Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 87

Nov 08

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • J.J. Redick has turned some heads with his play early in the season. Chris Broussard of ESPN Insider suggests that Redick could even be an early contender for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
  • David Thorpe of ESPN Insider offers a breakdown of rookie Andrew Nicholson: “He has a solid shot from the perimeter. He can put the ball down and drive to the paint before finishing with a soft hook. And he goes to the offensive glass fairly well. Once he locks in on his defensive rebounding role better, his playing time should improve.”
  • The Orlando Magic were thrashed by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.
  • Some Magic players didn’t take too kindly to Joakim Noah trying to win free Big Macs (the Chicago Bulls have to score 100 points or more in a home win) for Bulls fans by attempting a three-pointer in the Magic’s loss against the Bulls on Tuesday. Noah later expressed regret for attempting the shot.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com on Redick’s future with Orlando: “I believe that Redick has a chance to stay with the Magic for the long-term. He wants to be in Orlando, he likes being a mentor for the younger players and he likes his role in Vaughn’s share-the-ball offensive system.”
  • Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports with a must-read profile on Magic rookie DeQuan Jones. Here’s a snippet: “Here’s how big of a long shot Jones was in making the team, let alone starting a game for the Magic: He wasn’t invited to any predraft camps, wasn’t listed in the league’s media draft guide and worked out with only three teams. He was the seventh-leading scorer at the University of Miami last season as a senior, light credentials that led to a quiet evening at his parents’ house last June, when he watched the NBA draft and didn’t hear his name called.”

Nov 08

J.J. Redick is ready to take the leap

AP Photo/Charles Cherney

This could finally be J.J. Redick’s year. Which makes it easy to forget that J.J. Redick used to be a horrible bust that proved just how insignificant one’s college career can be.

He could always shoot. His long range acumen carried him at Duke and even when he was manning the Orlando bench for a living, he knocked down threes whenever he took the court. His worst season from behind the arc was in the 2008-2009 season when he shot a very solid 37.4 percent and his career percentage of 40.2 percent is enough to rank him 32nd all-time and 16th among active players. J.J. Redick can stroke it, man, there’s no doubt about that.

But early in his career, it just wasn’t enough. He played 79 games and 919 minutes total in his first two seasons. He got more playing time in his third season, but was fairly atrocious whenever he took the court because he was so bad at everything but those threes. His turnover percentage was nearly 14 percent, way too much for a spot-up shooter, and once he wandered inside the three-point line, his shot was almost certain to be a long two-pointer — and a missed one. It was not a fun time to be J.J. Redick.

As Orlando got deeper and went further into the playoffs in 2009, Redick finally broke through in the Eastern Conference Semfinals against Boston. Reverse-engineering his own experiences running off screens and trying to get open for threes, the unproved Redick played some surprisingly effective defense against Ray Allen, helping the Magic win the series in seven hard-fought games. The vast majority of his playoff minutes came in this series, but it was an important stretch because it proved Redick could be effectively utilized on the defensive end, the sort of valuable skill that upgrades a shooter from a potential asset to a tangible one (think pre-2012 Steve Novak and post-2012 Steve Novak).

As far as career turning points go, Redick’s is unheralded, but the data bears this one out. The following season in 2010, Redick played in all 82 games and saw his minutes uptick to 22 a night. His three-point shooting crossed the 40 percent barrier and stayed there ever since (fine, he was at 39.7 percent in 2011. Jeez), he cut down the turnovers and upped his assist numbers, and posted a 15 Player Efficiency Rating, cementing himself as an NBA contributor.

It was fitting that Redick got an offer at an above-average salary once he became an above-average player. But the Magic were already all-in and instead of becoming a starter in Chicago, Redick came back to the bench. In these days, when Oklahoma City breaks up a title contender because of financial concerns, that sort of decision would be applauded, but it caused Redick to stagnate. Vince Carter first, Jason Richardson second, and Stan Van Gundy’s system all around just didn’t afford Redick the opportunities his play had warranted. Redick’s usage rate would budge, his shot attempts consistently hovering around 11 or 12 per 36 minutes with half of them coming from three.

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Nov 08

Recap: Minnesota Timberwolves 90, Orlando Magic 75

AP Photo/Jim Mone

BOX SCORE

With injuries to Jameer Nelson (strained groin and hamstring) and Hedo Turkoglu (broken hand), as well as Al Harrington still recovering from surgery on his right knee during the offseason, playing shorthanded was eventually going to catch up to the Orlando Magic.

Without Harrington, Nelson, and Turkoglu, the Magic handily defeated the Phoenix Suns three days ago and lost a close game to the Chicago Bulls yesterday, but the bottom dropped out for Orlando against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In a sloppy game (both teams combined for 38 turnovers), this was a classic case where the more talented team won.

