Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 88

Apr 22

Recap: Utah Jazz 117, Orlando Magic 107 (OT)

Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images


It speaks to the defensive mastery of Dwight Howard (and head coach Stan Van Gundy) that in the Van Gundy era, the Orlando Magic have ranked in the top five or better in Defensive Rating between 2008-2011. And considering the personnel on the roster last season, it’s a downright miracle that the Magic finished third in Defensive Rating.

So when you officially take Dwight out of the equation for the remainder of the season for Orlando, given that he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back, it should come as no surprise that the Magic can’t defend right now. It’s not for a lack of energy and effort, either. In fact, that’s something Van Gundy has praised about the players for Orlando.

But the reality is this — the Magic can’t prevent the other team from scoring. At all. Orlando’s game against the Utah Jazz was the latest example.

Strange as it seems, the Magic don’t (and won’t) have much trouble putting up points without Dwight. That’s because Van Gundy is one of the best coaches in the NBA and can adjust on the fly.

To be specific, without Dwight, Orlando has all but abandoned post-ups. When you consider that the Magic don’t have any predominant low post players, it makes sense. Instead, Van Gundy has transformed Orlando’s offense into a pick-and-roll heavy attack. Reason being is that it allows the Magic to maintain ball movement, player movement, and spacing offensively. It’s beautiful to watch.

The Jazz got a heavy dose of the pick-and-roll pill from Orlando and could do little to counter its effects. Granted, Utah isn’t a good defensive team to begin with — ranked 23rd in Defensive Rating heading into Saturday’s game. That being said, it’s hard not to be impressed with how Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick ran pick-and-rolls with precision. For the most part, it’s what allowed the Magic to score 107 points without Dwight to anchor the offense.

The problem, of course, is that without Dwight to anchor the defense, Orlando could not stop Utah from scoring seemingly at will. Especially in the paint, where Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, and Paul Millsap overwhelmed the Magic with their size and skill. Credit head coach Tyrone Corbin, too, with really squeezing the Jazz’s size advantage to the bare limit by playing Millsap, Favors, and Jefferson many minutes together.

Jefferson — one of the most underrated post players in the league — did his damage primarily inside, using his footwork on the low block and feathery touch around the rim to get the job done. Millsap, when he wasn’t getting to the free-throw line, mostly hurt Orlando outside on the perimeter with his jumper. Favors? He just had his own layup drill and dunk-a-thon.

Not good.

For as resilient as the Magic have been without Dwight, that resiliency hasn’t translated to many wins. If Orlando can’t find a way to put up more of a resistance on defense, that losing trend will continue.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Nelson was tremendous. He generally outplayed his counterpart, Devin Harris, though Harris exacted some revenge on Nelson, blocking his game-winning three-point attempt at the end of regulation and also coming up big in overtime.

Defining Moment

Down 107-105 with less than two minutes to go in overtime, the Magic opted to double Jefferson in the post. That decision proved costly, as Jefferson’s kick-out pass eventually led to an open three-pointer for Gordon Hayward. Game.


It has to be Favors. He had a plus/minus of +21 for the game and that’s no fluke or coincidence. With him on the court, alongside Millsap and Jefferson, the Jazz were nearly unstoppable offensively.

Apr 21

Preview: Orlando Magic at Utah Jazz


  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Utah Jazz
  • Date: Apr. 21, 2012
  • Time: 10:30 p.m.
  • Television: ESPN
  • Arena: EnergySolutions Arena


  • Magic: 36-26
  • Jazz: 33-30

Probable starters


  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Jason Richardson
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Glen Davis


  • Devin Harris
  • Gordon Hayward
  • DeMarre Carroll
  • Paul Millsap
  • Al Jefferson

Advanced stats


  • Pace: 89.2 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.2 (15th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.5 (12th of 30)


  • Pace: 91.4 (12th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 106.7 (8th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.4 (23rd of 30)

