Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 79

Feb 10

Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Portland Trail Blazers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: February 10, 2013
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Trail Blazers: 25-25
  • Magic: 14-36

Probable starters

Trail Blazers:

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

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Trail Blazers:

  • Pace: 91.1 (20th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.0 (13th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.3 (22nd of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.4 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.3 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.7 (24th of 30)

Read about the Blazers

Portland Roundball Society

Feb 09

Recap: Cleveland Cavaliers 119, Orlando Magic 108

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AP Photo/Mark Duncan

BOX SCORE

At this point in the season, wins and losses don’t matter for the Orlando Magic. Even though the Cleveland Cavaliers extended the Magic’s losing streak to a season-high 12 games, what matters more for Orlando is player development.

Players like Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson — the future of the Magic — had standout performances against the Cavaliers. Vucevic finished with a career-high 25 points to go along with 13 rebounds, while Nicholson had 21 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks.

Vucevic got off to a quick start in the first quarter with 11 points and six rebounds. Matched up primarily against Tyler Zeller, Vucevic did whatever he wanted offensively. Whether it was Vucevic scoring on a layup in a pick-and-roll with Jameer Nelson, a lefty hook in the paint, or converting a traditional three-point play on an offensive rebound putback, it became clear that Zeller was outmatched.

The trend continued throughout the game, as Vucevic did whatever he wanted offensively against Zeller (and Marreese Speights on occasion). Lefty hooks? Righty hooks? Midrange jumpers? Offensive rebound putbacks? No problem.

Would Vucevic had put up this type of performance against Anderson Varejao? Probably not. Regardless, Vucevic displayed his full potential on offense, though he has a lot of work to do to become a net positive defensively.

As for Nicholson, his silky smooth jumper and refined post game was working in unison. Like Vucevic, Nicholson showed what he’s capable of offensively.

It’s games like these that make Magic fans wonder why he wasn’t getting more playing time before Glen Davis went down with a potentially season-ending injury. Now that Davis is hurt and Nicholson is starting at power forward out of necessity, perhaps now that question can be put to rest.

Perhaps the most encouraging development from this game was how well Nicholson and Vucevic looked together on offense. Because they both can operate either from the low post (on either block) or from midrange (at the elbows), you rarely, if ever, see them get into each other’s way offensively.
And it helps that Vucevic is a capable high-post passer.

The pairing needs to improve on defense, but it’s hard not to be impressed with how they performed on offense. And when you take into account Maurice Harkless’ slow but steady progress, the Magic fanbase may be getting a glimpse at the frontcourt of the future.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Kyrie Irving (24 points, eight assists, and six rebounds) was his usual sterling self. When the game got tight late as Orlando tried to mount a comeback, Irving shut the door in crunch time.

That Was … More of the Same

Another game, another loss. The Magic have now lost 23 of their last 25 games since a surprising 12-13 start to the season. Seems like yesterday people were talking about the playoffs.

Feb 08

Preview: Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Date: February 8, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Quicken Loans Arena

Records

  • Magic: 14-35
  • Cavaliers: 15-34

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Josh McRoberts
  • Nikola Vucevic

Cavaliers:

  • Kyrie Irving
  • Dion Waiters
  • Alonzo Gee
  • Tristan Thompson
  • Tyler Zeller

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.3 (18th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.0 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.4 (25th of 30)

Cavaliers:

  • Pace: 92.3 (10th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.1 (17th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.0 (27th of 30)

Read about the Cavaliers

Cavs: The Blog

Feb 07

3-on-3 roundtable: Which Magic player should be traded?

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Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

With the trade deadline steadily approaching and the rumor mill continuing to churn, it remains to be seen if J.J. Redick or any other player for the Orlando Magic gets moved (if Glen Davis was healthy, his name would be listed below).

With the Magic (14-35) mired in a season-high 11-game losing streak and having lost 22 of their last 24 games, it should be no surprise that veterans on a rebuilding team are linked to trade rumors. Players like Redick are best served playing for a contender.

