Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 92

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.

Mar 30

Preview: Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic
  • Date: Mar. 30, 2012
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: ESPN
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Mavericks: 29-23
  • Magic: 32-19

Probable starters

Mavericks:

  • Jason Kidd
  • Vince Carter
  • Shawn Marion
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Brendan Haywood

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Jason Richardson
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Dwight Howard

Advanced stats

Mavericks:

  • Pace: 91.6 (14th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.5 (23rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.0 (6th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.3 (27th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.5 (16th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.4 (10th of 30)

Read about the Mavericks

The Two Man Game

Mar 30

Magic Basketball Weekly: Putting David Stern and Roger Goodell under a microscope

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Do y’all remember that fun and simple time a few months back when David Stern vetoed — or didn’t veto or whatever — the Chris Paul trade? Remember how hysterical everyone was about what a black eye it was for the league, coming right after the lockout like that?

I certainly do.

I was one of those Chicken Littles (Chickens Little?) running around yelling about how the league was going to ALIENATE ITS FANS FOR GOOD WITH ITS NASTY HUBRIS. Fast forward to today, though, and not only has that fiasco been more or less forgotten, the NFL has lapped the Association as the league with the highest quotient of skeevy authoritarian nonsense.

For most of David Stern’s tenor as NBA commissioner, the league has been on a generally upward trajectory, surviving a few deep valleys of public interest, and building a massive global engine.

For several reasons, though — the visibility of the disconnect between the (mostly) black labor force and the white ownership/management, Stern’s sardonic mastermind persona, a confluence of fraught incidents, and over-corrective policies — the Association has been surrounded by this aura of dictatorial mistrust and suspicion.

The 1985 NBA Draft lottery (Patrick Ewing anyone?) and similar conspiracies arose precisely because the league was the type of organization that passed measures, like the dress code, to get players in cultural lockstep with the viewing audience. Since the Malice at the Palace, things have generally been better, though the lockout and the Paul mess were reminders of the way the league used to seem so divorced from its own fans and players.

But move, over David. Roger is on line one, and he wants to tell you to STEP OFF.

Do you want fatuous condescension, but WITHOUT wit? He’s got you. Do you want moral hypocrisy? What about an indefinite suspension for a coach who had the gall to financially incentivize players to injure each other in a game where PLAYERS ARE PROFESSIONALLY INCENTIVIZED TO INJURE EACH OTHER? Still not enough? What about making teams who followed the exact rules of a cap-free season pay all the other teams a bunch of money just because? And making the players union go along with it by threatening to NOT RAISE THE SALARY CAP?

Good God in heaven. Goodell makes Stern at his worst look like a hippie parent who lets all the neighborhood kids drink in his basement.

Here’s my beef: sporting organizations are either a mirror of society and subject to its dictums or they are not. If they are a mirror of society, then fine, have lockouts and subject fans to the unpleasantness of market realities and so forth. Try to make it at least MINIMALLY fair and non-arbitrary. But if not — if this is an arbitrary universe that operates like a bunch of petty children grabbing Monopoly money out of each others’ hands — then spare us all the legalistic crap and just say that things are because you say so.  

But if you want to have all the unfairness of stupid board games combined with the mind-numbing drudgery of tax law?

Then you’re a fat-chinned patsy for being yet another conglomeration of rich white men who want to screw the people they’re profiting off of and expect to be adored for it. I had enough half-baked populist rage BEFORE you, Roger Goodell, and I’d thank you to either make a mint letting young men to decapitate each other or go take your dullard’s face to some less public boardroom.

I will stick to the NBA where our racially charged and economic conflicts are HONORABLE. Thank you.

(Bonus reason why this column is late today: Kanye Zone. No matter what I do, I’m topping out just south of 2 million. Come at me, bro.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 28

Recap: New York Knicks 108, Orlando Magic 86

Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

BOX SCORE

When it comes to examining the Orlando Magic’s flaws under a microscope, most of the focus usually centers around the roster lacking a consistent and dynamic shot creator on the perimeter.

Other roster issues including the following: the bench is bad outside of J.J. Redick, three starters (Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu) aren’t having good seasons, and Dwight Howard has been more ordinary than “Superman” this season.