The Magic were able to keep pace with the Timberwolves leading up to halftime, thanks in large part due to a combination of good defense from Orlando and bad offense from Minnesota.

For most of the first half, the game was a bit of a slog — especially for the Magic, who were playing on the second game of a back-to-back. A high amount of fouls and turnovers interrupted the flow of the game. But Orlando was able to hang in there, trailing 38-34 at halftime despite shooting 31.6 percent from the field. No one on the Magic, aside from Arron Afflalo, could get anything going offensively. Afflalo scored 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the floor in the first half, while the rest of his teammates combined to shoot 7-for-31. J.J. Redick, in particular, struggled on offense, missing all six of his field goal attempts despite getting a number of clean looks on the perimeter.

In the second half, a series of runs turned this game into a rout as the Timberwolves’ offense came alive.

Sparked by Luke Ridnour and Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota went on a 15-4 run early in the third quarter that opened up a double-digit lead. Orlando was able to briefly counter with a run of their own midway through the period, cutting the deficit to five points. But the Timberwolves, thanks mostly to Greg Stiemsma’s barrage of buckets, were able to blow the game wide open with a 28-6 run that spanned from the end of the third quarter until midway through the fourth quarter.

By the time Jacque Vaughn took a 20-second timeout with 6:28 remaining in the game, the Magic were trailing by 27 points while Minnesota was purifying themselves in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.

Game. Blouses.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Ridnour was one of the main reasons why the Timberwolves were able to pull away from Orlando after a tightly-contested first half. For the game, Ridnour finished with 19 points (6-for-9 shooting from the floor) and five rebounds.

Defining Moment

Trailing 62-55, the Magic were in striking distance with the third quarter winding down. However, Stiemsma scored the next eight points in the span of roughly one minute that opened up a double-digit lead Minnesota would never relinquish.

Nov 07

Preview: Orlando Magic at Minnesota Timberwolves

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Date: November 7, 2012
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Target Center

Records

  • Magic: 2-1
  • Timberwolves: 2-1

Probable starters

Magic:

  • E’Twaun Moore
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Josh McRoberts
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Timberwolves:

  • Luke Ridnour
  • Brandon Roy
  • Andrei Kirilenko
  • Derrick Williams
  • Nikola Pekovic

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 93.3 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 110.8 (4th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 100.8 (11th of 30)

Timberwolves:

  • Pace: 89.7 (29th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.9 (10th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.4 (17th of 30)

Read about the Timberwolves

A Wolf Among Wolves

Nov 07

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • According to a study conducted by Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus, it’s suggested that around the 25-game mark is when teams in the NBA begin to play to their talent level. Something to keep in mind when determining how good or bad the Orlando Magic will be this season.
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie on the Magic’s loss to the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday: “The Magic couldn’t hang, though Arron Afflalo’s Dwyane Wade-ish turn (28 points on 17 shots) was great to see. This team has no chance at the playoffs, but if they keep it up they’ll remind every hardcore Orlando fan of the goodness that was the 1999-00 season.”
  • Head coach Jacque Vaughn is garnering praise for his coaching ability.
  • The matchup to watch in tonight’s game between Orlando and the Minnesota Timberwolves: Nikola Vucevic vs. Nikola Pekovic.
  • Glen Davis is learning the lessons of being a go-to guy for the Magic.
  • Hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar used to be jealous of Arron Afflalo.

Nov 07

Recap: Chicago Bulls 99, Orlando Magic 93

Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

Trailing 93-89 with 1:01 left in the game, the Orlando Magic had possession of the ball with a chance to cut the Chicago Bulls’ lead to two or one (or tie the game with a four-point play). Even though the Bulls were leading with time winding down in regulation, the Magic had a chance to come back and win the game by executing on both ends of the floor. Orlando needed points, then a stop on defense to give themselves an opportunity to secure a victory.

Unfortunately for the Magic, it didn’t work out that way thanks to Glen Davis.

With 16 seconds left on the shot clock and the ball in his hands, Davis found himself wide open behind the three-point line at the top of the key. There’s a reason for that — he’s not a three-point shooter by any stretch of the imagination so no one’s going to guard him that far out on the perimeter. But instead of stepping inside the arc to take a better shot, passing the basketball to a teammate (like Arron Afflalo who was efficiently leading the way for Orlando offensively), or doing anything that didn’t involve him shooting the basketball, Davis — he of a career three-point percentage of 15.8 percent on 38 attempts — decided to pull an Andrew Bynum and shoot an ill-timed three-pointer. Did I mention that, before the three-point attempt, Davis had 16 points on 21 shots?

