Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 91

Apr 04

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • CEO Alex Martins says that general manager Otis Smith and head coach Stan Van Gundy will be “evaluated” when the season is over. Both Smith and Van Gundy are under contract for the 2012-2013 NBA season.
  • Glen Davis is finally playing well for the Orlando Magic. Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel thinks that he’s just needed positive reinforcement.
  • The Magic are on a four-game losing streak and the reasoning is simple. Van Gundy: “We don’t play any defense.”
  • This is unrelated to Orlando but something to keep in mind when the Dwight Howard era ends, whether it’s next season or a few years down the road. Neil Paine of Basketball Prospectus parses through the data and makes an important discovery with regards to breaking the cycle of mediocrity: “It seems clear from the data, then, that it is in fact necessary to be bad (winning 27 or fewer games) to acquire a player capable of leading your team to the finals someday.”
  • In other words, when/if Dwight leaves, the Magic are better off tanking and building through the draft than by acquiring veterans in a trade.
  • It’s been reported that Dwight wants Van Gundy and his coaching staff gone when the season is over. Whether or not the report is true (consider the source), this is what Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie had to say about it: “Howard wants to be liked, as much as he wants to win, and it’s becoming clearer that the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard don’t deserve a coach as great as Stan Van Gundy.”
  • Orlando may draw the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
  • The Magic lost to the Detroit Pistons in last night’s game and not having Dwight, Ryan Anderson, and Jameer Nelson available to play due to injuries is a big reason why.
  • Whether or not Van Gundy is fired or he resigns, he’s not going to have much trouble finding employment elsewhere.
  • Orlando was forced to roll out “one of the ugliest starting lineups in recent memory” according to Abe Schwadron of SLAM ONLINE. Sad, but true.
  • Royce Young of CBSSports.com: “But as was the case with the Howard trade saga, the Magic need to do some housekeeping. They have way too many leaks, way too many holes in their ship. Too many people talk. They need to keep this stuff in house, in private and handle it outside of media reports.”
  • By being relied upon so heavily during the regular season, Nelson may be in danger of flaming out in the playoffs.
  • For the Magic, currently in the middle of a season-high four-game losing streak with no end in sight, let the bad times roll.
  • Amidst all the Van Gundy rumors regarding his future, Orlando is dealing with a lot of drama at the wrong time.
  • Question: what’s wrong with this sentence? Mike Prada of SB Nation: “Van Gundy has been one of the most successful coaches in Magic franchise history, compiling a record of 254-128 in four and a half years with the team.”
  • Answer: it should actually read, “Van Gundy IS the most successful coach in Magic franchise history.”
  • Tom Ziller of SB Nation with a classic one-liner: “[I]n Dwight’s absence, Greg Monroe swallowed up the universe and produced 22 points and 11 rebounds.”

Apr 04

Recap: Detroit Pistons 102, Orlando Magic 95

Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

It’s no surprise that the Orlando Magic lost to the Detroit Pistons on the road — again.

In the Stan Van Gundy era, the Magic are 2-6 against the Pistons on the road in the regular season. Only in Van Gundy’s first season with Orlando did Detroit have the better team. So even though the Magic have been better than the Pistons since 2009, it hasn’t mattered. Orlando almost always loses to Detroit on the road. It’s practically the law.

This time around, it didn’t help that the Magic were playing without Dwight Howard (back spasms), Ryan Anderson (sprained ankle), and Jameer Nelson (sore calf). That forced players like Glen Davis to pick up the slack and in the case of “Big Baby,” he did, putting up a career-high 31 points (11-of-22 shooting from the floor). 10 rebounds, and three steals.

It wasn’t enough, though, as Orlando — bereft of talent — was unable to keep pace with the Pistons. Defense was a huge issue, as the Magic allowed Detroit to shoot 56.6 percent from the floor.

But surprisingly enough, Orlando’s defense (or lack thereof) is the least of their concerns. This isn’t to suggest that the way the Magic are playing defensively, with or without Dwight, is acceptable because it’s not.

The bigger issue is that Orlando, by tying their season-high with four losses in a row during the regular season, have slipped to the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Right behind the Boston Celtics (30-22), a team currently locked in to the No. 4 seed by virtue of leading the Atlantic Division, despite the Magic having a better record (32-22).