But if there’s one glaring flaw that may undermine the Magic’s season the most, it’s their defense. Both team and individually.

Yes, Orlando’s offense experiences extreme highs and lows and that’s also a problem. But the Magic’s fall defensively from elite (ranked fifth or better from 2008-2011) to very good is the bigger issue. In years past, when Orlando’s offense hit a dead zone, they could fall back on their defense to win games. This season? Not so much. When the Magic’s offense dies, their hopes of winning games die with it.

Orlando’s loss at the hands of the New York Knicks was the latest example.

In the first quarter, the Magic were fine. Even though Orlando defensively was struggling to contain Carmelo Anthony, on the flipside, Nelson and his aggressiveness on offense in pick-and-rolls made it a moot point. Heading into the second quarter, the Magic were up 29-25.

Then all hell broke loose.

Orlando’s second unit came in. The offense died. The Magic couldn’t fall back on their defense. Orlando’s reserves held on for dear life before the starters finally came back into the game. When it was all said and done, the Magic’s starting unit made the situation even worse on both ends of the floor and the Knicks proceeded to blow Orlando out by 22.

New York won this game because of Anthony and Steve Novak (seriously). The Magic had no one to defend either player.

Anthony did whatever he wanted wherever he wanted on the court. When he was single-covered, he scored. When he was double-teamed, he kicked the ball out to the perimeter and there were plenty of open looks to go around for his teammates, either right away when Anthony passed them the basketball or after a few seconds when Orlando’s defense was forced to rotate.

As for Novak, Orlando now knows what other teams in the NBA have to deal with when defending a stretch four in the mold of Anderson. The Magic had no one that accounted for Novak on the perimeter when the Knicks’ ball-handlers dribble penetrated for drive-and-kicks. No one. Glen Davis tried and failed. Hedo Turkoglu tried and failed.

Maybe Anderson could have fared better but who knows.

All that is certain is that Orlando’s defense is a mess. Dribble penetration can’t be contained. A big, strong wing defender (like Mickael Pietrus of yesteryear) that can contribute on offense doesn’t exist. And Dwight isn’t playing at the same level defensively this season as he has in previous seasons.

In other words, this isn’t 2009.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

With Amar’e Stoudemire out (bulging disk in back), Anthony started at power forward, which serendipitously benefitted the Knicks. There was no one on the Magic’s roster that could defend Anthony (25 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the floor).

Defining Moment

Despite leading 29-25 after the first quarter, Orlando was blown into smithereens by New York. The Knicks outscored the Magic by 20 in the second quarter and proceeded to turn a close game into a laugher.

That Was … Ruthless

Head coach Mike Woodson put the ball in Anthony’s hands and let him single-handedly destroy Orlando’s defense. New York was most effective offensively when Anthony planted himself in the post to create for himself or others.

Mar 28

Preview: Orlando Magic at New York Knicks

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at New York Knicks
  • Date: Mar. 28, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: ESPN
  • Arena: Madison Square Garden

Records

  • Magic: 32-18
  • Knicks: 25-25

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Jason Richardson
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Dwight Howard

Knicks:

  • Baron Davis
  • Iman Shumpert
  • Landry Fields
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Tyson Chandler

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.4 (27th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.6 (16th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.0 (10th of 30)

Knicks:

  • Pace: 94.2 (3rd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.5 (23rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 100.0 (4th of 30)

