Orlando Magic wing Evan Fournier has had roller coaster past few days. Friday he had to worry about the livelihood of family and friends after terrorist attacks occurred in Paris, France. He played well in a win that same evening over Utah as well as a defeat on Saturday in D.C. Fournier over the past few days has been under-the-weather as he had to deal with a fever. His status for Wednesday’s meeting at Amway Center against the Minnesota Timberwolves was up in the air.
Not only did Fournier start, he put forth an outstanding 26-point effort that included clutch shot after clutch shot. He was 5-of-7 on three-pointers, draining his last one with just seconds to spare in overtime to hand his Magic squad a 104-101 victory. The fans waiting in the tunnel near the locker room doors bathed Evan in ‘M-V-P’ chants. Orlando’s best player this 2015-2016 season continues to astound.
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) November 19, 2015
The game had its controversies. Not just from officials, but from decisions that Scott Skiles can now be congratulated for. At least for one night. The Magic were down 14 points at halftime. So Skiles chose to sit Nikola Vucevic out the entire second half while also benching Victor Oladipo for much of that period as well. In their places came two unlikely heroes: Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith.
The 15-0 run from the Magic that came past the halfway mark in the third didn’t seem likely to occur. Not with Jason Smith and Andrew Nicholson leading the charge anyway. Orlando was floundering. Desperate for offense and energy. But the charge came to put Orlando ahead 65-64 at that juncture just when the Magic appeared dead in the water.
This is how crazy this contest was. Andrew Nicholson entered the evening having played 7 minutes and 5 seconds in just 2 games. In this contest alone, ‘Drew played 21 minutes and 33 seconds. Consecutively, all in the second half. This game was so crazy that Fournier, Nicholson, and Smith take attention away from Elfrid Payton who won his matchup against Ricky Rubio while posting a career-high 24 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Twelve of those Payton points came in the fourth. 1-of-5 shooting from Smith and 3-of-12 shooting from Nicholson don’t seem like much, but their +16 and +17 plus-minuses indicated they answered the call.
The Magic figured out a way to get the job done despite only shooting 37.3 FG% and losing the rebound battled 46-34. Minnesota prevailed 13-4 in blocked shots. Skiles’ bunch shot poorly in the paint again, 28-of-67. Orlando survived a beastly 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 blocks from Karl-Anthony Towns while Andrew Wiggins added 28 points. The Magic can thank Evan for carrying the 3-point shooting as the squad shot 9-of-21 from deep. This is a gutsy win that signifies that the Magic were able to come back and take a game that wasn’t going their way.
Below is the game recap.
If you’re not impressed by the 5-6 win-loss record obtained by your Orlando Magic so far this 2015-2016 campaign, let’s not forget the prior three seasons. If you currently look at the East standings, Orlando wouldn’t have a playoff spot today. But Scott Skiles in a short period of time has this team on track for a 41-41 record. At least, based on my predictions.
I know, long way to go. And all of my praise will quickly die down if the Magic slip and disappoint against the Timberwolves and Kings this week. Even under Jacque Vaughn last season, the Magic did well against the tough competition. However, they fell apart in December because they couldn’t take advantage of easier competition at home. Orlando has only had two ‘definitely should win’ games this month: at Philly and hosting the Lakers. 2-for-2. The Magic need to keep taking advantage of their Amway Center parquet floor against teams at or below their level of quality. You can be a bad road team, but still make the postseason if you protect home court.
For as unhappy as Magic fans and basketball minds been with the squad’s inconsistent play at times, it’s great that we’re even having debates and displaying moments of frustration with lapses in play. They’re not playing bad but they’re certainly not hitting on all cylinders, so being around .500 is pretty solid I’d say. Especially considering how tough their schedule was out of the gate.
Anyway, the whole point of this piece is take a peek at something Coach Skiles had mentioned in the preseason. Skiles stated that ideally his squad every game give up less than 91 points, less than 43.0 FG%, and less than 35.0 FG% to their opponents on any given night. You do that and you’ll be in contests even if offensively the Magic are not looking so hot. How have the Magic done so far in that regards?
Red is bad. Green is good. Let’s start with that not ideal portion of my charting: The left side.
The 139 (double OT loss to Thunder) and 119 points (OT loss in Houston) can sort of be ignored, but let’s include them. In those 11 games, Orlando is giving up 101.2 points per game. That’s over ten points more than what Skiles would prefer. Still, that not awful. Entering Tuesday, that ranks 16th-best in the NBA. In Orlando’s 25-57 campaign last season, the Magic coughed up 101.4 ppg to their opponents which ranked 23rd in the Association. Obviously the Magic can’t get away with continuing to allow teams to consistently crack the century mark if they want to make the postseason.
