28 March 2007

That's Gross: Celtics 105, Magic 96 (2OT)

Seriously, boys, what the hell was that?
Here are my observations from last night's embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Conference-worst Boston Celtics:

We Need Carlos Arroyo More Than We Know
Had we won tonight, Carlos would have been the main reason why. Okay, his linescore doesn't pop out at you -- 6 points, 1 rebound, 1 blocked shot on 1-of-2 shooting in 11 minutes -- but just look at what he did when he came in:

  • 2:11, 3rd quarter. Enters game for Tony Battie. Magic trail 56-63.
  • 0:00, 3rd quarter. Magic trail 63-66.
  • 8:12, 4th quarter. Hits 23-foot jumper. Magic trail 69-70
  • 7:46, 4th quarter. Blocks Rajon Rondo's layup.
  • 7:41, 4th quarter. Grabs a defensive rebound. On the ensuing possession, Trevor Ariza is fouled and makes both free throws. Magic lead 71-70.
  • 7:20, 4th quarter. Draws an offensive foul on Ryan Gomes, forcing a turnover.
  • 7:00, 4th quarter. Draws a personal foul on Ryan Gomes. With the Magic in the bonus, he hits both free throws. Magic lead 73-70.
  • 4:15, 4th quarter. Draws a shooting foul on Rajon Rondo and hits both free throws. Magic lead 77-74.
  • 3:16, 4th quarter. Leaves the game and is replaced by Jameer Nelson. Magic lead 77-76.
Okay, so the Magic were trailing by 7 when Arroyo entered the game and were leading by 1 when he left. That's a +/- differential of 8 points, which is fairly solid. This sort of play is what forced some people to believe earlier this season that Arroyo should start in place of Jameer Nelson. While it's true that he played very well last night, it's also true that Arroyo does not have the leadership skills to play 30+ minutes in a starter's role for the Magic. HOWEVER, could he really be much worse than Jameer? Food for thought.

We Might Want To Work On Our Shooting
Even after last night's shoddy performance, the Magic are 5th in the NBA in field goal percentage, making 46.7% of their shots. However, they shot just 41.7% against the Celtics, who are 24th in field goal percentage defense, typically allowing opponents to shoot a robust 46.5%. Why the poor shooting against such a poor team?

Well, it's not like we weren't getting open looks. In the first half, the Magic missed 7 layups, 3 of which were blocked. That trend continued into the second half, in which they made just 4 of 10 layups.

And the futility was not only limited to close shot attempts: for the game, the Magic shot 12-of-38 (31.5%) on two-point jump shots and 3-of-11 (27.3%) on three-point jump shots. Even with no one guarding them, the Magic couldn't make a basket, making just 23 of their 37 free throw attempts, or 62.2%. When a team can't hit from point-blank range, and its outside shot isn't falling, and it isn't converting on its free throw attempts, it's in trouble.

Here's a shot chart that only shows the Magic's missed shots for the entire game -- note how many misses there are in the painted area:

We Might Want To Guard Somebody
The Celtics are not the Suns; that is, they don't have the depth to beat you with any single player on any given night. No, for the Celtics to win, Paul Pierce has to carry them to victory. You might say that he did that last night. He hit the game-tying three-pointer to send the game into overtime, then scored all 7 of Boston's points in the first overtime. Note to the Magic coaching staff: Paul Pierce is a 5-time All-Star. He's good.

We Might Want To Take The Ball Out Of Tony Battie's Hands
Tony Battie, who averages just 6.3 points per game this season, scored 13 points last night. "Hey, offensive explosion! Go Tony!" Right?


Tony needed 17 shot attempts to score 13 points -- a terrible ratio. Further, 17 shot attempts tied for the most of any Magic player; Grant Hill was the other. Meanwhile, all-star center Dwight Howard took just 9 shots. Am I missing something here?

Overall, this loss had to be one of the most disappointing all season. Now 9 of the Magic's 39 losses have come against teams with records of .400 or worse. Do playoff-worthy teams play down to their competition so frequently? You tell me.

I was only going to publish the following photo if we won, but fuck it, Dwight Howard is a beast and the world needs to see proof:

27 March 2007

Streaky like Supergirl's Cat: Magic 94, Knicks 89

To say that last night's defeat of the Knicks was huge would be like saying the Empire State Building is tall; it'd be a gross understatement. At this point in the season, every game is monumentally important, especially for teams trying to squeeze into the playoffs.

