Game 4 vs. the Pistons

“Stop shooting threes!” – Adam Greene 11/3/09

The Magic got outplayed by a vastly inferior team.  No Richard Hamilton, no Tayshaun Prince, and the Magic laid an egg.  Yes Dwight was in foul trouble and fouled out, but that is no excuse.  I don’t want to dwell on this because the Magic are down a couple of their starters, but they have to play smarter than that.

(distressing) Notes

– Jameer’s poor play was frightening.  His decision making in the second half was poor.  He appeared to be trying to take over the game but he was unable to get any space against Will Bynum/Rodney Stuckey.  Those two locked him up defensively.  Particularly on one late isolation play for Jameer, Bynum did not allow Jameer any space and caused a turnover.  I blame this mostly on the fact that Jameer should be running the offense not jacking it up every time he gets the ball.  I realize that he was shooting a lot in the Toronto game, to good effect, but it felt like it was more in the flow of the offense.

– Dwight’s foul trouble crippled the offensive and defensive flow for the Magic.  It makes you realize how much space he creates for the rest of the team.  He got too frustrated with the physical play, which is understandable since he only got away with one foul in the game (elbow to Bynum’s head on a block).

– Ryan Anderson played terrible.  He has never seen a three he didn’t like.  My above quote was screamed at the TV, at Ryan, for at least 8 of his eleven three point attempts.

– Vince Carter became that jump shooting player that I cursed at many years ago.  He seemed unwilling to drive, or even explore.  Was it the ankle?  I hope it was the injury and not a pattern.

– Why is Brandon Bass playing so little?  I think I know the answer.  Though Bass plays good individual defense, especially in the post, he isn’t showing well on the pick-and-roll (furthermore the PNR).  Dwight is guilty of this sometimes too, but Bass shows a bit and ends up picking his own player.  He has to move his feet (I must have yelled that a dozen times too).  Also, Bass is jacking it as much as Anderson only from midrange.  I don’t know the sites where one can find these stats, but the feel I get watching the games is that Bass is taking a lot of shots for the amount of time he is on the court.  Maybe I’m seeing something that isn’t there, but I feel like he plays some one-on-one and that upsets the offense.  That being said, I would rather see Bass playing a lot of minutes and not Anderson because if you get Bass to play defense within the team concept then you have a much better player in other categories than Anderson and more defensive potential.

– JJ Redick played better defensively than most people will give him credit.  He was called for a couple shitty fouls, but stayed with Ben Gordon most of the time.  JJ can defend someone who plays off a lot of screens (see Ray Allen in the ’09 playoffs).  Where he has a lot of trouble is a ball dominant slasher.  Ben Gordon can do both but he is short.  I know Gordon shot 60% and scored 23, but JJ denied the ball a lot and kept Gordon from scoring 30+.  The Pistons were attempting to go through Gordon for most of the game.

– Matt Barnes is a good defensive player (mostly) and fills up the stat sheet with the “little things”.  Right now I feel like his jump shots are coming out of rhythm.  It seems to me that 90% of his shots look like Ryan Anderson’s did last night.  Something I often say in games, and Kelly can attest to this, is “Bad shot, I don’t care if it went in it was a bad shot”.  Barnes makes me say this a lot (and I would have said it more last night if the Magic had made more shots).

In conclusion, the Magic have to move the ball and trust each other.  I know that SVG doesn’t want them passing up open shots.  Some of these guys need to learn what open means.  Hopefully Phoenix gets a highly motivated, angry, Magic team tonight.

Game 3 vs. the Raptors

The match up that wasn’t.  Turkoglu played, and played relatively well scoring 19, but the real story was another Chris Bosh regular season explosion.  It seems like he always goes off on the Magic.  Dwight spends a lot of time guarding him and he takes advantage of his shooting against him.  The Magic typically take advantage of Bosh’s inability to guard Dwight by pounding the ball into the post.  It happened this game too, with the Raptors fouling or doubling nearly every time he touched the ball.

Jameer scored 30 and JJ became the JJ Redick that I hated from Duke (which was a good thing).  JJ looked confident shooting the ball and continued to move the ball well within the offense (5 assists).

The starters played a lot of minutes because of the absence of Carter (ankle), Pietrus (illness), and Lewis (suspension).  Why didn’t Brandon Bass play more minutes?  My favorite play of the game was Bass blocking a Bosh turnaround jumper.  Beautiful!