Read about the Jazz

Salt City Hoops

Apr 20

Friday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has the backstory on Dwight Howard’s back troubles: “Howard missed games on April 1 and April 3 because of his back problems, but then he played two more games, including on April 7, aggravating his back in the process. Five days later, he practiced with the team and once again aggravated the injury. That’s when he went to Watkins for a second opinion.”
  • Orlando Magic team doctor Craig Mintzer and Dr. Robert Watkins agreed that surgery was necessary for Dwight to repair a herniated disk in his lower back.
  • It’s also been reported by Robbins that Hedo Turkoglu is not expected to return for the playoffs. Turkoglu is still trying to recover after undergoing surgery to repair facial fractures.
  • With Dwight out for the rest of the regular season, that means other players for the Magic will have to step up in his absence. Like Jameer Nelson.
  • Orlando’s hope of making noise in the postseason has been dashed now that Dwight is done for the year. Right now, the Magic are projected to face the Indiana Pacers in the first round. With Dwight, an upset series win was a strong possibility against the Pacers. That would have given Orlando a crack, likely, with the Miami Heat in the Semifinals. And given that the Magic have proven they can compete against the Heat, it would have been an interesting series to see unfold. Not anymore.
  • Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated with a must-read report on the current state of Dwight and Orlando: “Some within the Magic thought Howard was exaggerating his back problems earlier this month. They thought it was a power play by a player who over the last eight years has been given nothing but power. It turns out it wasn’t, that Howard’s back was worse than anyone really knew.”
  • Lost in all the noise — Dwight will miss the 2012 Summer Olympics, too. Who will replace Dwight as the starting center of the Olympic team for Team USA?
  • Despite Dwight’s season-ending injury, the Magic are still in line for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
  • Dwight tried to rest and rehab his injury, but it didn’t work.

Apr 20

Superman’s fall

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

I don’t think anybody saw this being the end of the saga.

Just a day ago, I — like many of you, I’m sure — assumed that Dwight Howard’s “back” was just a synonym for a host of other maladies that were not exactly a physician’s concern. Just a day ago, in fact, I was starting to reconsider my status as a Dwight apologist. Increasingly, the defenses of Dwight I’d mounted seemed thinner and thinner as his behavior became more and more childish and narcissistic.

With the news coming on Thursday that Howard is hanging it up for the season to have a herniated disc repaired in his back, I figured it was time to offer a few thoughts.

First, and most obviously, spinal discs have no character. We can safely put to rest the ideas that Dwight was malingering on account of some beef with the organization or with Stan Van Gundy. He may in fact be beefing and he may in fact have been refusing to play for the rest of the season regardless, but that’s not where we are.

Unfortunately for the player and perhaps fortunately for his image, Howard has a serious medical condition that neither he nor any self-respecting medical professional would fake so as to make any kind of point. So in a certain way, this injury allows Howard to pre-empt any further rumors which might have damaged his career every bit as much as a protracted recovery. 