It was one of the worst mental errors you’ll see from an NBA player in crunch time. There was no reason whatsoever for Davis to attempt a three-point shot, let alone a shot of any kind given that his poor shot selection and inefficiency was hurting the Magic offensively throughout the game, yet he did it anyway. Davis’ decision left Orlando open for the knockout punch.

The Bulls took advantage, finishing the Magic off on the ensuing possession, with Taj Gibson completing a three-point play and increasing Chicago’s lead to seven with the score 96-89 and 39 seconds left in the game. The Bulls would hang on for a six-point victory.

Even though Orlando lost, for Magic fans, the one major takeaway from this game was the play of Afflalo.

Even though Afflalo’s reputation on defense has taken a hit in recent years, he’s highly regarded for his efficiency offensively. That aspect of his game was on full display, against Chicago’s defense no less, as Afflalo was able to score all over the court in different ways without using up too many possessions (scoring 28 points on 17 shots). Afflalo’s workmanlike performance was a direct contrast from Davis’ shot chucking.

In many ways, the Magic’s loss to the Bulls was a case study on the value of being efficient on offense, with Afflalo and Davis showing how you can help and hurt a team simultaneously.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Even though it was in a losing effort, Afflalo showed the full breadth of his game offensively and did so efficiently, scoring in catch-and-shoot opportunities, in isolation, in transition, you name it.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

It can’t be understated how much Davis hurt Orlando despite posting a double-double (16 points and 10 rebounds). All those shots he attempted and missed could have been redistributed to guys like Redick, Afflalo, and Moore offensively.

X-Factor

In a close ballgame, Chicago’s midrange shooting ended up being one of the differences in the game. The Bulls shot 9-for-13 from 16-23 feet in the deciding fourth quarter.

Nov 06

Preview: Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls
  • Date: November 6, 2012
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: United Center

Records

  • Magic: 2-0
  • Bulls: 2-1

Probable starters

Magic:

  • E’Twaun Moore
  • Arron Afflalo
  • DeQuan Jones
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Bulls:

  • Kirk Hinrich
  • Richard Hamilton
  • Luol Deng
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Joakim Noah

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 93.9 (12th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 115.5 (3rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 97.4 (4th of 30)

Bulls:

  • Pace: 93.5 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.4 (15th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 93.4 (1st of 30)

Read about the Bulls

Bulls by the Horns

Nov 06

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Jameer Nelson, recovering from a strained groin and hamstring, is out for tonight’s game between the Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls. E’Twaun Moore (an East Chicago native) will start in his place at point guard — he’s expected to have friends and family members in attendance at United Center.
  • From undrafted rookie to starter (as Hedo Turkoglu recovers from a broken hand), DeQuan Jones’ journey to the NBA has been a feel-good story for the Magic.
  • A preview of Orlando’s matchup against Chicago.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn expects that his team will get a major test tonight when it will try to match the physicality of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. In Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng, the Bulls (2-1) feature a rugged frontline that is among the best in the NBA at rebounding the ball.”
  • In today’s 5-on-5 at ESPN.com, two writers cite the Magic as one of the pleasant surprises in the Eastern Conference. Devin Kharpetian of The Brooklyn Game: ” Even though winning their first two in stunning fashion gives them a late start on their push for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft this season, the fact they can win two games in a row with Glen Davis among the league leaders in usage rate is some kind of special.”
  • Orlando jumps up from 28th to 17th in a power rankings list.
  • The Magic are off to a 2-0 start to the regular season, but is that necessarily a good thing? Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated doesn’t think so: “With veterans like Glen Davis, Arron Afflalo, J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson leading the way, the Magic will be competitive on a nightly basis and could finish in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. Ultimately, that would mean fewer Ping-Pong balls in next spring’s lottery and less chance of landing the type of franchise player they need to turn things around.”

Nov 06

E’Twaun Moore: back-up point guard?

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

A Magic team already expected to struggle got dealt a further blow in the first week of the season, when Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu were forced to miss games due to injuries. The only starters remaining from the 2009 Finals team, Nelson and Turkoglu were expected to provide a steadying hand for a roster that is, by and large, unproven.

Turkoglu’s broken hand is the more serious of their two injuries, and is expected to keep the veteran forward out at least a month.

Nelson is suffering a strained groin and hamstring, and should be back shortly. But in his absence, a pleasant surprise has emerged for the Magic in the form of E’Twaun Moore.

Moore’s contributions so far have been as unlikely as anyone’s on this young Orlando team that has shockingly started the season 2-0. A late second-round pick of the Celtics in 2011, he struggled to get consistent minutes in Boston, although he played well at times when he did. Ironically enough, his breakout game in his rookie season came against the Magic last January, when he drilled four three-pointers and scored 16 points.