But which players for the Magic should be traded? Magic Basketball investigates.

Keep him or trade him: J.J. Redick

Nate Drexler: Keep him. Sure, he’s the most likely trade piece because every contender would love to have him. But how will that benefit Orlando? Redick is a staple in Orlando and the Magic aren’t going to be this bad forever. I would love to see him finish his career here.

Sean Highkin: Trade him. Redick has been the Magic’s best player this season by a considerable distance, but he’s in the final year of his contract and re-signing him will likely interfere with the rebuilding timeline Rob Hennigan has mapped out. There are plenty of teams who could use him and the Magic should be able to at least get a first round pick in return.

Noam Schiller: Trade him. Redick very well may be the team’s best player at the moment, but his deal is up this summer. If he’s not traded, the Magic could lose him for nothing. A team so early in the asset-gathering stage can’t afford that.

Keep him or trade him: Jameer Nelson

Drexler: Keep him. You can’t take the floor general out of the equation at this point. He sells tickets, the fans love him, and there’s not really a great option for a back-up point guard if you let him go. His age is a question too, as it will limit what you might get in return. While he’s invaluable to the Magic, he might not carry that same worth in a different city.

Highkin: Keep him. By default. If anyone is willing to take his contract off the Magic’s hands, then by all means. But he’s in the first year of a three-year contract that doesn’t become unguaranteed until the final year. He’ll be more valuable at next year’s deadline than this one.

Schiller: Keep him. I was opposed to the Nelson contract when they gave it, especially when the team wouldn’t pay Ryan Anderson. But there is literally no other serviceable point guard on the roster other than Jameer. He could probably net more value next year when that partially guaranteed third year is closer.

Keep him or trade him: Arron Afflalo

Drexler: Trade him. You could get some good value for Afflalo and his contributions on the court are limited. He’s one of those value guys that I could see multiple teams being interested in. If you could grab a piece or two for the price of one, then I say go for it.

Highkin: Trade him. Afflalo is a good player, but he’s one of the few on a long-term contract on the roster. He’s not so valuable to the Magic that they couldn’t move him for a rookie-scale talent or a pick if the opportunity presented itself.

Schiller: Keep him. If a good deal comes up, go for it. However, like Nelson, teams trying to acquire Afflalo would ask for a discount because of the length of his contract. Orlando should be in with this rebuild for the long haul — there’s no need to saddle themselves with artificial deadlines.

Feb 06

Recap: Los Angeles Clippers 86, Orlando Magic 76

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AP Photo/John Raoux

BOX SCORE

It was a C-list type of night in Orlando and the Magic proved that, despite key injuries on both sides, they are capable of losing in almost any circumstance.

Jameer Nelson was “the plan” for Orlando and that plan got squelched for the entire second half, leading the Magic to their 35th loss of the season.

At halftime, Nelson said that he needed to value the ball a little bit more. What he should have said was, “If we’re going to win this game, it’s going to be because I score 40 points.” Nelson ended the first half with 18 points, three assists, and three rebounds. He didn’t score at all in the second half.

For Nelson, “valuing the ball” probably changes from night to night and from season to season. A year ago, it might have meant making sure Dwight Howard got 60 touches. Earlier this season, it might have meant penetrating and finding J.J. Redick or Arron Afflalo on the perimeter.

But in a game where five Magic players, including Redick, Afflalo and Glen Davis, were injured and sitting on the bench, valuing the ball meant keeping the ball in his own hands.

The Clippers, even without their stars, are a good team. And a good team knows how to adjust at halftime. In this game, the only adjustment was silencing Nelson.

Sean Highkin pointed out that the Magic tend to lose games in the first and fourth quarters. But against the Clips, because Nelson — the only Magic threat — was neutralized in the second half with a trapping defense, Orlando really lost this game in the third quarter. Nelson didn’t score in the third and the Magic were outscored 24-13.

The rest was, as they say, history, as there was no other real scoring option for Orlando.

