Balance, Ball Movement Key During Win Streak
During Orlando’s recent win streak, they’ve shown improvement in nearly every facet of the game. They’re still a work in progress but their defense has shown signs of improvement and their offense is clearly playing much better.
The Magic are using excellent ball movement to get much better shots. Magic players aren’t afraid to make the extra pass and their unselfishness is really paying off.
Since the Magic now have so many players who can put the ball in the basket, remaining unselfish is the key.
“I think we’re playing, for the most part, unselfish,” point guard Jameer Nelson explained. “Guys are looking for guys, guys are being aggressive but staying under control.”
“We all stay on each other to be aggressive and to make the right play,” Nelson added.
After the Magic got off to a 15-4 start, they lost seven out of their next eight games to fall to just 16-12. Throughout the skid, Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy blamed a good portion of Orlando’s offensive woes on a lack of ball movement combined with inconsistent passing.
With the addition Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas, who are polished passers, the offense has looked smoother and much more crisp. Their playmaking ability has really opened up the offense.
“We have more guys that can create off the dribble,” Nelson said.
“We’re really passing the ball,” Ryan Anderson said. “We’re definitely just really looking for each other’s shots and creating openings. Of course guys like Gilbert and Turk, the new guys especially, do a great job of creating and kicking the ball out. Sharing the ball, that’s what we can do – we can really suck the defense in.”
The new additions haven’t just helped the team get more open looks, they’ve made it easier for other players and eased the pressure on the team’s captains, Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard.
“When we can, we take pressure off the guy (Howard),” Nelson told reporters following Thursday night’s victory over the New York Knicks. “They take pressure off me for the most part. I can get the ball up and those guys can make the right play.”
“Myself, I’m able to get off the ball a little bit and let somebody else make a play,” Nelson said. “It’s not about stats. I want to win the game.”
Not only has the improved passing led to better entry passes to both Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass and more option shots from the perimeter, but it’s opened up the fast break. Before Orlando made their deals, they were dead last in fast break points. Now, they are getting out in transition more often and those fast breaks are leading to easy buckets.
“We’re playing harder,” Nelson said. “Since the trade, we have a significant amount of fast break points compared to what we had before the trade… we had to realize we needed easy buckets.”
In fact, Van Gundy thought Orlando allowed New York to get back in the game Thursday night because the Magic slowed the pace in the second half.
“I thought the faster pace benefitted us more than it benefitted them quite honestly,” Van Gundy explained.
With players like Arenas and Turkoglu looking to make the right play rather than trying to find their own way to score, the Magic are going to be tough to beat.
“As long as guys are being aggressive, I don’t care who gets the stat,” Nelson said.
Crashing The Boards
The biggest critique of Orlando’s moves has been their now apparent lack of size. When the Magic sent Marcin Gortat to Phoenix, it left them without a true backup center, forcing Brandon Bass to shift from the Four to the Five and play alongside Ryan Anderson when Dwight Howard gets into foul trouble or just needs a breather.
Rebounding and interior defense looked like they would suffer the most, especially if Howard is out of the game, but that hasn’t been the case.
Orlando hasn’t been outrebounded since the first game of their winning streak when the San Antonio Spurs grabbed 46 rebounds to Orlando’s 39. However, with Orlando’s shot shooting night (59.5% from the field, 52.0% from beyond the arc), the ability and need to grab rebounds wasn’t there, which is why the Magic grabbed just five offensive rebounds.
During Orlando’s five-game winning streak, Bass has average 5.8 rebounds per game, up from his season average of 5.3. Anderson has really crashed the boards, averaging 6.0 rebounds per game off of the bench, including a nine-rebound performance against the Boston Celtics and a 12-board night against the New Jersey Nets.
“It’s funny, that’s something that I’ve always done,” Anderson said of his rebounding. “In college, I averaged 10 boards a game.”
Anderson is sometimes thought of as nothing more than a shooter and has even been compared to former Magic marksman Pat Garrity. However, that couldn’t be much further from the truth. Anderson has a career rebounding rate (percentage of available rebounds grabbed) of 13.7% and is grabbing a career-high 15.1% this season.
“I feel like a pretty decent knack for rebounds,” Anderson said. “I feel like people look at me and don’t see the most athletic human being ever – maybe not ever – but they look at me and don’t see this athlete so they might think that I’m not a rebounder but I’ll take that to my advantage and keep attacking.”
Technicals Adding Up
Dwight Howard picked up his league-leading 12th technical foul against the New York Knicks, leaving him just four away from a one-game suspension.
Howard has actually been called for 14 technical fouls this season but two of those have been rescinded by the league.
Howard has earned a reputation as a complainer among NBA officials and Van Gundy says officials pay much closer attention to Howard’s reactions than they do the reactions of other players.
“They’re looking for him, there’s no question,” Van Gundy said. “They make a call on him, they’re looking to see his reaction. Every one of them.”
“It’s tough,” Howard said of the technicals. “I just try to play through it and not let it affect the way I play but it is very frustrating.
Howard is trying to keep the technicals from frustrating him and has made strides with the way he handles adversity.
“I’ve gotten better (at containing his frustration),” Howard explained. “I haven’t allowed the techs to affect me to where I’m not playing defense of anything like that.”
Van Gundy has often said Howard is treated unfairly in regards to foul calls by the officials and he doesn’t like the way they are quick to call technicals on his franchise player either.
Van Gundy said Howard got his technical on Thursday for saying “damn” but quickly pointed out that other players say much worse on the court.
“Dwight missed a shot and said “damn,” Van Gundy said. “From what I saw out there tonight, “damn” is worse than “[expletive].”
Van Gundy thinks Howard is no worse than any other player when it comes to questioning the officials or making complaints.
“I don’t think he’s any harder on the officials than anybody else in the league,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t even think he’s one of the hardest guys on officials quite honestly. I think I could probably give you 20 guys that are a lot harder on officials than he is. Why he’s been the guy to get all the technicals, I don’t know but there are a lot of guys in this league that are a lot harder on officials than he is.”
Whether he is unfairly targeted or not, Howard still can’t let it get to him.
“I want to be as aggressive as I can, I want to be able to use all the gifts I’m blessed with,” Howard said. “I’ve been playing basketball long enough and there’s no need for me to complain. I just want to go out there and play like everyone else. That’s all there is to it.”
News & Notes
Hedo Turkoglu made his 1,000th career 3-pointer against the Knicks Thursday night.
Turkoglu is averaging 12.9 points, 5.0 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game with the Magic.
Ryan Anderson has scored in double figures in four of his last five games.
Since November 20th, J.J. Redick is shooting .533% from beyond the arc.
The Magic are averaging 102.1 points per game since they made their two trades.
Orlando will play three home games next week – Monday against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks and Friday against the Houston Rockets.