But Moore was dealt this summer to Houston as a throw-in for the Courtney Lee sign-and-trade and waived by the Rockets, then signed by the Magic. Even for a rebuilding team like Orlando, he was never expected to play more than reserve minutes.

His first start came on Sunday, with Nelson sitting out, and he certainly made the argument that he deserves a shot at more consistent playing time going forward. He nailed all three of his three-point attempts, and along with Arron Afflalo, was one of the key contributors in the Magic’s remarkable comeback win over the Suns. In addition to his 15 points, he finished with six assists and showed the ability to attack the rim as well as shoot from long range. His three steals were key to a comeback effort that relied heavily on Phoenix coughing the ball up.

It’s difficult to extrapolate one game out into sustained production, especially when it came against a middling-at-best team like the Suns. And Moore’s game was not perfect. He had three turnovers, which contributed to the Magic’s early deficit. He shot poorly from midrange as well. He was perfect in his two layup attempts and three three-point attempts but shot 1-for-6 from everywhere else on the floor, per Hoopdata.

The breakdown looked somewhat different in his first game against the Nuggets, when he played 24 minutes backing up Nelson. He shot 1-for-3 on threes in that game and 4-for-6 from midrange.

It’s too early to know where Moore’s strengths and weaknesses will be in the Magic’s offense, but it’s encouraging that he’s finding different ways to score depending on the situations he’s in.

Moore will get his second start tonight, with Nelson still sidelined. Once Nelson returns, Moore will undoubtedly move back to his reserve role. But he’s played well enough to start the season that the Magic can feel comfortable handing him the keys to the second unit, for now. And if he keeps playing well, it’s not impossible to imagine him starting more games, either after Nelson gets hurt again or once the season has progressed past this surprising start and the team moves back into tank mode.

Following a team with nothing to play for in the immediate future is difficult, but small triumphs like the emergence of an unexpected contributor can be a silver lining.

Nov 05

Monday’s Magic Word

  • The Orlando Magic, off to a 2-0 start for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, are “are balling for Jacque Vaughn.”
  • During Sunday’s game between the Magic and Phoenix Suns, there was a net malfunction during a TV timeout in which a U.S. soldier attempted a trampoline dunk, missed, and broke the net (which delayed the game for 13 minutes). Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie provides an in-depth breakdown of what transpired.
  • Andrew Unterberger of The Basketball Jones: “The undefeated Orlando Magic! It’s a mystery how they’re doing it — they started E’Twaun Moore and someone named DeQuan Jones in this one, ferchrissake — but sure enough, the post-Dwight Magic are now 2-0, with a +34 scoring differential. ‘Right now Orlando just looks unstoppable!’ remarked the Suns announcer at one point, before realizing the enormity of what he had just said. Whatta week.”
  • Against the Suns, Nikola Vucevic had 18 points, 13 points, and three assists, outplaying Marcin Gortat and earning a “Lion Face” from Jared Dubin of Hardwood Paroxysm.
  • Somehow, someway, the Magic are off to a surprising 2-0 start to the regular season, which has caught the attention of ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.
  • A look back at one of the plays of the game between the Magic and Phoenix — courtesy of Arron Afflalo.
  • Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post analyzes Orlando’s upcoming schedule (at Chicago, vs. Minnesota, vs. Brooklyn, at Brooklyn) for the next week.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk recaps the Magic’s win against the Suns: “Phoenix led most of the first half and was up by 11 midway through the third quarter, then Orlando went 37-9 run over and that was it.”
  • An extremely early look at the NBA awards landscape, with head coach Jacque Vaughn and J.J. Redick garnering mentions.
  • The Ewing Theory is in full effect for the Magic after two games.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com on Orlando’s unselfishness: “No moment early this season has symbolized the Orlando Magic’s willingness to share the basketball and ‘play for one another,’ as head coach Jacque Vaughn likes to say, more than Sunday’s jaw-dropping, game-turning third quarter. It was a stretch of basketball that saved the Magic, paved the way to a thrilling 115-94 victory and spoke volumes about the way the unselfish squad wants to play the rest of the season.”
  • A status update on Hedo Turkoglu’s broken hand.
  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider on Orlando: “The expectation here was that they would be awful, as I’d pegged them for 17-65. Even two games tells us that forecast may be wide of the mark.”
  • John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “One of the most eye-opening stats of the first week was the number of shots (47!) that Glen Davis attempted in just two games. J.J. Redick was much more efficient (45 points on 25 shots) and threw in 12 assists for good measure. Though it’s just two games, the Magic’s overall efficiency is eye-opening in itself. But it will be seriously tested when they visit Chicago on Tuesday.”
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