Fans might have viewed this game as a wash. No stars, no implications, and once again, no win for the Magic.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Despite being silenced in the second half, Jameer asserted himself offensively in the first half. Without his presence, the Magic would have been blown out by a team full of bench players from Los Angeles.

Defining Moment

In the third quarter, the Clippers adjusted, trapped Nelson, and challenged Orlando to beat them with other options. Orlando couldn’t and after surrendering 11 points in the third, the Magic limped into another loss.

That Was … Like Watching a D-League Game

It’s hard enough to watch the Magic these days. When an elite team comes into town and their stars are wearing suits on the bench, it gets even harder. Just another day in the office for Orlando, though, notching their 35th loss of the season.

Feb 06

Preview: Los Angeles Clippers at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Los Angeles Clippers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: February 6, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Clippers: 34-16
  • Magic: 14-34

Probable starters

Clippers:

  • Eric Bledsoe
  • Willie Green
  • Caron Butler
  • Lamar Odom
  • DeAndre Jordan

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • E’Twaun Moore
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Josh McRoberts
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Clippers:

  • Pace: 91.7 (14th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 109.1 (5th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.0 (5th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.3 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.5 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.7 (25th of 30)

Read about the Clippers

ClipperBlog

Feb 06

Anatomy of a losing stretch

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Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

As Noam Schiller noted on Tuesday, a big reason for Orlando’s recent losing stretch is because they’ve regressed badly defensively. The Magic went from having a top 10 defense in the first month and a half of the season to having one of the worst defenses in the NBA.

As January bleeds into February, the losses for the Magic are continuing to pile up and grow more indistinguishable. It’s not just that the team is losing — and boy, are they ever losing. They’re sitting at 14-34 on the season and have lost 21 of their last 23 games.

But beyond just the loss column, they’re losing in the same way over and over. They get down big in the first quarter, make a run in the middle two periods, and then collapse down the stretch.

Their quarter-by-quarter splits bear this out. Orlando’s downfall has been in the two bookend periods since this stretch of futility began on December 21. They have been outscored by 9.5 points per 100 possessions in the first quarters of games and 12.1 points per 100 possessions in fourth quarters, per NBA.com. The middle two quarters are not exactly encouraging (net ratings of -6.5 and -8.0, respectively), but they’re still noticeably less the cause of the damage than the first or fourth quarters.

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Down the stretch in particular, the Magic’s efficiency has fallen off a cliff in the last 23 games.

This drop is most striking in looking at the three-point splits. The Magic have attempted more threes per game in fourth quarters than in any of the first three periods during this stretch and the drop-off is stunning.

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 05

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Kendrick Lamar and Arron Afflalo speak to Elena Bergeron of ESPN the Magazine about “Black Boy Fly,” a track on Lamar’s album (Good Kid, M.A.A.D City) which talks about Afflalo back in high school in Compton, California.
  • E’Twaun Moore with a highlight-reel play in last night’s game between the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers.
  • Josh McRoberts’ late three-point shot in yesterday’s game extended the Magic’s streak of consecutive games with at least one three-pointer to 458 games.
  • Why isn’t rookie Andrew Nicholson getting more playing time?
  • A recap of Orlando’s 78-61 loss to the Sixers.
  • “E’Twaun Moore has become the Swiss Army Knife of the Orlando Magic.”
  • Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: “The Magic have dropped 10 straight and have not won since Jan. 16. Orlando hosts the injury-riddled Clippers on Wednesday and visits the Cavaliers on Friday in possible streak ending contests.”

Feb 05

To tank or not to tank?

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Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Orlando Magic currently sit 8.5 games out of the Eastern playoff picture with 36 games left on their schedule. They have the league’s third-worst record (14-34) and sixth-worst efficiency differential (-5.1 points per 100 possessions), per NBA.com.

The stingy defense that fueled their early season success has all but dissipated. The Magic have allowed an astonishing 111.9 points per 100 possessions over their last 23 games as the team has gone 2-21 in that stretch, per NBA.com. To put that number in perspective, the Charlotte Bobcats’ league-worst defense allows 108.3 points per 100 possessions.