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Apr 19

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • With Dwight Howard out, the Orlando Magic have struggled to defend as a team in his absence. Last night’s game against the Boston Celtics was the latest example for the Magic. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has more: “Boston shot 54.3 percent overall, the sixth time in Orlando’s eight games without Howard that Magic opponents have made at least 50.0 percent of their shots.”
  • According to a report, Dwight told owner Rich DeVos that he no longer wants to play for head coach Stan Van Gundy. Asked by the Sentinel about alleged rumor, Van Gundy says he has “no comment.”
  • Is Dwight really that much of a liability for Orlando in crunch time? Noam Schiller of Hardwood Paroxysm reveals an eye-opening stat that conflicts with conventional wisdom: “With Dwight on the court in the clutch [this season], the Magic have scored a whopping 119.4 points per 100 possessions, and have given up only 92.9, and have gone 17-10.”
  • “Magic center Dwight Howard has called team owner Rich DeVos to tell him that he won’t play for coach Stan Van Gundy anymore, WKMG in Orlando reported. But multiple league sources directly affiliated with the Magic and Howard disputed the television report to’s Michael Wallace.”
  • Perhaps it’s time for Ish Smith to take over as the back-up point guard for the Magic.
  • Van Gundy is the most disliked head coach in the NBA according to a Sports Illustrated players poll.
  • Orlando showed fight in their loss to the Celtics in yesterday’s game.
  • After the news broke that Dwight no longer wants to play for Van Gundy, there have been multiple media outlets that have refuted the story.
  • The Magic couldn’t handle “The Truth” last night.
  • Holly MacKenzie of CourtVision: “None of this is surprising, but it’s pretty shocking how this season has played out for the Magic. From Howard wanting out, to him wanting to stay, to the strangest NBA practice scrum to ever be caught on tape, the Magic have been a sideshow all season.”
  • It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Orlando all season long.
  • What will it take for the Magic to clinch the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference? Two wins, most likely.
  • Conflicting reports, the latest being that Dwight will no longer play for Van Gundy, have become the norm for Orlando this season.
  • Zach Lowe of The Point Forward: “The Howard saga has already reached nearly unprecedented levels of absurdity, even for a world as ridiculous as the NBA.”
  • Without Dwight available to play in the playoffs, the Magic have little chance of advancing past the first round. It remains to be seen if Dwight will be able to come back from injury in time for the postseason.
  • In a game that was lacking a little bit in star power, Boston prevailed against Orlando.

Apr 19

Recap: Boston Celtics 102, Orlando Magic 98

Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images


The Orlando Magic played a hard-fought game against the Boston Celtics but came up short, losing 102-98.

With the score at 98-96 and the Celtics trying to hold on for the victory, after Glen Davis stole a pass from Avery Bradley and converted a dunk on the previous possession to make it a one-possession game for the Magic, Paul Pierce made a clutch jumper on the next trip down that essentially won the game.

After Davis’ dunk, head coach Doc Rivers wisely didn’t call a timeout so that he didn’t allow head coach Stan Van Gundy to set up Orlando’s defense and possibly adjust the personnel on the floor to best prepare for whatever play Boston was going to run.

Instead, the Celtics put the ball in Pierce’s hands and let him go to work. Boston ran a 3/5 pick-and-roll with Pierce and Garnett, The Magic switched on the play, which meant that instead of Quentin Richardson guarding Pierce, it was Davis that had to try and stop him. Davis hounded Pierce on the right wing. And with Pierce stumbling momentarily, almost losing control of the basketball, as well as the shot clock winding down, it seemed like Orlando was going to get the stop that they needed.

Unfortunately for the Magic, Pierce regained his footing, went to his left while simultaneously creating room for himself, and made a free-throw line extended jumper off the dribble with Davis unable to contest the shot.

If you’ve watched Pierce play over the years, you’ll know that’s probably his favorite shot to go to in crunch time.

After Jameer Nelson made a floater off the dribble to cut the deficit back to two points for Orlando on the ensuing possession, Pierce made two free-throws to ice the game.

Crazy as it may sound, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the Magic lost to Boston — again. Why?

With the loss, Orlando remains 1 game back of the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 36-26. When you consider that the Hawks swept the season series and own the tiebreaker, the Magic are actually 2 games back of Atlanta for the No. 5 seed.

Consider this question: if you’re Orlando, who would you rather face in the first round of the playoffs? The Indiana Pacers or Celtics?

Although the Pacers are 40-22, have won 15 of their last 19 games, and all but locked up the No. 3 seed in the East, the Magic are capable of springing a first round upset against Indiana as opposed to Boston. Especially if Dwight Howard is available to play in the postseason (Hedo Turkoglu is expected to be back in time for the playoffs). The NBA is all about matchups and Orlando matches up favorably with the Pacers.

If you like to look farther ahead, not only would the Magic draw Indiana in the first round as a No. 6 seed but the Miami Heat loom on that side of the playoff bracket, too. If Orlando were able to get past the Pacers, there’s no question they would have a puncher’s chance against the Heat. But again, that is contingent on Dwight being healthy and able to play.

If Dwight is unable to play in the postseason, then throw out all the hypotheticals out the window.