Read about the Knicks

KnickerBlogger

Mar 28

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The NBA has fined Orlando Magic big man Glen Davis $35,000 for an obscene gesture Davis made during Monday’s victory over the Toronto Raptors in Toronto, league officials announced Wednesday. Davis appeared to flip off a fan after Davis had been hit on the top of the head by a Raptors player with 7:49 remaining in the second quarter.”
  • Jeremy Lin will not be playing in tonight’s game between the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks. Baron Davis will start in Lin’s place.
  • Which means that Lin will miss his chance to face the “Great Wall of Orlando.”
  • Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com provides a breakdown of all the tiebreaker possibilities for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. Take note, Magic fans.
  • Jason Terry won’t be wearing his trademark headband and knee-high socks when the Dallas Mavericks play the Magic on Friday. You can thank Jameer Nelson for that.
  • Is Orlando the most inconsistent team in the NBA? The numbers say no.
  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider on the Magic’s chances of upsetting the Miami Heat in the playoffs and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals: “Every team that has beaten Howard in the playoffs had a big, burly center who could push him off his spots and make him work for his points without requiring a double-team. [...] Miami, which has split the season series with the Magic 2-2, appears extremely vulnerable on this count, and the Heat are Orlando’s most likely second-round opponent.”
  • Turnovers, in part, have prevented Orlando from being a better offensive squad than they have been. Zach Harper of HoopSpeak imparts his wisdom to the masses: “The Magic are giving the ball away 15% of the time on offense. That’s just way too much for a team that relies on precision passing around the perimeter to open up the flow of their offensive attack.”
  • Several NBA scribes think the Atlanta Hawks can upset the Magic in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs if the two teams meet.
  • Mark Heisler of SheridanHoops.com: “One for Otis Smith: Ryan Anderson, acquired from Nets, becomes ideal floor-stretching power forward alongside Dwight, leads NBA with 143 threes—39 more than No. 2 Jason Terry. Unfortunately, they also got Vince in deal.”
  • This is revisionist history at its finest. It’s unfortunate that Vince Carter didn’t step up in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals when Orlando needed him to. It’s not unfortunate that the Magic acquired Carter and Ryan Anderson for the expiring contracts of Rafer Alston and Tony Battie alongside Courtney Lee. The trade was sound, even if the end result left a lot to be desired.

Mar 27

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “With the Magic leading the Toronto Raptors 117-98 in the closing seconds of a game Monday night, a seemingly insignificant basket by Toronto’s Ed Davis prompted the crowd inside Air Canada Centre to erupt in cheers. The moment flummoxed Stan Van Gundy and some Magic players until they were told that ticket-holders would receive free pizza since Davis’ basket gave the Raptors 100 points.”
  • Aside from pulling that hilarious quote from head coach Stan Van Gundy, Robbins conducts an interview with general manager Otis Smith and asks him a variety of questions about the Orlando Magic. In it, Smith notes that he wants to see Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu play better than they have this season. Rob Mahoney of CourtVision agrees.
  • Improving their defense and ball-handling are two areas in which the Magic must improve before the start of the playoffs.
  • Head coach Dwane Casey has high praise for Ryan Anderson. This after Anderson torched the Toronto Raptors to the tune of 28 points, making a career-high eight three-pointers in the process.
  • Don’t look now but the Boston Celtics are surging in the Atlantic Division. As of today, the Celtics are tied with the Philadelphia 76ers atop the division (both teams are 27-22). Why does that matter? It matters because if the Celtics win another divisional title, they would — at minimum — earn the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Which means Orlando would avoid Boston in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
  • Much has changed since the Magic last faced the New York Knicks on January 16.
  • Van Gundy is admired by many writers in the blogosphere. Like Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie. Or Zach Lowe of The Point Forward. Or Holly MacKenzie of CourtVision. Van Gundy’s rants on anything and everything have become legendary in NBA circles.
  • Orlando took advantage of the Raptors’ inconsistency on defense.
  • Against Toronto, Anderson proved why he’s one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA.
  • Jeff Van Gundy on Dwight Howard’s decision to stay with the Magic beyond this season: “That decision wasn’t about loyalty, it had nothing to do with loyalty, it had to do with he stays in power, control, and generates attention over the next year and a half until it comes back around again.”
  • According to Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated, Turkoglu must regain his 2009 form if Orlando wants to advance deep into the postseason this year.
  • The Magic punished the Raptors by running a number of staggered screens to create open looks on offense for players like Anderson.
  • What are the odds Orlando makes it to the Eastern Conference Finals? Not bad, actually. John Hollinger of ESPN Insider explains: “Chicago-Miami seems like such a slam dunk in the Eastern Conference finals that it’s barely worth talking about the conference’s other teams. Not so fast, perhaps. AccuScore gives Orlando a 32 percent chance of upsetting Miami and Boston a 19 percent chance.”
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