That said, like Friday's win over New Jersey, the game was not pretty. The Orlando Magic got the shots they wanted on offense, shooting 52.1% for the game, but almost literally gave the game way by committing 20 turnovers, which lead to 24 Knicks points. Another similarity to the New Jersey game: Jameer Nelson got it done in the clutch. He scored 12 of his 22 points in the 4th quarter against the Nets and followed that up with the game-tying and go-ahead three-pointers in the 4th quarter against the Knicks.

Here's what worries me about Jameer: he only shows up in the clutch. Now maybe that wouldn't be so bad, but then he went and said this:

"My teammates know that I like to take the big shot in the games, so they found me."

While I admire Jameer's confidence, I think he's missing the point. As the point guard, it is his job to find his teammates and get them the ball in position to score, not the other way around. Hitting big shots makes up for it, but what about the first 45 or so minutes of a game? Nelson has failed to record more than 7 assists in a single game all season, and he's averaging just 4.1 per game. He's also shooting a career-low 43.8% from the field and committing 2.4 turnovers per game. Finally, his 5'10" frame makes it hard for him to defend opposing guards, forcing him to commit 2.8 fouls per game.

To me, those numbers indicate that Jameer Nelson is not fit to be a starting point guard in the NBA. He does not shoot well, nor does he distribute the ball effectively. He's shown that he can score in bunches, most clearly in the Magic's improbable come-from-behind win against the Spurs in January, in which he scored 31 points on 60% shooting. Thus, I have to conclude that Nelson should be brought off the bench and look to score against other teams' second units.

So then we have to wonder whom the Magic should start. Despite playing a key role in the win against New Jersey, Carlos Arroyo seems to have played his way out of the rotation. Keyon Dooling, who had been used primarily as a shooting guard before last week, was a capable distributor and defender, but shot poorly and is not suited as a starting point guard in the NBA. That leaves little-used Travis Diener, who only plays in garbage time and thus never faces top competition.

In other words, we need a point guard. That's a subject I'll address in a future entry.

The inconsistency of the Magic's point guard play mirrors the team's inconsistency, which can be charted like so:

Now take a look at the graph for the NBA's top team, the Dallas Mavericks:
The Mavericks haven't lost more than 4 consecutive games all season -- and those were their first 4 games. Further, since that first week of the season the Mavericks have lost just 5 games and no more than 2 straight. That's a mind-boggling accomplishment.

Understand that I'm not saying that the Magic are capable of winning 17 straight games, as the Mavericks did earlier this season. Rather, I'm saying that good teams play consistently and beat the teams they're supposed to beat, something the Magic haven't done this year. Consider that the Magic have lost to these bottom-feeding teams:
  • Thrice to Atlanta (27-45, .375)
  • Twice to Charlotte (26-45, .366)
  • Memphis (17-54, .239)
  • Milwaukee (25-44, .362)
  • Philadelphia (28-42, .400)
Yes, eight of the Magic's 38 losses this season have come against teams that are currently at .400 or worse. Do playoff teams lose such games? No.

I'll close with this thought: the Magic should make the playoffs. They have a comfortable remaining schedule and should win just enough games to get in, where they will play either Detroit or Cleveland in the first round. If they draw the Cavaliers, it would be an interesting series given the surprising fact that the Magic won two of the three games played between those teams this season. If they draw the Pistons, it would soon be a good time for the boys to work on their golf swings, because they have failed to beat the Pistons in three tries this season. They'll get another shot on April 11th.

24 March 2007

Get Us Some Yellow Five: Magic 90, Nets 82

It's not in my nature to doubt myself -- yes, I am that cocky -- but after last night's game, in which the Orlando Magic pulled even in the third and pulled away in the fourth, I'm thinking I should change this blog's name to 'Fourth Quarter Surge'.
Okay, maybe I'm getting a little crazy; after all, the Magic are still under .500 and their victory came against the Nets, arguably the most disappointing team in the Association this year.

The game wasn't pretty by any measure. The Nets couldn't seem to hit any shot from anywhere on the court: 34.5% from the field, 34.8% from three-point range, and a Magic-like 64% from the free throw line. The Magic fared better shooting the ball, but nearly negated any good that did them by committing 17 turnovers. In short, this game was emblematic of the Magic's entire season: solid defense making up for a sloppy offensive effort.

