Preview and Chat: The Orlando Magic

Darius Soriano —  March 12, 2013

Records: Lakers 33-31 (9th in the West), Magic 18-46 (14th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 105.7 (8th in the NBA), Magic 99.7 (T 24th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.7 (18th in the NBA), Magic 106.5 (26th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Dwight Howard
Magic: Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic
Injuries: Lakers: Pau Gasol (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Magic: Glen Davis (out), Hedo Turkoglu (suspended)

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers are 8-2 in their last 10 but are still fighting hard to make the playoffs. Their position as the 8th seed lasted all of one day with the Jazz (and their tiebreaker) reclaiming the spot after a win over the Pistons last night. This only reinforces the reality that for the Lakers, every game matters a great deal. Yes, they’re playing better and racking up the wins, but in order to get to the post season they must continue their winning ways. This means continuing to refine their schemes and finding a way to bring the needed effort and focus each night.

Sunday’s win over the Bulls was the perfect template for this team moving forward — the Lakers came out ready to compete, were sharp on defense, and controlled the tempo offensively with solid execution even when the Bulls clamped down on that end. Every game will require an adherence to that model or they can just as easily find themselves in the type of game they had against the Raptors and the Hornets. It should be noted that even if the Lakers do play well, sometimes they’ll find themselves in that type of game anyway simply because other teams get up to play the Lakers and often bring their best effort. But by finding a way to match or exceed that energy is what this team needs moving forward.

The Magic Coming in: Orlando has had the type of season many would have predicted for them after trading their franchise anchor last summer. They have the 2nd worst record in the league and have seen enormous dips in production on both sides of the ball. Their efficiency differentials are a minus-7 and that pretty much tells you the quality of their team this season.

That said, in trading Howard the Magic also did a very good job of netting the types of players who can develop into very good players. Nikola Vucevic is a nice big man prospect who has an emerging offensive game and very good instincts on the glass. Mo Harkless is a developing combo forward who can do a little bit of everything on the floor. Add to them E’Twaun Moore and Andrew Nicholson and there’s a nice crop of in house talent that can hopefully sprout into every game contributors. Besides trading Howard for prospects and draft picks, the Magic also traded J.J. Redick at the deadline and snatched up another fine young player in Tobias Harris to go along with veteran PG Beno Udrih. And when you add Udrih to Jameer Nelson, Afflalo, and Al Harrington, that’s a nice mix of veterans to go with their young players.

What’s resulted is a professional team that plays hard even if the wins are scarce. Head coach Jaque Vaughn comes from the Popovich tree of coaching that emphasizes process as much as results and we’re seeing that in Orlando. Down the line with some good development of current youngsters and some lottery luck, the Magic can be a very good team again. This season, despite the results, is a step in the right direction.

Magic Blogs: Magic Basketball and Orlando Pinstriped Post are two excellent sites. Check both out for all your Magic news and analysis.

Keys to game: This is Dwight’s first game back to Orlando since the trade and with his return there will be a palpable buzz in the building. Dwight handled his exit about as poorly as a player could have left a team and the negativity spawned from his departure will be on full display tonight. Fans will boo him lustily in introductions and every time he has the ball. He is now public enemy number one in that city.

For the Lakers, then, meeting that level of energy is important and maybe more so than executing well. Solid picks and rotating well are always important of course, but so is making the extra effort on every single play. The Magic are likely to be flying all over the court in this game and matching what they bring to the floor can mean the difference between winning and losing this game.

From an execution standpoint, the Lakers must simply play the game they’ve been playing for weeks. Kobe will have another tough match up with Afflalo guarding him, but even the former Nugget can be beaten with solid screening and quick decisive moves from #24. Let Kobe operate in the P&R, get him moving into the post and off picks for quick jumpers and he should be okay. As should Nash and Dwight if they continue to work well in the P&R. Nelson isn’t the best defensive guard and he doesn’t offer the type of size or length that can bother Nash in pressure situations. If Dwight can set good screens for Nash, it should set him free to shoot his mid-range jumper which should then open up passing chances to Dwight and shooters on the wing to get good shots.

Defensively the Lakers must concern themselves with tempo and making smart choices in the half court. The Magic aren’t a very good offensive team when slowed down, but they have enough athletes on the win to push the pace even if that’s not their typical style of play. Afflalo, Harris, Moore, and Harckless can all get up and down the floor when they want to and with Nelson and Udrih manning the point, there’s enough experience and savvy to utilize those athletes when they do get out in the open court.

