Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 90

Dec 10

Recap: Orlando Magic 98, Phoenix Suns 90

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.

Defining Moment

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.

Dec 09

Preview: Orlando Magic at Phoenix Suns


  • 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

Probable starters


  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic


  • Goran Dragic
  • Shannon Brown
  • Jared Dudley
  • Markieff Morris
  • Marcin Gortat

Advanced stats


  • 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

Valley of the Suns

Dec 08

Recap: Sacramento Kings 91, Orlando Magic 82

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.

Dec 07

Preview: Orlando Magic at Sacramento Kings


  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Sacramento Kings
  • Date: December 7, 2012
  • Time: 10:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Sleep Train Arena


  • Magic: 7-11
  • Kings: 5-12

Probable starters


  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic


  • Aaron Brooks
  • Tyreke Evans
  • John Salmons
  • Jason Thompson
  • DeMarcus Cousins

Advanced stats


  • Pace: 92.4 (13th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 99.4 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.4 (10th of 30)


  • Pace: 91.5 (19th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.9 (25th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.5 (26th of 30)

Read about the Kings

Cowbell Kingdom

Dec 07

#ORLrank 5: Darrell Armstrong

AP Photo/Chuck Stoody


1998-1999 50 1502 22.2 5.26 16.0 10.4
Darrell Armstrong’s best season with the Magic

Darrell Armstrong’s career with the Orlando Magic can be summed up in one phrase.

The ultimate underdog.

Undrafted coming out of Fayetteville State University in 1991, Armstrong took a long and winding road to make it to the NBA. Armstrong spent time in the USBL (United States Basketball League), CBA (Continental Basketball Association), GBA (Global Basketball Association), and in Europe where he played in Cyprus and Spain.

Spotted by former general manager John Gabriel during his days with the USBL, Armstrong signed a 10-day contract with the Magic in 1995. That was Armstrong’s first big break, but he didn’t reap the benefits right away.

In his early years with Orlando, Armstrong made his impact either in street clothes or in warm-ups as a bench cheerleader. Then there was his embarrassing showing in the 1996 Slam Dunk Contest, where Armstrong accidentally made a reverse layup rather than complete a dunk. Needless to say, it took several seasons for Armstrong to play a significant role for the Magic in actual games.

Then 1997 came. That’s when Armstrong became a role player. It seems silly that Armstrong coming off the bench and averaging 15 minutes per game marked a watershed moment in his career, but it was. It proved Armstrong belonged in the league.

Then 1999 came. That’s when Armstrong became a star.

It seems unfathomable that a player trapped in basketball purgatory for so many years could become an under-the-radar star in the NBA, but that’s what happened to Armstrong. Coached by the late, great Chuck Daly, the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season served as a bridge between two eras for Orlando. It was the final season for Nick Anderson, Horace Grant, and Penny Hardaway — three players that fostered the first golden age of Magic basketball. Armstrong, on the other hand, represented a new era.

During that year, Armstrong became the first player in NBA history to win both the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year awards. Deservingly so, as Armstrong made quantum leaps in his game from the previous season, becoming Orlando’s best player despite coming off the bench (he averaged 30 minutes per game). For example, Armstrong’s PER jumped from 15.7 in 1998 to 22.2 in 1999 and his WARP jumped from 3.2 to 16.0 in the same timeframe.

And Armstrong did it his way — being a leader, as well as taking charges, picking up floor burns, and diving into the stands. Armstrong’s motor never stopped. It’s a cliche term you hear a lot from scouts, but it accurately described one of Armstrong’s strengths as a player.

It’s through that heart and hustle that Armstrong became “Mr. Heart and Hustle” during the “Heart and Hustle” season the following year in 2000, permanently endearing himself to Magic fans with his passion and zeal.

In nine seasons with the Magic, Armstrong was a true rags to riches story. Armstrong was a hard worker and the Magic fan base loved him for it.

Voter breakdown for Darrell Armstrong

Drexler Highkin Rivera Schiller Scribbins
Scale (1-to-10) 8 6 5 5 5
Average rank: 5.8

What is #ORLrank?