Also, we saw the Dwight/Gortat line up.  I hated it.  Not enough space and Gortat was in a funk out there.  I guess that SVG wanted a tall line up to face the Raptors but it didn’t work.  Lets hope that line dies until we face someone like the Lakers.  It might work then.

I am hoping that Vince comes back for the Detroit game on Tuesday, but they aren’t (and shouldn’t) rushing him back.  The Pistons are guard heavy now and I don’t know how well JJ can stay with the Hamilton/Gordon SG duo.  I have no fear though because the Pistons don’t have the front line that can hang with the Magic’s.

Game 2 vs. the Nets

The game where Vince Carter twists his ankle stopped me dead in my blogging tracks. I didn’t want to write about his excellent game being derailed by a minor injury. I didn’t want to write about the ineffective play of the Magic guards and wings. I didn’t want to write about Ryan Anderson’s single rebound.

The Magic did play terrific defense, locking down the NJ studs (Harris, Lopez, Douglas Roberts, Lee) and riding the rebounding of Dwight Howard to a decisive victory.

Curious in this game was the fact that Jason Williams got more minutes than Jameer. Second straight game of that, but I think it has more to do with early foul trouble and less to do with Jameer playing poorly.

I would like to see this kind of defensive effort all the time. Will we?

Game 1 vs. the 76ers

Finally the real games start.

Thoughts:

– Dwight Howard looks smoother in some of his moves.  In particular he had a lefty hook over Dalembert early in the game that had nice extension.  It looked more controlled than his hook shots last year.  He did have a couple plays where it looked like he would dunk the ball and instead he didn’t elevate that high.  Was that a conscious decision or is he losing some of his lift?  I doubt it’s an actual loss of jumping ability but maybe his knee is bothering him.

– Vince Carter fit in perfectly.  He ran a couple beautiful high pick-and-rolls in the game, one of which turned into a Pietrus three.  Welcome to Orlando, Vince.  We’re glad to have you.

– Ryan Anderson shot the ball well and had a couple drives late in the game.  I noticed a couple negatives.  When Ryan drives he has difficulty getting his shot off.  He was blocked in this game and it’ll happen to him a lot this season.  He has to start drawing fouls if he is going to drive more.  I was angry that Anderson gave up an offensive rebound to Elton Brand on the game’s first play.  Was that nerves?

– Jason Williams looked to be a great addition as a backup PG.  What is with the turnovers?  He made two bad passes and fouled Lou Williams as soon as he entered the game.  Eventually he settled down, but it was very Sacramento-Jason-Williams for a second.  Also, I know I will learn to not hate the quick three from Jason, since he has been shooting that his entire career, but it will be difficult.  Between Jason Williams, Pietrus and now Matt Barnes, there will be way too many quick threes.

– I loved Jameer’s game.  With the exception of 2 turnovers, I thought he was the perfect PG for this team.  He picks his spots to score.  He finds lanes with ease and controls the tempo.  He shot 50% but only took 6 shots, so the sample size is too small, but he is going to kill teams on the pick-and-roll this year.  If teams like Cleveland go under the pick on him, he is going to punish them.  I love it.

– JJ Redick hit a couple threes and made a nice teardrop.  Marcin had a thunderous dunk off a beautiful Jason Williams’ pass.  Pietrus started off shooting the ball well, but came back to earth by the end of the game.  He also loves to step out of bounds off the pump fake.

– Maurice Speights is a gunner of the highest order.  He shot the ball really well and made one gorgeous drive for a dunk over Marcin.  I would have been more impressed with Speights if I didn’t think it was a flaw in the Magic’s offense that kept him out there.  See, Speights was guarding Dwight for long stretches.  That shouldn’t work and the Magic should take full advantage of that when it happens.

That is my only criticism of the Magic offense, they can’t get the ball to a player to maximize a mis-match.  If Dwight is being guarded by a weak defender like Speights, then the ball should wind up in his hands on every play until that player has accumulated enough fouls to get him on the bench.  Perhaps SVG is calling those plays, but it isn’t happening.  Especially on a night like last night where the player guarding Dwight is on fire (9-10 shooting), that player should be taken under the basket and given a heavy dose of Dwight post game.  What was Speights going to do in that case?  He tried to flop, to no avail, so he would have had to eight foul Dwight or the 76ers would have gone with a double team, which helps the offense.