However, it’s still intriguing to think about.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Pierce is a proverbial Magic killer. It’s no surprise, then, that he put up a career-high 14 assists to go along with his 29 points (9-for-14 shooting from the floor and 11-for-12 shooting from the free-throw line) and five rebounds.


In his second game back in Boston this season, Davis had a much better game compared to his first go-around. In fact, he was tremendous and helped keep Orlando in striking distance throughout the game.

That Was … Predictable

The Magic played with as much energy and effort as humanly possible against the Celtics. That garnered praise from Van Gundy after the game. Nevertheless, it still wasn’t enough to beat Boston.

Apr 18

Preview: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics


  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics
  • Date: Apr. 18, 2012
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: ESPN
  • Arena: TD Garden


  • Magic: 36-25
  • Celtics: 36-26

Probable starters


  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Jason Richardson
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Glen Davis


  • Avery Bradley
  • Sasha Pavlovic
  • Paul Pierce
  • Brandon Bass
  • Kevin Garnett

Advanced stats


  • Pace: 89.2 (27th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.1 (15th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.3 (12th of 30)


  • Pace: 90.3 (21st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.2 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 98.7 (2nd of 30)

Read about the Celtics

Celtics Hub

Apr 18

Ryan Anderson and offensive rebounds

Ryan Anderson is a poor man’s Kevin Love.

You’ll read or hear that comparison thrown around, and it’s certainly apt. Anderson shares a few similarities with Love. They’re stretch fours. Both players hoard offensive rebounds while spreading the floor and lighting it up behind the three-point line. And while Anderson and Love aren’t liabilities on defense, they’re not lockdown defenders either.

That, of course, is where the comparison ends. Love is a better rebounder and the better player (he’s also emerged as the best power forward in the NBA and an MVP candidate), mainly because he’s able to create his own shot, which opens up so many avenues for him on offense. For the season, Love is assisted on 58 percent of his made field goals — league average is 60.4 percent overall and 69 percent for power forwards.

Anderson, on the other hand, is assisted on 75.7 percent of his made field goals, which is a much higher percentage compared to Love. And that jives with Anderson’s scouting report offensively, which is that he doesn’t create his own shot that much. This season, Anderson generates his offense primarily in three play types according to MySynergySports: spot-up (36.6 percent of the time), offensive rebound (16.5 percent), and pick-and-roll man (13.6 percent).

Via offensive rebounds, Anderson averages 1.17 points per possession, which is the highest point total among those three categories.

So although Anderson isn’t the shot creator that Love is, at least not yet, he’s able to circumvent that issue a little bit by hitting the offensive glass and getting easy baskets for himself. That is, when he’s not spotting up on the perimeter or engaging in pick-and-rolls.

On Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers found out first-hand how potent Anderson is on offensive rebound putbacks. For the game, Anderson had eight offensive rebounds (compared to four for the Sixers) and on five of them, he converted them into 10 second-chance points for the Orlando Magic.

A common question that’s asked about Anderson is how is he one of the best offensive rebounders in the league while also attempting the most three-pointers per game out of anyone?

The answer lies within the pictures.


Late in the first quarter, Earl Clark finds himself with the basketball after Jameer Nelson passed it to him in a 1/4 pick-and-roll. The shot clock is winding down, which is forcing Clark to put up a shot of some sort. He decides to go at Elton Brand and attack the basket.