Opposing field goal percentage is better for the pinstriped patrol. Orlando’s given up under 43.0 FG% five times, 3 of those contests resulting in quality wins (at New Orleans, home v. Toronto, home v. Utah). Entering Tuesday, Orlando was tied with Toronto for 6th-best in the NBA in opposing FG% at 42.3%. That’s fantastic. Last season Orlando coughed up the 3rd-worst field percentage at 46.3 FG%.
Dewayne Dedmon, Nikola Vucevic, and even Jason Smith have done their part in protecting the rim. However, the biggest improvement has simply come from the Magic not switching EVERY. SINGLE. PLAY. Defensively. Skiles has been able to utilize his defensive studs well, but the team as a whole actually like a cohesive defensive monster when they want to be. I like to refer to their group motions as ‘funneling’, and they’re driving guards insane with some of the organized swarming defense on display. The great news is that it’ll be fantastic when the team figures out how to do this for the majority of contests instead of just chunks.
Finally, we’ll eye opposing 3-point percentage. Skiles wants that below 35.0 3PT%. This is by far where Orlando has made the most progress. Last season the Magic were coughing up 36.8 3PT% per contest. 2nd-worst in the league. That unnecessary switching and head-cut-off-chicken defense was allowing their foes to have to be given oodles of time to convert open looks. This campaign, Orlando didn’t give up more than 33.3 FG% until the eighth contest of the season in the loss at Indiana.
Entering Tuesday, the Magic ranked 6th-best in opposing 3PT% at 31.9 3PT%. The reigning champion Golden State Warriors – who were undefeated entering their matchup against Toronto – are best at 27.4 3PT%. The Magic may be seeing adversaries average more 3-point makes so far through their eleven games – 9.0 per contest in comparison to 8.3 last season – but the near 5% improvement in opposing 3PT% is making an immense difference.
Based on those last 2 measures – opposing FG% and opposing 3PT% – the Magic have a top-10 defense. They rank 4th in rebounds, 10th in steals, and 4th in blocks as well. If they keep this up, Orlando certainly has a fighting chance to earn something better than just the 8th seed. Skiles is proving to be almost a miracle worker, saying all of the right things and punishing players that don’t do their part, and we’ve played less than fifteen percent of the schedule up to this point.
The Orlando Magic will be kicking themselves on the flight back home. Twice in three weeks now the Magic have lost to the Washington Wizards as the visiting squad from Central Florida fell 108-99 on Saturday. The final score doesn’t indicate that Orlando had the lead with five minutes remaining in the contest. A 13-3 run by Washington down the stretch saw the Magic’s defense and offense stalling. Orlando honestly should have won both contests against their Southeast division foes so far this season.
The difference was in 3-point shooting. Magic were 4-for-18 from deep while the Wizards shot 12-for-29. Kris Humphries alone drained 5-of-8 triples on his way to 23 points. I guess he’s going to be a true ‘stretch four’ after all. They also got a career-high tying 18 points from Garrett Temple who filled in nicely fro Bradley Beal. Magic were led by Nikola Vucevic who had 19 points and 13 rebounds. Evan Fournier added 18 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds. Elfrid Payton keeps draining shots, tallying 17 points. Aaron Gordon contributed 12 points and 7 rebounds from the bench.
Below is the game recap.
The Orlando Magic are a .500 ball club at the moment. Enjoy the progress. Other than a bad 5-minute stretch, it was nice to see the squad lead all 48 minutes. Not only fans, but the players are getting cautiously optimistic for what lies ahead. But too often we are reminded now of how unimportant sports can be at times in the grand scheme of life.
For anyone viewing this posting seeking remarks from Evan Fournier on the terrorist attacks in Paris, France, Evan kindly declined – for now – to make a response. Can’t blame the guy for waiting to be certain that all of his loved ones are safe. Nikola Vucevic I think said all that was needed to be said on the matter.
The Orlando Magic led for every moment against the Utah Jazz on Friday night, defeating their guests 102-93 on Friday night. Orlando’s lead was as large as 22 points, but shaky play by Orlando late in the fourth period made for a bit of a nervous finish. The Magic now own a 5-5 record though, as it’s the deepest into a season that the franchise has been at .500 since Stan Van Gundy was running the show in the ’11-’12 campaign. Jazz fall to a 4-5 record.
Orlando held Utah to 39.1 FG% and had a large free throw advantage of 28-for-31 v. Utah’s 17-of-23. Evan Fournier led all scorers with 21 points. Tobias Harris pitched in 19 points and 13 rebounds. Nikola Vucevic and and Elfrid Payton each tallied 16 points. Aaron Gordon added 10 points off the bench. Despite bad Magic offense in the second quarter, and falling asleep late in the fourth, Orlando looked dominant overall.