Speaking of offensive stagnation, I think Brian Hill still has a few kinks to work out. The Magic shot a mediocre 42.3% from the field, but that I can live with. What's troubling to me is Dwight Howard's complete lack of offensive involvement. He took just six shots on the night. He was clearly frustrated by the Nets' constant double-teams, but there's going to come a point when the Magic will need to feed him the ball to create offense. Jameer Nelson came up for the team when it counted, scoring 12 of his 22 points in the final period, but he played his typical inefficient game, shooting just 8-for-19 from the field. Further, no one else scored more than 12 for the Magic. Scoring 90 and beating the Nets is one thing; scoring 90 and beating Detroit or Cleveland, the likely top two seeded playoff teams in the East, is quite another.

After the game, Nets guard and potential free-agent signee Vince Carter said "It's all the same. A loss is a loss right now." That attitude, which lacks the necessary sense of urgency needed to make a playoff run, is one that the Magic desperately need to avoid if they want to reach the postseason for the first time since 2003.

This win would ideally light a fire under the Magic, which has failed to win consecutive games since the end of January. However, last week's convincing victories over contenders Utah and Miami should have done the same thing, but didn't. Putting together a winning streak would certainly toughen up this young team that so far has not displayed much hunger. With Indiana floundering, New York nursing injuries to key players and New Jersey underachieving, it's time for the Magic to make a move.

The Magic have had their third quarter collapse. It's time now for a fourth quarter surge.


  • The Magic wore their black throwback uniforms at home, a practice of which I do not approve. Wearing throwbacks at home is fine, but they should be the home colors
  • Carlos Arroyo got meaningful burn for the first time in over a week and scored 9 points in 8 minutes. Think he wants his backup point guard job back?
  • Bo Outlaw, not Pat Garrity, was the past-his-prime power forward on the inactive list for the Magic
  • It's hard for me to dislike Vince Carter, given his affinity for headbands and high socks.

23 March 2007

The Face on the Milk Carton Series: Pat Garrity

It wasn't too long ago when Pat Garrity was important to the Orlando Magic. He'd come into the game, camp out on the right wing and wait for Tracy McGrady to kick it out to him for a three-point bomb. Garrity -- or, as my friend Jake called him then, "G-Pat" -- was a fan-favorite. You can't help but love unathletic white guys in the NBA who have only one skill, and if you don't believe me, ask Heat fans about Jason Kapono or Knicks fans about David Lee.

But now, just five seasons removed from his best, in which he averaged 11.1 points per game and shot .427 from beyond the three-point arc, Pat Garrity is arguably the least important player on the whole team. He's appeared in just 31 games this season, and in those he's only averaged 8.3 minutes. He has nearly as many field goal attempts (65) as he does points (67). He's hitting just 36.7% of this threes and only 32.3% of his shots overall. And although rookie James Augustine has appeared in just two games so far, Augustine is 7 years younger and appears to be able to rebound the basketball, something Garrity has struggled with throughout his career.

As I alluded to earlier, Pat Garrity made a living by camping out at the three-point line and waiting for the ball. But what happens when a three-point shooter stops making his threes? In most cases, it means getting cut in training camp or spending the season on the inactive list. In Garrity's case, it means sitting at the end of the bench each night, cursing the knee injury he suffered in 2003 that he never fully recovered from.

22 March 2007

In Defense of Brian Hill

It's impossible to discuss the Magic's struggles this season without mentioning this man:

When the Magic began their downward spiral this season, fans were quick to call for the firing of head coach Brian Hill. FireBrianHill.Org was established earlier this season to unite fans against the Magic's head coach and to collect signatures for a petition calling for his removal from the organization. He was stubborn, stupid, not playing to his team's strengths, stunting the development of his younger players, etc. Even after the Magic's stunning victory against the Heat on Sunday, fans blasted Hill:

  • Jameer, Howard, Turco, Ariza, and Hill are great players but the coach is not to their level. To be a leader you must have a plan and we have seen none, only wish to be lucky. I once heard that " Luck was when oportunity meets PREPAREDNESS" and the Orlando Magic have faced several oportunities, and they showed not being prepared for them. Sure, it is their coach's job, to have them ready. C'mon Brian it is about time. WE ARE FUMING...
  • Half of the time Brian Hill looks lost as if he doesnt know what he's even doing. He was a good coach 12 years ago but now its time for him to move on...
I can't help but wonder why these fans are reacting to Hill in this manner. Perhaps he acted too late in the season when he changed the rotation, but I have news for unhappy Magic fans:

It's working.

