- John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “The Magic continue to prove that they’re not that bad, going 3-2 on a West Coast trip and playing their best defense of the season along the way. The highlight came last Sunday in L.A., but more impressive was Monday’s win at Golden State, where there was no post-Dwight letdown. Of course, they’re still a long shot to make the playoffs, so it might not be good to be not that bad.”
- Despite being the youngest head coach in the NBA, Jacque Vaughn is getting the most out of the current roster for the Orlando Magic.
- Rob Mahoney of The Point Forward on Arron Afflalo becoming a volume scorer: “Now that he’s had a taste of high-usage basketball, I doubt that there’s any way for him to duck back into the more limited role that once defined his game.”
- A list of 20 observations on the Magic after 20 games.
- Jameer Nelson makes a weekly award list for the wrong reason.
- Orlando, without Dwight Howard in the middle, is ranked 8th in Defensive Rating this season. Go figure.
- Andrew Nicholson and J.J. Redick led the way in the Magic’s 98-90 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
With their win over the Suns on Sunday night, the Magic secured a 3-2 record over the course of their five-game West Coast road trip, which should be cause for celebration in and of itself.
More significant than a few tough road wins, however, has been the sense that Jacque Vaughn and the Magic are beginning to realize what they have in Andrew Nicholson — a versatile scoring big man that can be used as a building block for the future.
Nicholson had easily the best game of his rookie season against the Suns, posting career-highs in virtually every statistical category in just 25 minutes and scoring in a remarkably efficient manner — 9-for-11 from the field.
Nicholson’s performance wasn’t simply a rookie having a good night against a bad team (and the Suns are a very, very bad team). It was the culmination of several weeks of honing an offensive game that was already pretty polished at St. Bonaventure, but has only grown more refined since he debuted for the Magic.
Not a lot about Nicholson’s game is flashy. His scoring is more smooth than explosive, and at his best, as he was against Phoenix, he excels by finding ways to shake free of defenders and put himself in the spots he likes.
So where is his offense coming from so far?
In the limited minutes that will surely increase after Sunday, Nicholson has been devastating in the paint. He can finish ably around the rim on dunks and tip-ins, but he’s also shown a diverse set of moves in the low post. He’s averaging 1.14 points per possession on post-ups and so far has shown a highly effective hook shot, per Synergy.
Nicholson loves the long two from the left side of the floor — it’s easily his most successful shot as a shooter from outside the paint. However, he’s shown the ability to score from almost anywhere inside the three-point line if he gets open. He scores very efficiently out of the pick-and-roll as well, averaging 1.21 points per possession.
Nicholson is still playing a mere 14 minutes per game, which is to be expected with Glen Davis putting up lofty (albeit inefficient) scoring numbers. As long as the Magic continue to overachieve like this, it seems likely that Vaughn will keep relying on Big Baby to anchor the offense (or at least keep playing him to showcase him for a possible trade). However, it’s safe to say that Nicholson has proven enough in his limited minutes thus far this season to warrant a longer look as the season wears on.
Nicholson may not ever be a star or a first option on offense, but the Magic don’t need him to be. As Nate Drexler pointed out last week, the Magic as presently constructed don’t have a Kyrie Irving/Anthony Davis-type “franchise player.” This season is all about developing their young talent so that it will be ready to be good, high-level complimentary players whenever the Magic do land that star in a future draft, be it Shabazz Muhammad or Andrew Wiggins or whoever else.
And as a rookie, Nicholson is well ahead of schedule in developing into just that type of versatile scoring big man.
AP Photo/Paul Connors
In the franchise’s 23 years of existence, the word “bust” has almost always been used to describe the draft picks made by the Orlando Magic. When the Magic haven’t owned the top overall pick, their track record in the draft has been horrible. Names like Fran Vasquez and Jeryl Sasser have provided a cautionary tale of drafts gone bad.
But every once in a while, the Magic get it right — players like Courtney Lee and J.J. Redick come to mind. Lee proved to be a key cog in Orlando’s run to the Finals in 2009, while Redick has been with the Magic in 2006 and has grown into one of the best sixth men in the NBA.
It may be time to add Andrew Nicholson to that short list of draft picks in the mid-to-late first round that pan out for Orlando.
The Magic concluded a five-game West Coast road trip (finishing with a 3-2 record) with a 98-90 win over the Phoenix Suns, thanks in large part due to Nicholson’s and Redick’s contributions off the bench.
Nicholson had his best game as a pro in an Orlando uniform, finishing with 19 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and four steals — all career-highs. Not only was Nicholson efficient offensively, shooting 9-for-11 from the floor, but he was big in the fourth quarter, scoring nine of his 19 points in the period.