Apart from the Atlanta Hawks, the Celtics are the last team that Orlando wants to see in the playoffs. Especially with Boston surging right now, tying a season-high with five wins in a row (including the destruction of the Miami Heat at home on Sunday). Granted, everything in the East is still fluid right now, as the Magic are .5 games back of the Indiana Pacers for the No. 3 seed. But Orlando’s losing streak and rash of injuries couldn’t have come at a worse time.

The question is whether or not the Magic will be able to recover in time to secure the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference with 10 games left in the regular season.

Time will tell.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Despite the loss, Davis deserves the nod for keeping Orlando afloat with his offense throughout the game. It should be noted that Davis benefitted by playing against the 24th-ranked defense in the NBA.

That Was … Offensive

Even though Detroit was ranked 27th in Offensive Rating entering Tuesday’s game, that didn’t stop them from efficiently dropping 102 points on the Magic. Dwight or no Dwight, Van Gundy won’t be pleased with that stat.

Apr 03

Preview: Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons
  • Date: Apr. 3, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: The Palace at Auburn Hills

Records

  • Magic: 32-21
  • Pistons: 19-33

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Chris Duhon
  • Jason Richardson
  • Quentin Richardson
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Glen Davis

Pistons:

  • Brandon Knight
  • Ben Gordon
  • Tayshaun Prince
  • Greg Monroe
  • Jason Maxiell

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.4 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.6 (16th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.7 (10th of 30)

Pistons:

  • Pace: 94.2 (3rd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.4 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.6 (24th of 30)

Read about the Pistons

Piston Powered

Apr 03

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • As the Orlando Magic face the distinct possibility of playing without Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson, and Jameer Nelson in tonight’s road game against the Detroit Pistons, it wasn’t long ago when another short-handed Magic team was able to beat the Pistons on the road.
  • Ryan Anderson’s ankle “still looks like a softball.”
  • Could Orlando make a go at a Kentucky Wildcats player in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft?
  • Head coach Stan Van Gundy: “It’s all hands on deck right now. We could possibly be without three starters and really the three guys who’ve been our best offensive players over the last month. So it could be everybody on deck. We’ll see.”
  • Brendan Haywood will not be disciplined for allegedly punching Dwight Howard in the back in Friday’s game between the Magic and Dallas Mavericks.
  • Bill Simmons on Dwight’s odds of winning the Most Valuable Player award this season: “Don’t worry, he’s disqualified. Nobody can vote for Dwight after what he inflicted on his teammates, coaches and fans — a three-month soap opera of wishy-washiness that undermined his team and goes on his permanent résumé.”
  • Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated: “The conventional wisdom over the past few seasons has been that if point guard Jameer Nelson is playing well, the Magic are in good shape. But with Nelson shooting better than 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from distance while averaging 16.5 points in the last 10 games, Orlando is just 4-6 and has dropped three in a row.”
  • The problem, of course, is that Orlando — outside of Dwight, Anderson, and Redick — is not very good. Nelson’s recent resurgence has been a nice story, but it’s been undermined by the fact that players like Hedo Turkoglu aren’t playing very well (and haven’t much at all this season).
  • Not many people are jumping on the Magic’s playoff bandwagon.