In the half court, expect a heavy diet of P&R’s from both Nelson and Udrih. Both have the ability to hit jumpers from deep and the mid-range and that necessitates fighting over screens well and having the hedge man play high enough to contest that shot. That said, either player can also get into the lane to create for others so the back line help behind Howard must be ready to help on the dive man while still recovering out to shooters planted around the arc. Afflalo and Al Harrington are both capable shooters and if they start to knock down the three ball this game will remain close.

As for other variables, look out for Vucevic on the offensive glass when Howard is helping away from him. The big man averages over 3 offensive rebounds a game and has good instincts when chasing down loose balls. He must be bodied up and forced to go over the top of a wing (potentially fouling in the process) to get that board. Also look out for the hack-a-Dwight strategy in this game. When the Magic beat the Lakers in L.A., Coach Vaughn used the tactic down the stretch and it completely threw off the Lakers’ offensive attack and allowed Orlando to seize the game. If this contest is close down the stretch, expect to see Dwight at the line with a cascade of boos raining down on him while he tries to overcome the weakest part of his game.

If the Lakers are to avoid that situation, they must do what’s needed early and carry it over through the rest of the game. Even with a tough contest tomorrow night, the Lakers must leave it all on the floor tonight to get this much needed win.

Where you can watch: 4:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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93 responses to Preview and Chat: The Orlando Magic

  1. Kobe Alert: We are really getting close to a very signficant day for Kobe. He is just 164 points away from Wilt. I know I have been counting this down for some time, however this is still just monumental ! We are talking about Wilt Chamberlain !!!! On other fronts, Kobe is 12 Def Rebounds away from Mark Eaton for 62nd there (Eaton did do other stuff other than be a prop in the slam dunk contest). He is now pursuing Avery Johnson for 32nd on the dimes list.

  2. Looking at the upcoming schedules, it is going to be pretty tough for the Lakers to gain any headway against Houston or Golden State. It actually looks like Houston has a pretty good chance of moving into the 6th spot, especially if they win their head-to-head with the Warriors. Utah however is in for a rough ride. Their next five games (OKC-MEM-NYK-HOU-SA) can really put them into a world of hurt.

  3. You see those starting 5 of the Magic and i be absolutely horrified if the Lakers dont dominate this game from start to finish,but i see it happen before, so i dont know, i was at the so-called world wide leader in sports,boards and the level of trolling against the Lakers,Kobe and Dwight its just insane, i want Dwight to tear this team up tonight,if there is a game he need to go on Hulk mode is this one,it would do wonders for his head,if the Lakers approach the game like Sunday’s and get going from 3 point land this should be an easy night but i never know what team will show up tonight. We need a win tonight since Utah have to deal with OKC on the road tomorrow.

  4. Great recap Darius

  5. Grantland has a really great article on Kobe’s new found efficiency.

    http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/53866/courtvision-the-new-kobe

  6. I hope the team, as a whole, continues to execute well offensively and takes what the Magic’s defense allows. One thing that we don’t need is for either Nash or Kobe (or both) force feeding Dwight tonight due to the extra incentive for him to make a statement. Control the pace against what’s sure to be a motivated team and an energized crowd, take advantage of the opportunities that will surely present themselves against a terrible defensive squad and when it’s all said and done, we should be headed to ‘The A’ with a half game lead over the Jazz.

  7. Zcah Lowe on Tyrone Corbin and the Utah defense (connections to some disussion here should be obvious):

    “And that’s the thing: There are no clear, consistent rules to Utah’s defense. Sometimes the big men drop back. Sometimes they stick to the screener, allowing the point guard to blow by them, a stance that indicates they expect help to come from behind them. But there are possessions on which that notion appears to make little sense.

    The Jazz’s inability to contain pick-and-roll ball handlers opens up shots everywhere — in the lane, from the corners, and from elsewhere around the arc. Utah opponents get a lot of the highest-value shots in the game.

    Not all of this is on Corbin, obviously. The Jazz have below-average defensive personnel, and young players are notoriously slow to grasp the rules of complex NBA defense. And bad defensive teams are often better off mixing up their base defensive strategies to at least introduce some unpredictability. But the Jazz’s general lack of coherence is alarming and raises questions about Corbin’s future after next season, when his contract is up. Not every team can be as maniacally rule-bound as Chicago, but when teams are prone to confusing breakdowns over a long period, it’s time to ask some serious questions.”