Magic Basketball ranks the top 10 players in Magic franchise history. #ORLrank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

You can also follow along here: @erivera7

How did we rank the players?

Five MBN writers ranked each player 1-to-10, in terms of the quality of each player.

Thanks to Daniel Myers, Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference, and Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus for contributing to the project.

Dec 07

The Magic’s secret weapon

What happens when you’re a team that doesn’t have a go-to scorer?

Do the next best thing — have a go-to play.

It’s true that the Orlando Magic’s preferred crunch time lineup — Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis, and Nikola Vucevic — is one of the most efficient five-man units in the NBA this season, averaging 115.6 points per 100 possessions, per’s stats database (minimum 50 total minutes), which ranks seventh in the league.

But this is a classic case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Individually, Nelson, Redick, Afflalo, Davis, and Vucevic aren’t effective go-to scorers. Redick has historically proven to be the best and most efficient crunch time scorer out of the group, yet no one would ever mistake him for being Ray Allen either. Redick doesn’t have the pedigree.

In actuality, what makes the Magic effective in crunch time is their ability to collectively execute pet plays with consistency to circumvent the problem of not having a go-to scorer. And there is one pet play in particular, ran by teams like the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls, that Orlando has heavily relied on this season when they’ve needed a bucket in crunch time. In fact, it was recently used in the Magic’s 102-94 win against the Golden State Warriors on Monday.

What makes this play so effective is the number of variations to it.


The play begins in a 1-4 set. Nikola Vucevic and Glen Davis are at the elbows, while Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick are at the wings. Redick initiates the play by making an entry pass to Davis in the high post.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 06

Diminishing returns on Arron Afflalo and Gustavo Ayon

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Before this season started, the Magic were a popular pick as one of the league’s worst teams. With the two best players of last year’s 37-29 outfit traded and Jacque Vaughn coming in as a rookie coach, it wasn’t hard to envision a lot of struggles at Amway Center. It is through the prism of these justifiably low expectations that the Magic, currently at 7-11 and competitive on most nights, stand as somewhat of a surprising success.

Even so, there has been an odd trend among the players that have come in for the departed Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson. Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless, the two young assets who arrived in the Howard deal, have both been showing some positive signs regarding their prospective careers. The veteran prizes, however, have mostly underwhelmed. Josh McRoberts has experienced a minor renaissance, but Al Harrington has yet to take the court, while Arron Afflalo and Gustavo Ayon have both seen their games regress.

Afflalo has seen something of a bounce-back week, with a solid performance in Utah coming after two straight games of torching the state of California. But on the whole, he’s struggled to adjust to being a main cog for an NBA offense. His True Shooting percentage is seeing a significant drop for the second straight year -– after a scorching 62 percent in 2010-11, he was at 58.4 percent last year, and is at 53.4 percent so far this year. A lot of this is the result of a re-distribution in his shot locations, as extensively covered by Sean Highkin. But it’s also clear that Afflalo is being asked to do more for himself as less is done for him by others.

Afflalo made an offensive name for himself as a spot-up shooter. And indeed, in 2010-11, his most efficient offensive year, a whopping 41.5 percent of his offensive possessions were spot-ups, per Synergy. This was a wise strategy, as Afflalo averaged 1.19 points per possessions on those plays, which ranked him 30th in the NBA. That wild success powered him through to the point where he averaged 1.1 points per possession overall, which placed him 12th in the league on offense.

Over the last two years, however, he’s been spotting up less and less. Only 33.9 percent of Afflalo’s plays were spot-ups last year and this season, that number is all the way down to 26 percent. Perhaps by coincidence, he’s also converting less: he dropped down to 51st in spot-up plays in 2011-12 and this season, he ranks a mediocre 125th, as the rest of his offense has been dragged down as well. Afflalo is only averaging 0.92 points per possession this season, which ranks him 149th overall offensively.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 06

Recap: Utah Jazz 87, Orlando Magic 81

Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images


After rallying in the fourth quarter to beat the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors in the first two games of their West Coast road trip, the Orlando Magic tried to catch lightning in a bottle thrice against the Utah Jazz.