Whether it was backing down Luis Scola on the left block and making a righty hook at the rim while showcasing some nice footwork in the process, or slipping the screen in a 2/4 pick-and-roll with Redick and making another righty hook in the paint, or nailing a midrange jumper along the right baseline on a sideline out-of-bounds play to put the game out of reach, there was very little the Suns could do from letting Nicholson have his way on offense.
As for Redick, he scored 17 of his 20 points in the first half and helped spark the Magic offensively when they were in need of a jolt. Redick did most of his damage scoring off of hand-off passes, where he was able to catch-and-shoot in rhythm. As the game wore on, Redick became more of a facilitator than a scorer, with six of his nine assists coming in the second half — four of them to Nicholson.
If there’s one thing that Nicholson has proven already with Orlando, it’s that he’s not a bust. In fact, Nicholson leads the Magic with a PER of 18.6 (minimum 100 total minutes). No, the question now becomes — how good can Nicholson be?
For Magic fans, that’s an exciting question to ask.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Nicholson and Redick were standout performers against the Suns, coming off the bench and providing a big lift for the Magic. Nicholson (nine points) and Redick (five assists) each keyed a big fourth quarter for Orlando.
In a game of runs, the Magic were able to use a 20-8 run that spanned most of the fourth quarter to come away with a 98-90 victory against Phoenix. With the win, Orlando finished their West Coast road trip with a 3-2 record.
- Teams: Orlando Magic at Phoenix Suns
- Date: December 9, 2012
- Time: 8:00 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Florida
- Arena: US Airways Center
- Magic: 7-12
- Suns: 7-14
- Jameer Nelson
- Arron Afflalo
- Maurice Harkless
- Glen Davis
- Nikola Vucevic
- Goran Dragic
- Shannon Brown
- Jared Dudley
- Markieff Morris
- Marcin Gortat
- Pace: 92.7 (9th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 98.5 (29th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 102.8 (8th of 30)
- Pace: 92.8 (8th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 104.2 (14th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 109.7 (29th of 30)
Read about the Suns
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
For the most part, the Magic’s offense of late has been fairly well-balanced, even in their losses. They get contributions from diverse areas of the roster, with the youngsters trading off having standout performances and the veterans generally being reliable.
That held true for one quarter on Friday and one quarter only. Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo keyed an Orlando comeback that included a 16-0 run after being down 46-34 at the half. The Magic outscored the Kings 30-16 in the third quarter and it appeared that Jacque Vaughn’s squad was set up for another surprising victory. In the final period, however, the offense fell apart again as Sacramento’s speedy guards overpowered their defense.
The first half was defined by the Magic shooters’ inability to hit anything outside the paint. Afflalo, Glen Davis, and Andrew Nicholson were effective enough when they attacked the basket, but everybody’s shots were ice-cold the entire half. Considering their shooters went 1-for-15 from outside the paint in the first half, it’s a miracle they weren’t down much more than 12 at the break.
In that first 24 minutes, the Magic were outplayed in every aspect of the game. Their bigs were outhustled on the boards by Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins. Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette, who have been having good games on different nights of late as Keith Smart has continued to shuffle his rotation, both had solid halves, as did Aaron Brooks. They were able to exploit the Magic’s weak perimeter defense and construct a balanced offensive attack that Orlando’s lethargic shooting did nothing to counter.
Nelson and Afflalo came alive in the third, reversing the team’s fortunes from the field and forcing four turnovers by the Kings. Afflalo rediscovered his three-point shot to an extent, but was most effective when he was attacking the basket and getting to the line, which he did four times.
Davis, Nicholson, and Nikola Vucevic stepped up and outrebounded the Sacramento bigs, and the Kings’ shooters went cold. But everything fell apart again for the Magic in the fourth, as Thomas and Fredette led the Kings’ backcourt down the stretch with a couple of key three-pointers to retake the lead and put the Magic away.
The Magic’s third-quarter run to make this a game was impressive, but it wouldn’t have been necessary had the team been able to hit a jump shot in the first half. The Magic have good shooters and this was simply an unlucky instance when all of them happened to go cold the same night.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Jameer Nelson led the charge as the Magic went on a 16-0 run in the third quarter to claw back into the game. He scored 10 of his 17 points in the third quarter on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting (including hitting both of his three-point attempts) with three assists.
The Kings had more turnovers than the Magic (18 to 16), but Orlando did a poor job minimizing the damage their mistakes caused. Their lethargic offense was only able to score 10 points off the Kings’ 18 turnovers, while Sacramento went to town on Orlando’s, scoring 21.
That was … textbook Big Baby
Glen Davis scored 20 points and had 11 rebounds before he fouled out, but it took him 19 shots to get there. This inefficiency, as expected, was due to his settling for too many long jumpers. The shot chart should explain itself.