break down the Lakers defensively.

Whatever happens the rest of the season, rest assured that this is a night that Magic fans won’t soon forget.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Despite trailing for most of the game, Orlando kept fighting and put together a fourth quarter rally for the ages. This was the Magic’s best performances of the regular season and a group effort in every sense of the term.

Defining Moment

Trailing 84-83 midway through the fourth quarter, head coach Jacque Vaughn employed the hack-a-Howard tactic until the two minute mark in the period. During that stretch, Orlando went on a 20-9 run while Howard shot 5-for-12 from the free-throw line.

That Was … Liberating

After all the things the Magic fan base went through with Howard, this was a win they deserved to have. Ask any fan and they’ll probably take this victory and put it up there with any in franchise history.

Dec 02

Preview: Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Lakers

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Lakers
  • Date: December 2, 2012
  • Time: 9:30 p.m.
  • Television: NBA TV
  • Arena: Staples Center

Records

  • Magic: 5-10
  • Lakers: 8-8

Probable starters

Magic:

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

Lakers:

  • Darius Morris
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Metta World Peace
  • Pau Gasol
  • Dwight Howard

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.1 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 98.3 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.0 (15th of 30)

Lakers:

  • Pace: 93.9 (4th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 107.1 (9th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.2 (8th of 30)

Read about the Lakers

Forum Blue & Gold

Dec 01

Recap: Brooklyn Nets 98, Orlando Magic 86

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

There was a hint of inevitability in the air during this game. The Magic weren’t playing badly and the Nets weren’t playing well, but we often see this happen in the NBA: an overwhelming favorite plays down to the level of its opponent, eventually pulling away for the win when talent and execution inevitably overcome the numbness of getting up for another NBA night.

Not to be overly glum, but this was not an enjoyable contest. Both teams struggled offensively early on. The Nets were missing Brook Lopez, who has served as a first quarter focal point all season long, and even though they have several other weapons on the team, his absence seemed to throw everything off rhythm. Only Joe Johnson, who hit six of his first seven shots, kept the team’s head above water.

On the other side, the Magic were clearly missing Jameer Nelson’s guiding hand. E’Twaun Moore actually had a decent game filling in, scoring 13 points on 10 shots and only taking a couple of spine-chillingly bad pull-ups, but he’s pretty much limited to creating looks for himself. As such, most of the game ran through and Nikola Vucevic and Big Baby in the post, with the former struggling against the lengthy Andray Blatche and the latter not much of a creator himself. The lack of movement especially hurt Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick, who went a combined 2-for-14 from the floor.

Both teams sludged towards a 45-44 Brooklyn lead at the half, at which point the Nets seemed to remember how both rosters are constructed and ended things in the third quarter.

Deron Williams woke up from his slumber to get into the lane and kick out to open shooters, most of whom were Gerald Wallace. Crash hit four of the Nets’ six triples in the quarter, most of which were of the wide open variety, with Deron and Joe adding one each. The game wasn’t blown completely open — the quarter ended with the Nets up 11 — but the stagnant offense and Reggie Egans doing crazy-beard-man work on the offensive boards was enough to lock this one away.

The true value of these games -- other than the resulting draft pick -- will be the young guys learning how to deal with these situations. I assume Jacque Vaughn's scouting report mentioned not to leave Gerald Wallace wide open in the right corner, or how much Evans can change a game just by muscling his way towards misses, but the execution can often lack without a few years of getting to see why exactly those scouting reports are there.

In the meantime, Magic fans can be soothed to sleep by the serene sounds of Andrew Nicholson mid-range jumpers calmly swishing away. More of that, please.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Crash finished with 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting (including 5-for-6 from three-point range). His four three-pointers in the third quarter proved to be the straw that broke the Magic’s back.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

It’s not the back-up. It’s the back-up’s back-up. With E’Twaun Moore promoted to the starting lineup, Ish Smith got 17 minutes off the bench and spent most of them taking bad shots, going 2-for-7 from the floor with one of his makes being an unlikely buzzer beater to end the third.

Defining Moment

After a nice Moe Harkless dunk put the Magic up three early in the third, the Nets hit three triples in 57 seconds sandwiched around a Vucevic layup to put the Nets up four. The game wouldn’t be close again.

X-Factor

Andray Blatche continues to play shockingly well now that he’s no longer suckling destruction from the Wizards’ teat. The big man played great post defense, got to the rim for some nifty layups, and genuinely looks in shape — faint praise, but an accomplishment given his past.

Nov 30

Preview: Brooklyn Nets at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Brooklyn Nets at Orlando Magic
  • Date: November 30, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Nets: 10-4
  • Magic: 5-9

Probable starters

Nets:

  • Deron Williams
  • Joe Johnson
  • Gerald Wallace
  • Kris Humphries
  • Brook Lopez

Magic:

  • E’Twaun Moore
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Nets:

  • Pace: 88.1 (30th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 107.7 (6th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.2 (7th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.7 (12th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 98.0 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.1 (12th of 30)

Read about the Nets

The Brooklyn Game

Nov 30

Friday’s Magic Word

  • How much longer can head coach Jacque Vaughn used the Orlando Magic’s current starting lineup of Nelson-Afflalo-Harkless-Davis-Vucevic? Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post ponders that very question with this revelation: “In 45 minutes together–the third-most minutes of any Magic fivesome this season–the current starting group scores 92.1 points per 100 possessions while allowing 99.7. The latter number isn’t a problem, but the former indicates a serious lack of offensive firepower.”
  • Don’t expect a change in the starting lineup in tonight’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, however.
  • Matt Dollinger with this money quote in his latest power rankings at Sports Illustrated: “Due to injuries and an offseason overhaul, Orlando is currently boasting more amusement parks than offensive playmakers.”
  • The Magic and Nets face off against each other for the third time already this season.
  • Noam Schiller makes an appearance at The Brooklyn Game today, previewing tonight’s game between Orlando and Brooklyn.
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