05 April 2007

Eponymous Minds: Raptors 111, Magic 108

If you had told me yesterday afternoon that the Magic would score 37 points in the first quarter of their game against Toronto, I would have laughed. The Magic's offense has been, well, offensive throughout the season, ranking 29th out of 30 teams in terms of points scored per game. Further, if you had told me that their 37-point first quarter would establish a 13-point lead on Toronto, I would have laughed harder.

But if you had told me that the Magic would end up losing the game because they couldn't hang on to the basketball and they couldn't defend the three-point line, I would have no trouble believing it. Those were the storylines in recent losses to Boston and Minnesota, and they were the storyline in last night's game as well. Say what you will about the questionable loose-ball foul called on Grant Hill after scrapping for a rebound with Raptors All-Star Chris Bosh, which lead to two made free throws and established the final margin, that didn't lose us the game. No, what cost us the game were turnovers and poor three-point defense. Again.

See the short guy on the left? That's Jameer Nelson watching as the man he is supposed to be guarding, T.J. Ford, blows by him and passes the ball out to the wing for a likely three-point attempt. Great D, Jameer.

The Magic committed 23 turnovers -- six more than their league-leading season average of 17 -- which lead to 31 Toronto points. More than half of those turnovers can be attributed to the tandem of Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu, both of whom had otherwise good games; Howard broke out of an offensive slump for 18 points and also grabbed 15 rebounds, and Turkoglu scored a career-high 37 points to go with 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. What's astonishing about these turnovers is just how good this club would be if it could cut down on them. Imagine briefly that the Magic committed their season average of 17 turnovers. That's a high total, yes, and certainly far from ideal. However, when consider that the Raptors scored 1.37 points off each turnover, then multiply that figure by 17 and subtract the difference from the actual total, you'll see that the Raptors would have scored 8 fewer points and thus would have lost the game.

The three-point shot also felled the Magic. They allowed Toronto to shoot 9-of-19 (47.4%) from downtown. The Magic shot a better from long range at 50%, but that number is deceptive because the Magic made and attempted fewer three-pointers, going 6-of-12. Thus, the Magic were -9 on three-pointers in a game they only lost by three points.

So the Magic waste another precious home game; a career night from Hedo Turkoglu; a 52% team field-goal shooting performance; and a strong effort on the glass, outrebounding Toronto by a 41-27 margin. What does this game mean for the playoffs? The Nets' thumping of the Hawks solidified their lead over the Magic for the 7th playoff spot in the East and a likely first-round matchup with either Cleveland or Chicago, both of which the Magic have beaten so far this season. As it stands, the Magic have the 8th and final seed and would face Detroit, a team they have failed to beat this season. And as Brian Schmitz pointed out in his game recap, the Nets effectively have an extra game on the Magic because they own the tiebreaker.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the eerie accuracy of this blog's name as it pertains to last night's game. The Magic finished the first quarter with a 13-point lead, then watched as it dwindled to 5 points at the end of the first half, then watched as Toronto outscored them 32-22 in the third quarter to take the lead for good. The Magic shot well in the 3rd, going 7-of-13 for 53.8%. However, they also had 8 turnovers in the quarter, which lead to 11 Toronto points.
Third quarter collapse, indeed.
Postscript - As if Brian Schmitz's blog entry about Darko's unhappiness didn't tell us enough, the erstwhile Human Victory Cigar further demonstrated his displeasure by picking up two technical fouls for arguing a dubious foul call and thus earning himself an ejection. All three of Darko's technicals this year have come against the Raptors, and last night's ejection was the first of his career. He finished the game with no points (0-0 field goals), two rebounds, and three personal fouls in 7 minutes.

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