Give it up for O’Quinn. It was his best game so far in his rookie season, as he set career-highs in points, rebounds, and assists while notching his first career double-double. And better yet, the Queens native did it in his hometown at Madison Square Garden — the Mecca of basketball. You have to imagine he’ll remember this game when his career is over.
With Jameer Nelson having an off night, the Magic were provided with steady point guard play from Udrih instead. Crafty as always, Udrih was excellent in the pick-and-roll, particularly in the second quarter when he and O’Quinn were two-man gaming the Knicks to death. He’s one of the main reasons that Orlando was able to erase a double-digit deficit before the game got away from them in the third.
5-8 FG | 4-6 FT | 1 STL | 3 REB | 14 PTS | +7
Watching Nicholson go to work in the post is a thing of beauty, especially when he cripples defenders with his sublime footwork. Just ask J.R. Smith, who’s still trying to come down from the rafters after Nicholson faked him out with an up-and-under move on the left block on a possession late in the fourth quarter. The up-fake allowed Nicholson to finish with an easy layup.
What a weird night for Harris. Nikola Vucevic was a late scratch (flu) and missed his first game of the season. That forced Harris, who’s been starting at power forward for the Magic since March 8, to start at center. Probably not what he was expecting when he woke up this morning. The irony is that he probably lucked out by defending Kenyon Martin instead of Carmelo Anthony.
New York Knicks
The Knicks have been decimated by knee injuries in recent weeks, with Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire sitting out with varying ailments. The good news for New York was that they got Melo back after he missed six of the last eight games with a sore right knee, and he looked spry and healthy. And J.R. Swish showed up to play. And the 3-ball was falling for the Knicks.
4-12 FG | 1-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -11
Vucevic’s night could be summed up in one play. Midway through the third quarter, as Vucevic was fighting for a defensive rebound, he got popped in the face by an inadvertent elbow from Tyler Hansbrough. Vucevic walked off the court to gather himself, which forced head coach Jacque Vaughn to take a timeout. It was a prime example of how the Pacers’ frontline played Vucevic — with brute force.
It’s ironic that Harkless drew the primary defensive assignment against Paul George because it’s easy to visualize Harkless becoming as good of a defender as him. Heck, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Harkless could become a better defensive player than George. This game provided Harkless with a baseline for who he should thrive to become like on defense.
Defended primarily by George, who is widely seen as one of the best defensive players in the NBA, Afflalo had a hard time dealing with George’s length. Getting many clean looks at the basket, whether it was from the perimeter or at the rim, was a major challenge. George handcuffed Afflalo, with a little bit of help from Gerald Green.
Udrih provided the Magic with a bit of a spark at the tail end of the third quarter, but it was all for naught in the grand scheme of things. Considering the circumstances, in which every Magic starter struggled offensively, Udrih was one of the few players for Orlando that could say he had a decent enough outing on offense.
If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought a late ’90s Miami Heat-New York Knicks game broke out in Indiana. It was that ugly of a game, but you can imagine the Pacers enjoyed it. They physically manhandled the Magic, with Hansbrough leading the way. Filling in for an injured David West (sprained lower back), Hansbrough had a double-double and was a Grade A pest.
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: “Despite the Magic’s horrible season with Dwight Howard gone, the franchise was wise not to trade for Andrew Bynum. They found a gem when they acquired center Nikola Vucevic from Philadelphia. Poor Sixers.”
Zach Lowe of Grantland: “The Magic are bad, but they are surprisingly watchable for an NBA junkie curious about some intriguing and positionally ambiguous young parts. Tobias Harris has done well in extended minutes, combining a power game with a decent 3-point stroke, and Moe Harkless looks like he’s going to be a nice two-way slasher. Pairing that duo with Al Harrington in a funky and smallish front line, with Harrington playing center, makes for some enjoyable (and risky) ball, and replacing Harrington with a traditional center in Nikola Vucevic only ups the “interesting young guy” quotient. Give these guys a watch.”
General manager Rob Hennigan made the right decision by passing on the chance to acquire Andrew Bynum in the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade: “The Philadelphia 76ers, the hard-luck recipients of Bynum and his balky knees, announced on Monday that the 7-footer would be having season-ending surgery on not one, but both knees. If you’re scoring at home, that’s zero games played, $16.5 million paid out, several dozen questionable hairdos along the sidelines, zero cartilage, mountains of Philly fan angst and two 60-year-old knees in a 25-year-old body.”
The haul the Orlando Magic got in the J.J. Redick trade from the Milwaukee Bucks at the deadline, which brought in Tobias Harris, Beno Udrih, and Doron Lamb, is looking better and better by the game, highlighted by the strong play of Harris. After being buried on the bench in Milwaukee, he’s finally getting meaningful minutes in Orlando and his production has jumped with an increase in playing time.
In the 12 games Harris has played since the trade, he’s averaging 15.8 ppg and 7.3 rpg in 31 minutes with a .587 True Shooting percentage. What’s gone into his success with Orlando? Let’s dive into the tape.
Harris has been very efficient in isolation situations with the Magic so far. He’s shooting 53.3 percent and averaging 1.04 points per possession in isolation using a variety of methods, per Synergy.
Harris’ explosive first step helps him get to the hole easily and from there, he can finish with both hands, using a variety of layups, floaters, and hooks. If defenders overplay the drive, he’s confident pulling up from midrange and shooting.
Cut and transition
This is where Harris’ athleticism, smooth finishing, and basketball IQ come into play. He’s tough to stop once he gets close to the basket — he’s shooting 62.7 percent at the rim post-trade — especially when he has momentum.
It’s not all power and speed, either. Harris is creative in his finishing. He’s proved to be an intuitive cutter and knows how to fill the lanes properly on the fast break. He’s averaging more than 1.21 points per possession on both of these play types, per Synergy.
Harris’ silky outside shooting and spot-up ability has been a pleasant surprise for the Magic. He wasn’t known as an shooter with the Bucks, but his work on the perimeter has stood out with the Magic. Harris is a tweener and having a player who can play the stretch four position is huge in this era of the NBA.
Some will point to Harris’ success with the Magic as just a hot streak and, to some degree, it is. But his per minute stats post-trade are very similar to those pre-trade and even if his shooting regresses a little, he has all the tools to be a solid contributor for Orlando.
John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “Maurice Harkless is yet another young Magic player who has opened some eyes. The rookie has scored in double-figures in 15 of his last 17 games, shooting 51 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3-point range in that stretch. The Magic’s young core of Harkless, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Nik Vucevic is promising. The Magic’s defense, on the other hand, is still terrible.”
Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “Check back next Monday. If Miami can get through this week unscathed — road games in Boston and Cleveland, followed by home dates with lowly Detroit and Charlotte — Orlando hosts the Heat on March 25, after having nearly beaten them in Miami on March 6. The streak would be at 26 by then.”
Monta Ellis took over in the fourth quarter, as the Milwaukee Bucks were able to come back from a 13-point deficit to defeat the Orlando Magic on Sunday.
Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstiped Post sheds light on the Magic’s crunch time woes: “According to NBA.com/stats, Orlando has played in 20 games in which the score was within two points in the final two minutes, but has won only four of those games; only the New Orleans Hornets, at 5-17, have a worse record in such games, per NBA.com. The Hornets are also the only team with a worse efficiency differential in crunch time than Orlando, which is outscored by 38 points per 100 possessions in the clutch.”
Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk is wondering why Tobias Harris didn’t get more playing time with the Bucks.