Trailing for most of the game, the Magic put together a comeback in the fourth quarter against the Jazz but fell short. Orlando was down 68-57 heading into the final period and briefly held a 79-78 lead after a Glen Davis dunk at the 3:32 mark, but the Jazz were able to close the Magic out thanks to Al Jefferson.

Jefferson, nicknamed “Big Al,” was big for Utah in crunch time.

After Randy Foye nailed a three-pointer to give the Jazz a 81-79 lead following Davis’ dunk, Orlando was unable to respond on the ensuing possession. On the next trip down for the Jazz, Jefferson’s number was called and he delivered. Jefferson found himself with the ball in isolation on the left wing. Being defended by Nikola Vucevic, Jefferson faced up on the perimeter then backed down on the left block. After a few dribbles, Jefferson got into the paint with little resistance and dropped an easy hook shot over Vucevic.

On the ensuing possession, after Jameer Nelson was fouled while the Magic were in the penalty and connected on both free-throws to make the score 83-81 in favor of Utah, Jefferson’s number was called and he delivered once again. Isolated against Vucevic in the left corner, Jefferson faced up and nailed a 21-foot jumper effectively end the game with 1:51 remaining.

Jefferson’s dominance on offense can’t be overstated. Throughout the game, Jefferson had a healthy diet of hook shots, midrange jumpers, and floaters. There was no one for Orlando that could stop or slow down Jefferson. Jefferson befuddled Vucevic, especially, with uptakes to go along with his great footwork and solid shooting touch.

The same could be said for Paul Millsap, who was equally dominant offensively. For Millsap, nearly everything came easy for him — seven of his eight field goals were layups. Millsap was just too quick for Magic defenders.

By the end of the night, Jefferson finished with 31 points and 15 rebounds, while Millsap had 22 points, four rebounds, three assists, and three blocks. If you want to know why the Jazz won, Jefferson and Millsap were the reasons. They collectively destroyed the Magic’s frontline and left it in shambles.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Jefferson and Millsap were ruthless and efficient. They combined to score 53 of Utah’s 87 points. The only thing to slow either of them down was when Jefferson hurt his back late in the game after corralling a rebound.

Defining Moment

After the Magic went on a 12-2 run to briefly take a 79-78 lead after a Davis dunk, the Jazz responded by going on a 9-2 run to come away with an 87-81 win.

Dec 05

Preview: Orlando Magic at Utah Jazz


  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Utah Jazz
  • Date: December 5, 2012
  • Time: 9:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: EnergySolutions Arena


  • Magic: 7-10
  • Jazz: 9-10

Probable starters


  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic


  • Mo Williams
  • Randy Foye
  • Marvin Williams
  • Paul Millsap
  • DeMarre Carroll

Advanced stats


  • Pace: 92.6 (12th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 99.9 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.8 (11th of 30)


  • Pace: 91.5 (20th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 107.1 (9th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.2 (24th of 30)

Read about the Jazz

Salt City Hoops

Dec 04

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Jordan White of Hardwood Paroxysm details Maurice Harkless’ defensive impact on the Orlando Magic so far this season: “When Harkless is on the court, opposing teams’ Offensive Rating drops nearly four points, from 105.2 to 101.4. His offense is miles behind his defense, but credit the rookie for realizing that his best shot at early playing time would be to use his long-limbed frame and freaky athleticism to make an impact on defense, and credit Vaughn for rewarding his efforts.”
  • The Magic have a crunch time lineup that is one of the best in the NBA.
  • Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: “Magic showing some life with quality back-to-back road wins against the Lakers and Golden State. One constant about the young Magic: They play hard.”
  • Watch Glen Davis beat the buzzer in last night’s game between Orlando and the Golden State Warriors.
  • Senior vice president Pat Williams says the Magic made the best deal possible when asked about the aftermath of the Dwight Howard trade.
  • Davis is a star of the night for his efforts (24 points and six rebounds) against the Warriors in the Magic’s 102-94 win.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk credits Orlando, who beat Golden State on Monday, for not suffering an emotional letdown after taking down Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
  • A look back at the Magic’s fourth quarter heroics against the Warriors.
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