Since benching Carlos Arroyo and Keith Bogans in favor of Keyon Dooling and J.J. Redick, the Magic have defeated powerhouses Utah and Miami. And although they've also lost to struggling Sacramento and injury-riddled Toronto in the same stretch, it was through no fault of Hill's.

As I documented in this blog's introductory post, the Magic lost to the Kings because they couldn't hit shots when it mattered, nor could they keep Sacramento off the foul line. Brian Hill is not out there hacking Kevin Martin on every play, ladies and gentlemen, nor is he taking the court in a Magic jersey and throwing up bricks like the rest of the team did in Toronto, where they shot just 37.3%. However, in that game, the Keyon Dooling-lead second unit keyed several runs to cut into double-digit leads. It was Orlando's starters in that contest who hurt the team the most. Hedo Turkoglu played his worst game of the season, shooting just 1-for-11 for 4 points. And although Jameer Nelson finished with a late flourish by draining two three-pointers and hitting three free throws after getting fouled on another attempt, he shot just 4-for-12 for the game for 15 points. Further, he struggled on defense, committing 5 fouls.
Although Dooling had a poor shooting game -- he was just 3-of-12 -- he was much more effective at the point than Jameer was. Dooling finished with 6 assists to just 1 turnover in 25 minutes. I have a hard time believing that Arroyo would have been able to post similar numbers.

But that's just taking a micro perspective. When examining the whole season, there isn't a whole lot that's gone wrong that can be directly attributed to Brian Hill. The Magic have suffered through injuries to Grant Hill, Tony Battie, and Trevor Ariza. Hedo Turkoglu has battled a mysterious illness all year. And at the trade deadline, with the Magic in the tailspin, it was GM Otis Smith, not Brian Hill, who decided not to make a move, content with mediocrity.

What I'm asking of Magic fans here -- and maybe it's too much, that's the problem -- is for a bit of patience. I know it's hard, especially this late in the season, especially after so many losses, and especially after the promising 13-4 start devolved, but Brian Hill's lineup adjustments are for the best and the next 13 games will show it.

20 March 2007

Tim Povtak Serves Ben Q Rock a Piece of Humble Pie

I predicted in today's first post that Tim Povtak jinxed the Orlando Magic when he wrote that the three other teams they are battling for the last two playoff spots in the East were likely to lose this evening. I wrote that the Pacers, Nets, and Knicks would all pull upsets thanks to Povtak's deviltry. Well, two of the three games are in the books, and Povtak's predictions have held up so far: the Nuggets beat the Nets and the Mavericks beat the Knicks. The Pacers/Rockets contest is in-progress.
There are two ways to look at this situation:

  • My earlier post doublejinxed Povtak's initial jinx, thus restoring balance to the universe and ensuring that his predictions held true.
  • I don't know shit about basketball.
Either way, the Nets and Knicks both losing tonight is good for the Magic. I can live with being wrong if it means the good guys benefit in some way.

Tim Povtak Does Not Understand the Concept of the Jinx

If you've ever watched any sporting event on live TV, you know how the jinx works: a commentator/talking head/whatever makes a statement about a remarkable statistic or streak, only to see the unusual result happen.. Here's an example:

"Mark Price steps to the free throw line now. He's tops in the league in free throw percentage. The first shot... bounces off. So, a rare miss for Mark Price..."
Well, Tim Povtak, whose Orlando Magic/NBA coverage for the Sentinel I find to be much better than Brian Schmitz's, has jinxed the hell out of the Magic and their playoff chances. Imagine my horror when I visited the Sentinel's Magic coverage homepage to see this headline:
Idle Magic can shift back into No. 7 slot.
Even though that headline does not assert the shift as fact, it all but dooms us, at least this evening. Here's the key phrase from the article, which I've italicized in the following excerpt:
Indiana (30-35), New Jersey (31-36) and New York (30-36), the other three in the race for the seventh and eight spots, all are expected to lose tonight, playing against Western Conference teams with winning records.
The Pacers are playing the Rockets, the Nets are playing the Nuggets, and the Knicks are playing the Mavericks. Yes, I can see why Povtak would say that the teams were expected to lose. Just look at their opponents: the Rockets are coming off a 50-point victory against the 76ers; the Nuggets have won 4 straight, including a blowout of Phoenix; and the Mavericks have the best record in the league.