It begs the question — is it time for Orlando to tank?

It seems somewhat absurd to ask if a 14-34 team should aim lower, but the idea of tanking in the NBA isn’t limited just to losing. From roster moves to coaching decisions, there are a host of options that would be immediately hurtful yet beneficial to the long-term fortunes of the franchise.

Here’s a look at some moves Orlando can make that would fall under the tanking umbrella and how prudent making those moves would be at the present.

Play the youngsters
Jacque Vaughn has done a fairly decent job giving future pieces burn so far, but there is still more room to grow.

The linchpin of Vaughn’s developmental plan so far has been second-year center Nikola Vucevic, who has started every game and leads the team with a 17.9 Player Efficiency Rating. Vuc has already improved by leaps and bounds since last season, and Vaughn deserves a lot of credit for it.

However, when it comes to the Magic’s next two long-term prospects, there is more that could be done. Maurice Harkless went through a short stint in the doghouse during January, which is borderline indefensible for a team that was already far out of playoff reach by then. The desired trend is the one we’ve seen in the past four games, when he played 30 or more minutes in each contest, including a very impressive showing against Milwaukee on Saturday (19 points, 14 rebounds, and four steals — all career-highs).

Even with Hedo Turkoglu back in the rotation, there is nobody on the roster that should take minutes from Harkless at this point.

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 05

Recap: Philadelphia 76ers 78, Orlando Magic 61

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Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

There’s not a lot of things the Orlando Magic are good at. The Magic struggle to score and they can’t play defense. If there’s one thing the Magic do well, it’s lose games.

Facing off against the Philadelphia 76ers, without the services of Jameer Nelson (bruised left forearm), J.J. Redick (sore right shoulder), Arron Afflalo (strained left calf), and DeQuan Jones (sore left ankle), Orlando was forced to play with a skeleton crew and the result was a 78-61 loss to the Sixers.

For the Magic, they tied a season-high with their 10th consecutive loss and have now lost 21 of their last 23 games. The 61 points were a season-low.

Playing short-handed, Orlando didn’t stand a chance in this game and that was evident in the first quarter as Philadelphia jumped out to a 22-6 lead. Not known as a fast-paced team, the Sixers used their transition offense (14 fast break points) to open up a double-digit lead against the Magic in the opening frame.

Nick “Swaggy P” Young led the charge for Philadelphia with his swaggy ways, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the first quarter — including a 360-degree dunk off a fast break.

Orlando tried to make a game of it, making things interesting by cutting their deficit to two points late in the second quarter. But you always got the sense that Philadelphia — with a considerable advantage in talent and depth — was in cruise control, knowing they could turn on the switch at any time and put the game away.

That switch turned on in the third quarter, as the Sixers effectively put the game away by increasing their lead to 16 points. Jrue Holiday was the architect of the scoring surge and he did it with his passing. He didn’t score a single point in the period, but that didn’t stop him from accounting for 13 of Philadelphia’s 18 points thanks to six assists.

On the flipside, the third quarter was a disaster for Orlando. Knowing that the Magic were lacking playmakers and shooters, the Sixers packed the paint and dared Orlando to beat them from the perimeter. The end result was an 11-point quarter for the Magic, in which they shot 4-for-19 from the floor (21.1 percent).

Needless to say, the final period was a merely formality, as Philadelphia cruised to a relatively easy victory over an overmatched opponent.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

On a night where Nikola Vucevic played in Philadelphia for the first time since being traded to Orlando as part of the Dwight Howard blockbuster, his counterpart — Spencer Hawes — thoroughly outplayed him (21 points and 14 rebounds).

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

As a team, the Magic scored a season-low 61 points on 84 possessions and shot a season-low 33.8 percent from the floor. In other words, it was a trainwreck performance.

Defining Moment

After relinquishing a double-digit lead in the first half, the Sixers went on a 14-1 run midway through the third quarter to reopen their double-digit lead and put Orlando out of their misery.

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