Apr 02

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Glen Davis on his role with the Orlando Magic: “Whatever Stan wants me to do, I’m going to do it to the max whatever he wants me to do. If he wants me to set a thousand screens, I’ll set a thousand screens till I fall [down] and die.”
  • “Complete” players in the NBA are a myth according to Scott Leedy of Hardwood Paroxysm. All players, like Dwight Howard with his free-throw shooting, have flaws.
  • The Magic are no longer a lock to secure the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Other teams in the East are in hot pursuit.
  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com has a new nickname for Orlando: “Team Roller Coaster.”
  • Brendan Haywood denies punching Dwight Howard in the back in Friday’s game between the Magic and Dallas Mavericks. Dwight sat out Sunday’s game against the Denver Nuggets with back spasms.
  • It was a battle of point guards between Jameer Nelson and Ty Lawson on Sunday.
  • Orlando will continue to struggle to win games without Dwight (and Ryan Anderson by extension) available to play. Anderson suffered a sprained ankle versus the Nuggets.
  • Abe Schwadron of SLAM ONLINE: “Luckily for the Magic, their skid should end soon, as they get the Pistons twice and the Wizards once over their next 5 games.”
  • How do you beat the Magic? Matt Moore of CBSSports.com has the answer: “You close out on the shooters, you live with Dwight Howard killing you inside, you don’t let anyone else get easy looks The defensive inconsistency is their biggest problem. If they’re exploitable defensively, they just don’t measure up with Magic teams of the recent past.”
  • Shaquille O’Neal talks about leadership and being a leader. He talks about Dwight, too.
  • Zach Lowe of The Point Forward explains why Orlando should not want to face the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs: “Atlanta has a big man (Jason Collins) capable of guarding Dwight Howard one-on-one, and the ability of Josh Smith (and, if healthy, Al Horford) to switch on pick-and-rolls and contain Orlando’s guards has given the Magic occasional fits.”
  • Anderson has Lawson to blame for spraining his ankle.
  • Tom Ziller of SB Nation breaks down the race for the No. 3 seed in the East: “The Magic lost, but remain in the No. 3 spot by a half-game margin over Indiana, who won. Atlanta was idle, and sits a game behind Indiana and a game ahead of Philadelphia. Milwaukee did not play, and remains 2.5 games behind the Knicks.”

Apr 02

J.J. Redick and Milo Greene: Mutual respect

Photo courtesy of J.J. Redick

Quick, who are the music groups that come to mind when you think about getting pumped up and ready to play in an NBA basketball game?

Here, I’ll do it for you.

Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Skrillex, Kanye West, Eminem — just to name a few. We need a list, though. Fortunately, a list of the top 100 pregame pump-up songs of all-time was thrown together. Eminem did have a few tracks on the list, Linkin Park had a handful, and the usual suspects like Jay-Z, Kanye West, and B.O.B. are littered all over the list.

So who isn’t on that list? A little alternative-indie band by the name of Milo Greene. The lazy, folksy, and really quite beautiful melodies from Milo Greene might lull the average professional athlete to sleep, but they also serve another function. They pump J.J. Redick up before games.

In mid-March, Redick dropped a tweet after the Magic game in San Antonio, saying he was glad to meet one of his favorite bands and snapped a picture with the group on the baseline of AT&T Center. A seemingly strange endorsement caused me to investigate.

An off-day in Portland
J.J. Redick wasn’t kidding. He loves this band.

According to Redick, he was in Portland on an off-day in early January doing what most people do, browsing the internet. He stumbled on a music blog that suggested Milo Greene’s “1957” as a “must-listen track.” So like any music fan, J.J. listened, loved, YouTubed, loved some more, and immediately purchased the song.

“I went to the Milo website and paid for the seven-inch vinyl so that I could download the MP3 version of ’1957′ and ‘Silent Way’.”

Milo Greene isn’t posing. They love the NBA. Graham Fink, guitarist and vocalist for Milo Greene, told me in an interview that several of its members are “huge basketball fans,” which means they were well aware of who J.J. was before the meeting. When they saw the tweet, they thought it was just another fan. It wasn’t until later that they realized it was the Blue Devil himself.

“We received a vinyl order from a Jonathan Redick with a Florida mailing address and realized the Twitter account was actually his — I’m not gonna say we geeked out, but …”

Note: “geeked out” means “got really excited,” as in what a bunch of geeks do when a new video game comes out.

Milo Greene refused to believe that J.J. could possibly use their music as pump-up music. Not only did the band not assume it was pump-up music, but they said they never expected any crossover whatsoever into the jock world.

“I’ve got to ask J.J. if he listens to us as pump-up jams before games — if so, then we’re doing something right because he’s a shredder out there.”

But don’t think they won’t try to take advantage of the endorsement.

“Now that J.J. is on board, the sky’s the limit. Going to see the Thunder play the Lakers tonight, maybe I can slip Durant some tunes and get him in the mix — that wouldn’t suck.”

(I don’t think that ended up happening.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 02

HoopIdea: Last five minutes of NBA games — relevant or not?

Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

You know that you only need to watch the last five minutes of an NBA game, right? Well, I thought that was true until Sunday.