  8. rr: Love the excerpts
    My favorite line: “And bad defensive teams are often better off mixing up their base defensive strategies to at least introduce some unpredictability.”
    This was also interesting: “young players are notoriously slow to grasp the rules of complex NBA defense” Is the converse of that true? : ) And if it were, would we even know? : )

  9. Check out today’s “ESPN’s 5 on 5″ piece. Our own Darius is one of the commentators. Topic is: Dwight Howard.

    http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/page/5-on-5-130312/nba-dwight-howard-return-orlando

  10. Ding reporting that Gasol could be back next week

  11. Here’s hoping the Orlando Magic fans go home very sad after watching D-12 lead the Lakers to a win tonight.

  12. I love Howard’s attitude right now, he’s chirping and I love it.

  13. Lakers communicating on defense and it’s paying dividends. The defense looks so much better last few games. Lots of helping the helper from the perimeter guys.

  14. Defense is ok but overall playing like absolute crap, im sorry. I dont understand why this team is flat again, rested against a pos team. They need to put this team away early we have a couple of tough games ahead and we cant afford having this games against inferior teams.

  15. Steve Blake and Earl Clark have both regressed to mean – which means they are not very good.

  16. Bad offensive quarter. Missing open shots. Kobe seems to be force it. This really is a bunch of strangers on Magic. would be tragic to blow this one.

  17. If the Lakers were playing an NBA team they would be down by dbl digits right now.

  18. Howard is playing well right now, like that he is not letting this moment get to him – Orlando players are trying to get under his skin.

  19. Aggressive Steve Blake sighting! I like.

  20. The way the Magic are playing right now.. The Lakers just can’t lose this .. This is one of the few times I feel it might be a blowout. They need to set the tone and pull away early.

  21. Two points:

    1. The MWP ‘have you seen the tape of what I did to Harden’ thug factor is set to maximum tonight.

    2. Did Meeks seriously graze a 3 off rim on a 5 on 4 with a Magic player down and out on the other end of the Court? Where is the basketball IQ?

  22. If the Lakers are going to make playoff noise, Meeks, Jamison and Blake are going to have to make these open treys

  23. It looks like when Pau comes back Clark will be DNP-CD

  24. As I said early in the year the two windows Dwight has to regain his athletisism was the All Star Break and the offseason. The fact he has regained a little but of his bounce during the break gives me hope he can regain a lot more during the offseason. I’m still hopeful. There is hope. Not of being 100 percent of what he was before back surgery… But 95 percent can still happen.

  25. I seriously don’t even recognize the names of half the Magic roster.

  26. Kobe shooting 1-7 and Dwight missed fts are the only thing that has kept this game to be a 20 point 1st half lead

  27. If Dwight made his FT’s he’d be well on his way to the 30 pts 20 reb game predicted in the last thread. It still could but it’d be easier if he makes his Ft’s.

  28. Lottery team hack-a-shaqing. D12’s 17FTA already, are you kidding me?

  29. Kobe was due for a bad game – he has been playing unbelievable and logging crazy minutes. We’ll see there is a second half yet.

  30. That was an unbelievably bad call on Nash.

  31. This reminds me when the Magic went to Staples, i hope all those fts dont come and bite us at the end. Losing this game would be devastating. Frustrate the hell out of me how this team performance fluctuate from game to game.

  32. Darius

    Why didn’t we get the ball back after Howard shot the free-throw if they intentionally fouled him with less than two minutes to go in the quarter?

  33. What’s up with Clark? We are playing too small, defense suffers.

  34. Another odd move by Mike putting 6 foot Nash on a 6’8′ guard. Why does Metta think he can dribble and or shoot. 3rd airball of the game. Terrible half aganist a bad D League team.

  35. Why does MWP insists going one on one smh

  36. @Busboys You can intentionally foul off the ball all you want except the last 2 mins of game and it is just 2 FTs if the team is over the limit.

  37. This Hack a Howard bs definitely takes the enjoyment out of viewing the game. At this pace (this strategy), the game will probably take around 3 hrs to conclude.

  38. The ref that is screwing us on every call looks exactly like Henry Abbott – cant be a coincidence

  39. Kobe weds to get in the darn game. Very low energy.

  40. Abbott screws us again, how is that not continuation

  41. Lost the lead, embarrasing how in the hell this happened? Why this damn team cant show one shred of consistency and killing instint playing against a botton feeding almost D-league team? I mean do they know they are in 9th place and fighting for their playoffs lives? Is this going to be another Raptors or Hornets kind of game?

  42. lord these refs have been bad

  43. Never heard of some of these Orlando starters. They’re like a d-league team.

  44. God these refs are awful… Shoulda been an and one on that last metta play.

  45. Wow this is a terrible officiated game. Every bad results in an Orlando run. SMDH.

  46. Earl clark is useless if he isn’t active on defense. He can’t spread the floor or dribble.

  47. Lakers strangely are completely emotionally flat for this game. Now that they have some rope are the trying to hang themselves with it?