I tend to blame the players more than the coach in this case, because you have to recognize that mis-match and exploit it.

– The Magic defense was poor.  Sure they played well in the late 2nd, and the 3rd quarters, but for most of the game they didn’t bring a level of intensity that is going to frighten the other top teams in the league.    I think this will pick up because SVG never stops talking about it, but it was the only disappointment of the evening.

A note before the season begins

Defending my squad:

The Magic hater-ism hasn’t subsided much from last season.  I guess getting to the Finals doesn’t shut haters up.  Sure the Magic got rid of Turkoglu, Alston, Battie and Courtney Lee, but why don’t people see the additions of Vince Carter, Brandon Bass, Ryan Anderson and Matt Barnes as an upgrade?

The Vince Carter vs. Hedo Turkoglu thing isn’t going away unless the Magic beat the Celtics, Cavs, Lakers, Trailblazers, and Nuggets.  Even then, if the Magic do win all of those games, there will still be a healthy dose of hating going on.  Like this:

Ballard: Magic. This pick is only relative to expectations, which are probably unreasonably high after the team’s Finals run last season. Hedo Turkoglu was a better piece for the team than Vince Carter, and Brandon Bass doesn’t really fit into their offense. Sure, they’ll still win a ton of regular-season games, but for a team with the goal of a championship, I’d be surprised if they made it to the conference finals.

This Chris Ballard guy, from SI.com, is my new mortal enemy by the way.  What I love about his quote is that he concedes a good regular season record but still manages to crap all over the team.  This is right in line with last seasons’ sports writer party-line being that the Magic were a gimmick team that rely on the 3 point shot too much and don’t play defense (I’m looking at you Tim Legler).  This was proof that these guys didn’t watch the games.  The Magic play good team defense in spite of the fact that they were starting a slow SF with no hops (Turkoglu), and an undersized PF (Lewis) and shooting a lot of 3s isn’t bad when you get it off of the inside-out game or drive a kicks.  Idiots.

The good news is that I will have something to write/complain about in this blog as Vince Carter shows why he was an 8 time all-star and has better numbers than Turkoglu.  It will be fun to call these clowns out on a game-by-game, series-by-series basis.

I would also like to recognize that Marc Stein, Chad Ford and John Hollinger have picked the Magic to get to the Finals but only Chad Ford picked them to win it all.

Other notes:

– Cleveland played a line up with Shaq and Ilgauskas in the game at the same time.  Why did Mike Brown think this was a good idea?  What was the +/- on that line up?  The crazy thing is that they closed the gap a little.  I think that had more to do with Doc Rivers keeping Perkins in the game when he was missing the wide-open-jumpshot they were giving them and less to do with the effectiveness of that line up.  Can’t wait for the Cavs to play that line up against the Magic.

– Ryan Anderson starts tonight at the PF.  It makes sense even thought I don’t think he finishes the game.  This seems similar to when SVG started JJ Redick instead of Pietrus when Courtney was hurt in the playoffs.  I believe that SVG wants Bass to play a big role with the second unit and wants to keep him in that role as much as possible.  If this is the case then it would look like Anderson would spend a lot of time on the bench when Rashard comes back.  We shall see.  I’m rooting for Ryan to play so well it makes that a difficult decision.

– I’m interested to see how the non-Andre Miller 76ers look.  I always liked his game even though he has no jumpshot.

Preseason Game 8 vs. Hawks

Thoughts on the season’s last meaningless game.

– The defense tonight was great.  I will be interested to hear SVG’s post-game comments on the subject, but I thought the effort was good for the majority of the game.  Vince Carter looked better on defense.  While Dwight didn’t block a lot of shots, he was typical Dwight – making life difficult for the opposing team.  The defensive effort, more than anything else, makes me excited for this season.

– Vince Carter fit perfectly in the offense, making some beautiful passes and, more important, hitting all five of his 3’s.  I know there are a lot of Vince-haters out there and while I was never a hater, I did fall off the bandwagon with everyone else.  He never lived up to the heir-apparent label and never showed the type of offensive game that elevated Kobe Bryant to his current level.  Looking at Vince in college should have been the first hint, because he seems like the perfect #2 guy on a good team.  It’s being in the #1 role (on bad teams) that hasn’t worked out for him.  Congratulations Vince.  You’re not number one here.  Shut the haters up.