In the 2011-2012 NBA season, no team in the league has a winning record when trailing at the half. Again, no team in the NBA has a winning record this season when they head into the locker room trailing their opponent. That is the most unbelievable NBA stat I have heard in a long time.

I have always felt the great teams just toy with opponents until crunch time and then lay the hammer down when the moment is right. Entering Sunday’s batch of games, here is a look at the top teams in the league and their records in a few different situations (the last two categories read “Ahead after 3″ and “Behind after 3″):

Once the great teams have their opponent in a headlock, they hold on tight about nine out of 10 times. However, they don’t have much success escaping from a deficit and appear mortal if they trail at the half and after three quarters.

The Heat (.890) are the only team in the group with a winning percentage under .900 when they head into the third quarter with the lead. The one time out of 10 would be fun to watch, but don’t hold your breath until the next time Miami lets a lead slip.

Equally, don’t think you’re getting some great deal if your buddy bets you any of these four teams will not be able to overcome a deficit heading into the fourth quarter. Your odds would be the best if you picked the Thunder to rally in the 4th quarter, but even in that situation they have only won about 35 percent of their games. If you’re scoring at home, that is a winning percentage almost identical to the one the Sacramento Kings have accumulated in all of their games this season.

Here is where it gets really crazy: even the Bobcats and Nets close out opponents when they have a lead heading into the 4th! The Bobcats are 6-2 in those situations and the Nets have put 16 of their 20 leads on ice.

Remember these four facts next time you’re watching an NBA game:

  • No team in the NBA has a winning record when trailing at the half.
  • Only the Warriors, Hornets, Wizards, and Bobcats have a losing record when leading at the half.
  • No team in the NBA has a losing record when leading after three quarters.
  • No team in the NBA has a record even close to .500 when trailing after three quarters.

Forget the last five minutes of an NBA game. I only want to see the halftime score and the difference after three quarters.

Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.

Apr 02

Recap: Denver Nuggets 104, Orlando Magic 101

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

It would be easy to explain away the Orlando Magic’s loss to the Denver Nuggets by using an excuse — Dwight Howard wasn’t playing due to back spasms. But that doesn’t advance the conversation.

There’s many reasons why the Magic lost to the Nuggets and, by extension, have been losing games over the past several days. But there’s one reason that needs to be examined in greater detail.

Hedo Turkoglu not playing very well, not only against the Nuggets but the Mavericks and Knicks, with any sort of consistency — you could argue this has been a problem all season long — is a big reason why Orlando isn’t as good as they probably should be.

No one is expecting Turkoglu to play out of his mind for long stretches of time, like he did in 2008 en route to winning the Most Improved Player award that season. Instead, Magic fans are pining for the 2009 version of Turkoglu, when he was a playmaker for the Magic and not afraid of the big moment. When he was a player that played with loads of confidence.

You don’t see that right now with Turkoglu.

What you’re seeing with Turkoglu is a player that’s playing with, as I like to call it, no swag. No confidence. It comes and goes, but it’s never sustained.

In 2008 and 2009, Turkoglu had an inner belief in his skills and abilities that made him a special player, even if it didn’t jump out at you right away in his numbers.

Right now, Turkoglu is playing with a lot of self-doubt. You can see it in almost every thing he does on the court and the stats are reflecting it.

Turkoglu is not confident in his jumpshot. He’s shooting 32 percent on 1.8 field goal attempts from 16-23 feet (that would be the lowest percentage for him since 2007, which is the farthest back Hoopdata tracks shot location data). Turkoglu is shooting 34.3 percent from three-point range, which would be the worst percentage of his career since his rookie year, back when he was a member of the Sacramento Kings.

Turkoglu is not confident at the free-throw line. His free-throw percentage is 70.3 percent, far below his career average of 78.8 percent.

Turkoglu is not confident with the ball in his hands. His turnover percentage of 20.4 percent is the highest of his career, way higher than his career average of 13.4 percent.

I can go on, but you get the idea.

Whereas Jameer Nelson is finding his confidence again, playing a stellar game against Denver, Turkoglu is still looking for his.

If this trend continues, Orlando is not going to get very far in the playoffs.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Take your pick. A lot of players played well for both teams. Between Ty Lawson (25 points, nine assists, and five rebounds), Aaron Afflalo (22 points, five rebounds) and Nelson (27 points, five assists), there’s no wrong answer.