  48. You know at some point in the game Kobe is going to get his. Don’t you worry about that!

  49. never seen anyone bank-in a freethrow.

  50. Dwight getting more FT practice in game then at actual practice. This game is almost unwatchable boring.

  51. Kevin

    I would rather Earl on the floor than MWP. At least he switches on defense, helps the helper and plays under control.

  52. Orlando has Harrington? He is THE worst.

  53. BusBoys4me: agree. Really hurts the offense when clark and metta share n side of the floor together while the team runs PnR. They can’t shoot consistently. I like meeks and Jamison better for that. I agree Clark has his spurts on defense.

  54. hey y´all, notice DH doesn´t have any turnovers?

  55. These refs are clueless – there is no way only 4 seconds came off the clock before the timeout because they realized the clock was not running

  56. The results so for of Orlando’s hack-a-dwight. He’s 15/27, 55.6%; that is equivalent to an offensive efficiency of 111, which would lead the NBA this season: http://espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/teamstats. Nice job, Jacque Vaughn!

  57. Kobe´s off his shooting game so far, the bench has only produced 6 points through 3Qs and we´re up by 8 points on the road, on the 1st night of a back to back!
    I´ll take in a big way!!

  58. Jamison slip screen again for the layup, nice.

  59. Blake’s playmaking top notch again

  60. This 2nd unit, led by Blake, is doing an excellent job opening up (the lead) this 4th quarter.

  61. Man, I can really see the cohesiveness and chemistry among these guys right now.

    Look at the Blake and Jamison, they have some sort of connection between them.

    Feels good. DAMN!

  62. Keep building this lead, i hope we dont have to see Kobe,Dwight and Nash the rest of the game, the team has really thighten things up on the second half.

  63. Exvuse the off topic, but is anyone else bothered by the constant strobe light / flashes that go on in basketball games? It makes the games almost painful for me to watch.

    I have a largish hdtv, and it’s like having a flash bulb going off in my face a few times every minute. I don’t know if this is a new development, or it has been this way for a while and I’m more sensitized to it.

  64. Probably too much brightness on ypur settings friend.

  65. Very quietly, Blake is becoming Nash-lite…

  66. Another failure to keep the gas on the pedal, our starters should not have to be out there.

  67. Kobe running to many PnR’s for my liking

  68. The league need to do smoething about this hacking crap next season, this is just ridiculous

  69. With hack a dwight in effect–there is a lot of time left. Not comfortable yet.

  70. This isn’t basketball. This is Goofy ball from D Land. Hack a Dwight is a insult to the game.

    Idiot Stern Should do something! Shame on the Magic for making tbe game a joke!

  71. Well, Dwight’s getting a lot of practice shooting FT’s in game. Maybe he’ll get over whatever it is that prevents him from shooting close to his practice FT%, which is around 82%…

  72. I kind of understand if the game is close but a 14 point deficit with a little more than 2 minutes left? That sour grapes, triying to humilliate Howard but its been a disaster because he is been hitting them, its not even about the score or the game anymore.

  73. Jacque Vaughn is weak sauce of a coach.

  74. the eggs are coolin´ , the butter´s gettin´ hard!
    great game Dwight! thanks

  75. Just to follow up, the Hack-a-Dwight obviously did not get more effective. 25/39 free throws is equivalent to 128 OEff, which would obliterate the all-time record for a season … nice.

  76. That was a beautiful liberating game for dwight, completely anihilated the Magic by their own doing, priceless, hahahahahahahaha

  77. Bizarre close to the game. I cannot believe how long ORL dragged out the Hack a Dwight show.

    Kudos to Dwight for 64% on the night. I would take 60 % from him if he could do it every night.

    The best part about the weird fourth quarter is even though Nash Kobe and Dwight played the last six minutes or so, they weren’t really expending effort, because ORL was dribbling down, hucking up a jumper and then hacking. Ended up being almost like having the fourth quarter off.

  78. You want scoring Kobe he gives you 40, you want Magic Kobe he gets 14 assists you want let Dwight dominate Kobe he still manages to get 7 rebounds and 8 assits. Kobe is adapting and playing great ball. Really a joy to watch all year especially since he and the team figured out roles.

    Second straight game where it felt like the other team had no chance to win in the 2nd half. Lakers will be a tough out.

  79. Credit to Dwight. 25-39 FT said it all. However, this was an utterly boring and lacklustre game. I expected this to be a blowout nonetheless. The Magic is simply a bad team that play hard sometimes but have no cohesiveness and nobody to go to. It really seems like a D-league team. Anyways, Lakers took care of business bottomline. The bench unit have been a bright spot throughout. Back at 8th !