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Apr 17

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • With the injury bug biting Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, and Glen Davis in recent weeks, it turns out the Orlando Magic have been able to turn the situation into a positive.
  • Quentin Richardson on the Magic’s win against the Philadelphia 76ers last night: “I definitely am proud. This is one of the best victories I’ve been a part of in a long while.”
  • How exactly was Orlando able to break down the Sixers’ defense in yesterday’s game? John Denton of explains: “The ball swung crispy around the perimeter and there were usually multiple pick-and-roll sets executed on each possession. That exertion of effort helped the Magic score 61 points in the first half, 113 in the game and shoot 52.3 percent on the night.”
  • It’s been reported that Dwight Howard might miss the postseason, as he tries to rehab from a back injury. That would, no doubt, derail Orlando’s hopes of making a surprise run in the playoffs. As the No. 6 seed, the Magic would face the Indiana Pacers in the first round. Then if Orlando advanced, they would likely play against the Miami Heat in the Semifinals. With Dwight, those are two teams the Magic match up favorably with.
  • This season, Orlando has performed well in crunch time.
  • The Magic were able to beat the Sixers despite not having Dwight, Turkoglu, and Davis. Ryan Anderson (26 rebounds and 16 points) helped fuel Orlando to a nice victory against Philadelphia.
  • Abe Schwadron of SLAM ONLINE: “The Magic found a way to outrebound the Sixers 46 to 30 despite missing the bulk of their frontcourt, and improved to 3-4 without Howard.”
  • Jeff Van Gundy doesn’t mince words when he talks about Dwight and the Magic.
  • Would Orlando, currently in position to secure the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference but still with a chance to “move up” to the No. 5 seed and face off against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, be better off tanking?
  • Anderson is not only a poor man’s Kevin Love, but he also could be the Most Improved Player this season in the NBA.

Apr 17

Recap: Orlando Magic 113, Philadelphia 76ers 100

AP Photo/John Raoux


Whenever the Orlando Magic play against the Philadelphia 76ers, especially on the road, people like to bring up the hometown narrative for Jameer Nelson since he grew up in nearby Chester, Pennsylvania and played his college ball at St. Joseph’s.

It’s a nice story, sure, but the overriding theme this season (and in previous seasons) should be the fact that the Magic are a horrible matchup for the Sixers and that Ryan Anderson has become a nightmare matchup for Philadelphia, too.

Dating back to 2008, which marks the beginning of head coach Stan Van Gundy’s tenure with Orlando, counting their memorable series in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, the Magic have won 22 of their last 28 games against the Sixers — that stat includes tonight’s 113-100 victory.

As for Anderson, in two previous games this season against Philadelphia, he put up 14 points and a career-high 20 rebounds on January 30 as well as put up 27 points on 7-for-10 shooting from three-point range on February 15.


It was the best of both worlds for Anderson, as he posted game-highs in points (26) and rebounds (16) against the Sixers. He had it going with his scoring and rebounding. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, there was no one that could slow down Anderson in either facet. Thaddeus Young, in particular, had a whale of a time trying to account for Anderson all over the court. Especially in the paint, where Anderson dominated the Sixers with offensive rebound putbacks. For the game, Anderson had more offensive rebounds (8) than Philadelphia (4) and he was able to convert those opportunities into 10 second-chance points.

With Anderson snapping out of a three-game shooting slump, as well as Orlando getting good efforts from nearly every player in Van Gundy’s rotation (including Earl Clark notching his first career double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds), they were able to come away with a relatively easy win against Philadelphia. And, even though I’m starting to sound like a broken record, the Magic were able to do all of this without Dwight Howard (herniated disk in lower back), Hedo Turkoglu (facial fracture), and Glen Davis (hyperextended right knee).

As such, even with the Sixers continuing to lose games (losers of 20 of their last 31 games), it was an impressive victory for Orlando and a well-earned one at that. For example, the Magic tied a season-high by scoring 40 points in a quarter, which subsequently was the most points Philadelphia has allowed in a quarter this season. It was just one of those nights for Orlando.

For the Magic, it pays to have favorable matchups.

However, Orlando better not enjoy the win for too long because they’re going to be on the flipside of the coin when they face off against the Boston Celtics on Thursday, a team that has thoroughly dominated the head-to-head matchup this season.

The Magic better get ready to take the same kind of punishment from the Celtics that they dished out against the Sixers.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Easy choice here. Anderson was the best player on the floor, by far, in this game and one of the main reasons why Orlando was able to beat the Sixers despite playing short-handed.


How about the Magic’s bench? Yes, Clark’s first career double-double is certainly worthy of praise but Quentin Richardson wasn’t too shabby either, providing Orlando with a big lift off the bench (13 points).

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