Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 88

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.”

Nov 04

Recap: Orlando Magic 115, Phoenix Suns 94

AP Photo/Reinhold Matay

BOX SCORE

Of course I saw a 2-0 start for the Magic coming. Who wouldn’t have?

The first half couldn’t have gone much worse, which was to be expected. With Jameer Nelson (strained groin) and Hedo Turkoglu (broken hand) sidelined, the Magic had two first-time NBA starters in their lineup in E’Twaun Moore and undrafted rookie DeQuan Jones. The defense had no answer for Luis Scola, who went to work early and got pretty much anything he wanted in the paint. Glen Davis started jacking up shots from the top of the key. The Suns forced turnover after turnover. Besides J.J. Redick’s 15 first-half points, Orlando got almost nothing from their bench, which isn’t surprising with two of their starters out of action. It was a miracle they only went into halftime down 10.

The second half was a completely different story. Big Baby had a much more efficient half on both ends of the floor. Moore and Arron Afflalo lit it up from three-point range to start the half. Gustavo Ayon (in his Magic debut) and Nikola Vucevic made key defensive contributions. Andrew Nicholson capably spelled Davis for about six minutes in the third quarter. Even Josh McRoberts was aggressive in the paint on offense and pulled down seven rebounds.

DeQuan Jones getting his first NBA start after improbably making the team out of training camp seemed to be the most compelling storyline coming into the game, but he only played 16 minutes and didn’t play a role in the Magic’s second-half run. However, even though the box score won’t show it, he did display a nice defensive effort against Michael Beasley, with a block and a ball knocked off Beasley’s foot to force a turnover. Even if he doesn’t stay in the starting lineup, he at least showed enough to stay in Jacque Vaughn’s rotation.

E’Twaun Moore, the other newcomer to the starting lineup, played very well, knocking down shots and picking up five assists. Once Nelson is back, Moore will have firmly established himself as a viable back-up point guard option.

The Magic aren’t going to win these types of games very often this season — the talent level is just too low for this to be sustainable. But the play of the Magic was exactly what fans should want out of a rebuilding team: a total team effort in which the young players visibly got better as the game progressed. At the very least, this team is going to be fun to watch.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Redick scored 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting off the bench. Of the nine makes, only three of them were from three-point range. He scored inside as well as from midrange just as confidently and dished out six assists.

X-Factor

Big Baby had a horrible first half, shooting 2-for-9 from the field and getting in early foul trouble. But he completely turned it around in the second half, being much more aggressive inside and taking fewer long twos.

Defining Moment

Led by Afflalo and Moore, the Magic drilled their first eight three-point attempts of the second half and from there, Orlando’s scoring stayed consistent the rest of the way. Phoenix never recovered.

Nov 04

Preview: Phoenix Suns at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Phoenix Suns at Orlando Magic
  • Date: November 4, 2012
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Suns: 1-1
  • Magic: 1-0

Probable starters

Suns:

  • Goran Dragic
  • Jared Dudley
  • Michael Beasley
  • Luis Scola
  • Marcin Gortat

Magic:

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

Advanced stats

Suns:

  • Pace: 93.9 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 94.2 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 93.7 (4th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.8 (23rd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 109.9 (4th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 95.9 (8th of 30)

Read about the Suns

Valley of the Suns

Nov 03

Recap: Orlando Magic 102, Denver Nuggets 89

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

BOX SCORE

There’s a lot of things to take away from the Orlando Magic’s win against the Denver Nuggets in their regular season home opener, but here are a few that stood out.

_______

Jacque Vaughn won his first game as an NBA head coach. Making his head coaching debut, Vaughn coached a masterful game. The Magic, as a team, look well-prepared on both sides of the ball.

On offense, Orlando generated a lot of points out of a hybrid high-post offense and did so efficiently for the most part. Defensively, the Magic put forth an honest effort and deserve credit for limiting the Nuggets to 89 points on 92 possessions, but Denver didn’t do themselves any favors either. The Nuggets were their own worst enemy — they weren’t aggressive in attacking the rim, they settled for too many jumpshots, they didn’t create enough transition opportunities (partly due to the fact that Orlando took care of the basketball), and they were sloppy on offense (committing silly turnovers and making bad passes).

As a result, the Magic came away with a surprising victory.

_______

For Orlando, the stars of the game were Glen Davis and J.J. Redick.

Firmly entrenched in a starting role for the first time in his career, something that Davis has always wanted, he took full advantage of the opportunity. He was the centerpiece of the Magic’s offense, primarily scoring via midrange jumpers, layups, and hook shots. At the end of the night, Davis finished with 29 points (13-for-25 shooting from the floor), 10 rebounds, and two blocks. With no Dwight Howard around, expect Davis to continue to be a focal point offensively.

As for Redick, he played his usual efficient ballgame (21 points on 11 shots) for Orlando. What was most impressive, though, was his playmaking ability. Even though he’s entering his seventh season in the league, it doesn’t seem as if Redick gets enough credit for his ability to create for himself and others on offense as he did against the Nuggets (six assists). Yes, he’s one of the premiere shooters in the NBA but Redick is a playmaker too. This has been the case for a while now. Maybe this season that’ll become a common description of his skill-set.

_______

With rookie Maurice Harkless still working his way back from sports hernia surgery and fellow rookie DeQuan Jones out with a minor hip strain, Vaughn was forced to play Arron Afflalo a lot at small forward against Denver. That trend will likely continue, given that Hedo Turkoglu broke his left hand during the game against the Nuggets (he’s expected to miss at least four weeks).

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

It’s a tie between Davis and Redick. Both players were standout performers against Denver and the main reasons why the Magic were able to win the game in an “upset.”

X-Factor

Team A had 15 fast break points and 60 points in the paint. Team B had eight fast break points and 36 points in the paint. Can you guess which team won the game?

Defining Moment

Midway through the first quarter, Jameer Nelson made a tremendous half-court bounce pass to Redick for a reverse layup in transition (it was goaltended). It was one of many sequences for Orlando that signaled they came ready to play.

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