  80. Hopefully Dwight’s taking Kobe’s advice to heart to stop worrying that everyone doesn’t love you, just win!

    Now purge this “reunion” from your memory banks and concentrate on tomorrow’s game!

  81. Dwight has a James Harden line tonight. 25/39 free throws, 39 points.

  82. I hope i dont put a jinx, but if we win tomorrow and Houston lose and remember Utah is going to Okc, we could be on 7th place, the way this team played for the most part of the last 2 games they have a great shot of winning tomorrow. But we will see

  83. Rusty Shackleford March 12, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    What a weird game to watch when someone shoots than many free throws. Big ups to Dwight for his excellent performance tonight. Especially knocking down free throws in the 4th quarter.

    Also, please Steve Nash – keep up this trend of not turning the ball over. The coaches need to let everyone on this team know that every time they commit a careless turnover it’s pretty certain they are giving an easy 2 points to the opposition.

  84. When I looked at 25-39 in the box score I will admit, I was amazed. You have to wonder how Howard can put up incredible numbers like this on one night and then the next just suck badly, going like 2-7 with 7 points. If Howard did this more consistently then he could be a franchise player, but we are still yet to see any kind of consistency.

  85. total third-rate bs from ORL. nice job guys you look like complete sour grapes losers.

  86. This might have been the best the Magic could have done for the Lakers. At least it will make it easier for Howard to forget about Orlando. They treated him like dirt, he should be an a–hole to them. Thank you Orlando, makes it easy to move on.

  87. If the reports are correct that Dwight ordinarily shoots around 80% in practice, that explains why Hack a Dwight is a strategy fraught with peril for the other team, and one with likely diminishing returns. Dwight struggled early, when he was appearing at the line somewhat sporadically (as he did in the first matchup with ORL, when he was 9-21.) Last night, the prolonged Hack-a-Dwight likely helped him get more into the rhythm that he enjoys at practice–hence the 23 makes in his last 30 attempts. He wasn’t playing two minutes of tough ball, then having to shoot freebies. He was coming down on D, watching ORL huck up a jumper, and then, make or miss, was turning around to come up floor to get fouled. It was just one night, and he could have just as easily gone 15-39—but I doubt we will see another prolonged use of the strategy from any team, overmatched or otherwise, for the rest of the year.

  88. Btw, looking at the Miami’s Heat schedule. They have a shot to easily win 29 straight before they play in San Antonio. How about we just give the Heat the title now? No one is beating that team.

  89. Rusty Shackleford March 13, 2013 at 7:10 am

    If the Lakers can get these next two in Atlanta & Indiana I like their chances at putting together not just a good month (which they are already having) but a great one. They do have a lot of games on the road but they are all teams they should beat. That, to me, was the most encouraging thing about last night’s game. They handled their business just like they did against injury-depleted Chicago on Sunday.

    Getting Pau back towards the end of this month would be huge for the Lakers. Even if he can just give them some backup center time for 15-20 minutes it would be a huge help. They have been fortunate to not get burned too badly with Earl Clark in a center.

    They need to be sure Earl Clark doesn’t put the ball on the floor anymore. Everytime he dribbles it gets stolen.

  90. Amother nice win, but boy have we benefitted from playing some garbage teams of late–or, in the Bulls’ case, one ravaged by injury.

    Note to coach Vaughn: when a guy starts hitting 80% of his FTs you might want to stop intentionally fouling him….

  91. The fans of the Orlando Magic should’ve flipped the script last night and started voicing their anger towards their coach. It’s because of him that they were treated to a BS game, which I’m pretty sure they were waiting on with great anticipation ever since the trade went down last summer. It’s a shame that those in attendance, who put down hard earned paper, were relegated, basically, to Dwight practicing free throws at their expense. What a way to show gratitude towards your fan base Jacque Vaughn.

  92. Joe M: With regard to DH: I think there are really only 3 franchise players in the NBA (KB, LBJ, KD). What DH is however is a 1st team all NBA player (last year, probably this year, almost definitely next year), and he should be given max contract. There are no reasonable alternatives, that do not involve wild pipe dreams. Even Aaron is hedging now : )

  93. Joe M,

    I don’t want Miami getting anywhere near the ’72 Lakers 33 wins in a row record. Someone needs to upend that team ASAP. And it is a shame the Eastern Conference is such a joke. Indiana is the ONLY team with a shot of taking out Miami in the Eastern playoffs. What’s even worse is OKC is fools gold. Their lack of scoring from the inside will be their fatal flaw in the Finals. Yet, KD and Russ are still good enough to get them out of the West. But in the end it won’t matter. Miami will put LeBron in the post and that series will be over.