Here's what will happen tonight, though: Tracy McGrady's back will tighten up in pregame warmups, forcing Luther Head to start in his place. The Rockets shoot poorly and will lose a close game despite another steller performance from Yao. The Nuggets will decide not to play defense and allow the Nets to run-and-gun along with them. Jason Kidd will thrive in the wide-open style of play and drop a triple-double on the Nuggets. And the Knicks' backcourt duo of Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis will party like it's 1999 and combine for 55 points and 15 assists in shocking Dallas into its third loss in its past ten games.

Maybe I'm going out on a limb here. But now that Povtak has predicted a big standings shakeup, I can't help but to remain skeptical about it.

19 March 2007


The purpose of this blog is simple: to comment on the past, present, and future of the Orlando Magic. I feel as though I am qualified to comment for the following reasons:

  • I have lived in Orlando my entire life.
  • I have previously been a Magic season ticketholder.
  • I remember Danny Schayes.
Those reasons, more or less, make me just as reputable as, say... Brian Schmitz. But qualifications aren't really necessary; this is, after all, the internet.

The name of this blog should resonate with Magic fans. Although there's no official statistic -- yet -- I'm certain that the Magic have the highest rate of blown third-quarter leagues in the league. If you don't believe me, check the recap of the Magic's loss to the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night. Actually, let me just go through the play-by-play.

The Situation:
The Magic entered the 3rd quarter with a 52-42 advantage on the Kings, who had lost 5 straight games heading into that night's action.

The 3rd quarter:
The Magic and Kings traded baskets for the first 7:10 of the period:
  • SAC - Kevin Martin makes two free throws (44-52)
  • ORL - Grant Hill makes a jumper (44-54)
  • SAC - Mike Bibby makes a three-pointer (47-54)
  • ORL - Jameer Nelson makes two free throws (47-56)
  • SAC - Kevin Martin makes a free throw (48-56)
  • ORL - Dwight Howard makes a dunk (48-58) -- One of Howard's two field goals on the night!
  • SAC - Mike Bibby makes a jumper (50-58)
  • ORL - Darko Milicic makes a dunk (50-60)
Then, finally, one team made a stop and converted on their next possession.
  • ORL - Grant Hill makes a jumper (50-62)
Hey, we're up 12! We're really cookin'! Right?
Wrong. I've decided to include the Magic's non-scoring possessions in between the Kings' made baskets in the following sequence:

  • SAC - Ron Artest makes a two-pointer (52-62)
  • ORL - Jameer Nelson bad pass turnover
  • ORL - Jameer Nelson misses a shot
  • SAC - Mike Bibby makes a three-pointer (55-62)
  • ORL - Dwight Howard misses a layup
  • ORL - Darko Milicic commits a loose-ball foul
  • SAC - Corliss Williamson makes two free throws (57-62)
  • ORL - Darko Milicic 3-second violation turnover
  • SAC - Mike Bibby makes a three-pointer (60-62)
Four possessions turned into two missed shots and two turnovers, and the Kings were able to convert. The Magic's scoring drought finally ended when J.J. Redick hit a two-point basket to bump the Magic lead back up to 4 points. Unfortunately, the scoring drought wasn't all that J.J.'s basket ended; the Magic were finished scoring for the Period. 3:11 had elapsed between baskets and another 1:39 would elapse to finish the quarter with the score of Sacramento 67, Orlando 64. This season, the Magic have a record of 3-30 -- .090 -- when trailing after the third quarter. Magic fans knew that the remaining 12 minutes would be a formality.
The final score was 95-83.
How ugly was this loss? Apart from the fact that it came against a sub-.500 opponent on a losing streak? Here are some fun facts:
  • The Kings' Kevin Martin, a candidate for Most Improved Player of the Year, made just one of his eight field goal attempts and still managed to score 20 points. How? The Magic couldn't stop fouling him and he ended up shooting 20 free throws, making 17 of them. To put that number in perspective, the Magic as a team shot only 25 free throws.
  • The Magic outshot the Kings 41.9% to 33.8%.
  • The Magic outrebounded the Kings 41-36.
  • Magic All-Star Dwight Howard finished with six points. Six. This from a guy who leads the league in dunking.
  • The Kings wore their hideous gold alternate uniforms. BeyoncĂ© called and she wants her Dreamgirls wardrobe back.
In a sick way, that loss is what forced me to start this blog. I'm sure that another blown lead down the road would have influenced me as well, but there's no time like the present.