X-Factor

Despite allowing the Nuggets to shoot 55.6 percent from the floor, the Magic were able to stay in this game by forcing 17 turnovers and snagging 18 offensive rebounds. Glen Davis alone had more offensive rebounds (9) than Denver (7).

That Was … Fun

Despite no Dwight for Orlando (back spasms) and Denver missing a few rotation players due to a variety of injuries, this game still had high entertainment value. It was free-flowing and featured plenty of offense.

Apr 01

Preview: Denver Nuggets at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Denver Nuggets at Orlando Magic
  • Date: Apr. 1, 2012
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: NBA TV
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Nuggets: 28-24
  • Magic: 32-20

Probable starters

Nuggets:

  • Ty Lawson
  • Aaron Afflalo
  • Corey Brewer
  • Kenneth Faried
  • JaVale McGee

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Jason Richardson
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Glen Davis

Advanced stats

Nuggets:

  • Pace: 94.6 (1st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 107.7 (6th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.2 (23rd of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.4 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.5 (16th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.5 (10th of 30)

Read about the Nuggets

Roundball Mining Company

Apr 01

Recap: Dallas Mavericks 100, Orlando Magic 98

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

The Magic dropped an infuriating game to the Mavericks on Friday, 100-98.  Despite having control for the better part of the contest, the Magic unraveled in the fourth quarter and missed a couple looks at the buzzer to seal it for the Mavericks.

It seemed for most of the game that the story would be Jameer Nelson’s continued resurgence, as his aggression allowed him to exploit defensive lapses all night. Had the Magic pulled the game out, fans would almost certainly be pointing to a third quarter sequence in which Jameer collected back to back offensive rebounds and finished the play with a driving left-handed layup as the emblematic moment of the contest. Instead, it serves to make clear exactly how much the Magic let slip away.

Through the first half, the Magic looked balanced and assertive,if not exactly spectacular. They worked the ball through Dwight Howard in the post, while J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson, and Hedo Turkoglu each took a hand spurring small runs. Though the Mavericks answered Orlando’s 12-point run in the first with a reciprocal run in the second, the half saw the Magic leading 55-46 and feeling good.

Orlando’s strong play extended into the second half and Nelson turned a solid effort into an outstanding one with his play in the third. The Mavericks more or less kept pace but through the first three quarters, they looked every bit the team playing on a second consecutive night. Dallas mostly kept pace by hitting just enough mid-range jumpers but despite Dirk Nowitzki’s steady scoring, the team seemed uninspired.

All that changed in the fourth quarter. Hedo Turkoglu began the quarter playing aggressively and effectively, but soon began pressing with his decision-making and committing a series of hard-to-explain turnovers. The rest of the team followed suit and before long, the game was close enough that the Magic were reverting to form and trying to match the frenetic feel of the game with a series of long threes rather than doing the attacking that had put them in command of the game earlier.

Jason Terry spurred the Mavericks comeback and the Magic struggled to hold Nowitzki at bay through the final period. In the end, the Magic seemed unwilling to assert themselves at either end and let the Mavericks make just their second fourth-quarter comeback of the season.

It’s a little difficult to take away a silver lining from this game, as the team seemed to depart from the basketball its fans yearn for and revert to the puzzling passivity that have marked the season’s most frustrating moments. Fans often talk about the Magic’s over-reliance on three-point shooting, but Friday’s performance showed that the problems go much deeper. It’s not the shots themselves so much as the way they’re found and the Magic seemed to relinquish their command of the game while trying to stay afloat with momentum-swinging shots.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Jason Terry. Dirk Nowitzki had a strong but fairly quiet scoring night, while Terry’s explosive fourth quarter put the Magic on their heels and knocked them out of their comfort zone.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

Let’s give this to Hedo Turkoglu, who, despite playing aggressively and intelligently for most of the game, was the poster boy for the Magic’s meltdown, lowlighting the loss with fourth quarter turnovers and lazy shot selection.

X-Factor

While Dwight Howard didn’t visibly dominate the game’s action, he did finish with a commanding 15 rebounds and the Magic’s ability to work through him gave the Mavericks a lot of trouble for most of the game.

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