– Ryan Anderson does go away.  The dude scored the first 11 points for the Magic on some wide open 3’s.  He did make a layup too and showed some post game later in the contest.  Good to see.  He is a perfect facsimile of the Rashard Lewis role.  He is great off the pick-and-pop and shows a willingness to drive to the basket.  The only problem offensively that I can see is how he gets his shot blocked.  He needs to go up with contact on his mind because he can’t jump over people.  Draw a foul in those cases.  Other than that he seemed to improve defensively, but he has a long way to go there and on the boards.

– Dwight Howard shoots 7-10 from the free throw line!  Ding-dong the witch is dead!  Or not.  He took one hook shot that looked better than all his hooks last season.  He extended and controlled the ball coming out.  His new thing is a weird finger-roll/scoop-shot off of a spin move.  I think he gets open and rushes the shot but it’s going in, so fine.  In the Denver game I saw Nene make a turn around jumper from the baseline.  Now, I’m not saying that this should be Dwight’s move, but when Shaq was at his peak he had that shot.  Why can’t Dwight shoot that?  Is it Ewing’s fault?

– Jameer looked great passing the ball tonight.  He played good defense on Bibby.  If Jameer stays healthy this team will scare the crap out of people.  He seems to miss time every year but one can always dream of a healthy Jameer running the offense thru June.  Cutting down his turnovers has to be a key for him.  I didn’t see the infamous jump-pass-in-the-lane tonight from Jameer.  Good sign.

– It was exciting to see the Magic dominate with their 2nd team and no Rashard Lewis.  Kelly said “Imagine how big the blow-out would have been if Rashard was playing”, (Rashard is her favorite) and I think she is on to something.  I’m anxious to see him play a little SF, but I’ll have to wait 10 games to see it.  I remember him killing us when he was with Seattle, in the post especially.

– I love Brandon Bass and Mikael Pietrus still drives me crazy.  MP took one terrible shot, which I count as a turnover, but otherwise played his role well.  I’ve been saying that Bass will start but maybe SVG likes the energy and offense he brings to the second unit so much that he starts Anderson.  Either way I think Bass finishes games early in the season.  I would put a small wager on Bass starting at the PF because of the defense but I listened to SVG talk about Bass’ ability to be a go-to guy in the second unit.  That kind of talk makes me think there is a plan in place.

– This was also my first look at fellow West Virginian, Jason Williams and I liked what I saw.  If the second unit is more of a defensive team, then Williams will help out immensely with running that unit’s offense.  3 turnovers was too much but it’s a problem with this team and has been for many, many, years.

Thank you Orlando for a perfect preseason.  I will see you when the real games start.

Go Magic.

Unwatched – Preseason Game 7 vs. Pacers

It wasn’t for lack of trying, but I didn’t get to see the Magic vs. Pacers game last night. I thought I found a place to stream it, but alas it was not to be. I did watch the highlights thought. Poor substitute.

The good news is that the Magic are undefeated in completely meaningless games. By all indications the defensive effort picked up. The Magic were hitting on all cylinders with the Rashard-less line up.

I was thinking about going over stats but many times I feel they don’t tell the entire story. I often argue with “experts” via email or chat over the fact that they aren’t watching the games but relying on stats to formulate opinions. I think a true gauge includes stats and observation of the actual game.

A couple years ago when the Magic had Jameer, Carlos Arroyo and Keyon Dooling playing the PG the fans and “experts” would call for Jameer to lose his starting spot to Arroyo. Part of this was a huge fan base that Carlos has in Orlando, but another large part was the similarity in stats. The stats seemed so similar that the players could be interchangeable, but watching the games and seeing how Arroyo’s lack of a jump shot affected spacing and his poor play on defense, added up to the obvious conclusion that Jameer should start and finish games as the PG. If you only looked at the stats then you would have thought differently. So, I will ignore the stats from a meaningless game that I didn’t watch.

I lied, Dwight Howard 6-16 from the Free Throw line. WHAT?! What happened to 70%?

~sigh

Next preseason game is on ESPN.  See you after the game.