Below is the game recap.
Understand, these are the types of games the Orlando Magic were losing over the past three years. Bad rhythm, very inconsistent defense, grind-it-out contests against opponents you would hope the Magic could handle easily at home. Those games would frustratingly materialize into defeats. Not this time. Not on Wednesday.
Nikola Vucevic came off the bench for the first time in his 4-year Magic career. And the man got his first ever game-winning shot ever out of it. The Montenegrin certainly deserved all of the praise for bailing his squad out of a horrible contest. Scott Skiles has every right to be angry about how terrible his roster looked on both ends, and the players will suffer in practice because of it. Still, it’s nice to have the Magic come out on the positive end of one of these games.
Nikola Vucevic hit a fadeaway jumper over Roy Hibbert as time expired to give the Orlando Magic a 101-99 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. A good amount of Laker fans came out to Amway Center Wednesday night to see what could be Kobe Bryant‘s last trip to Orlando, but instead they were treated to a entertaining, but sloppy game.
Vucevic, who missed the team’s last three games, not only gave the Magic the win on his last shot, but also gave the Magic an offensive spark in a really sloppy first quarter by the Magic. Vucevic came off the bench on Wednesday and knocked down all three of his shots to give the Magic a lead after one.
Orlando missed 12 of their first 17 shots to start the game and lost Victor Oladipo as he was evaluated for concussion-like symptoms after taking a shot to the head.
In the second quarter, the poor shooting continued for the Magic as Orlando shot a woeful 28 percent from the floor in the quarter. The Magic, however, took a 48-45 into the break thanks to 7 first half three-pointers, but it could’ve easily been 10 threes for the Magic. Orlando’s offense struggled with spacing in the half, but were still able to get enough open looks from downtown to give themselves the lead.
Nikola Vucevic on his game-winner: “I mean, Roy Hibbert is really tall. So I was just trying to get as much space as I can, shoot as high as I can. I did work on that shot, but that one was a bit more luck maybe than skill. But it was a great shot. It was my first buzzer-beater, so I’m going to enjoy this one.”
Channing Frye hit both of his three-point attempts and four of his five shots to lead the Magic with 10 first-half points. The Lakers, on the other hand, didn’t shoot the ball poorly in the first half (46%), but only made 3 of their 12 three-point attempts and failed to shoot a single free-throw in the first half. Metta World Peace led the Lakers with 9 first-half points.
With Oladipo out, Aaron Gordon got the start in the second half of the game and the Magic had a good finish to the third quarter after another slow start to a quarter. Roy Hibbert and DeAngelo Russell combined for 13 of the Lakers’ 25 points in the third quarter. However, it was the Magic that ended the third quarter on a high note as the team rallied off the final 7 points of the quarter after Frye beat the buzzer with a long two. After not shooting a single free-throw in the first half, the Lakers went 6-for-8 from the line.
The fourth quarter was by far the most entertaining quarter in this game and not just because of the game-winner by Vucevic. Both the Lakers and Magic traded jabs in the final quarter. There were 8 ties in the final quarter before Vucevic ultimately gave the Magic the win.
While Vucevic was the hero at the end, the Magic wouldn’t have been in that situation without a career game from Shabazz Napier. The second-year guard out of UCONN went off for a career-high 22 points off the bench and drained big shot after big shot for the Magic down the stretch.
The Magic were sloppy all night on the offensive end, but they were able to knock down 13 three-pointers on Wednesday to help them win this game. The Magic bench was also a huge key in this game as they outscored the Lakers bench 65-45. Tobias Harris also chipped in with a double-double for the Magic.
Orlando is now 4-5 on the season and will host the Utah Jazz Friday night at the Amway Center with a 7 o’clock tip-off.
The Erie BayHawks – NBDL affiliate of your Orlando Magic – finalized their roster in preparation for the season opener this Saturday. Some familiar names that will play for coach Bill Peterson include: Melvin Ejim, the #51 overall pick from June’s NBA Draft in Tyler Harvey, Keith Appling, Jordan Sibert, and Nnanna Egwu.
|Keith Appling||G||6’0”||190||Michigan State||Returning|
|Alex Davis||F||6’9”||210||Fresno St.||Tryout|
|Melvin Ejim||G||6’6”||220||Iowa St.||Affiliate|
|Tyler Harvey||G||6’4”||185||Eastern Washington||NBA Draft Rights|
|Troy Huff||G||6’5”||174||North Dakota||Draft|
Aaron Bowen and Samuel Deguara are the two deactivated players. The active roster is reduced to the D-League maximum of 10 players as the BayHawks travel to play the Westchester Knicks.
The Orlando Magic can only blame themselves for having an awful fourth quarter showing on Monday night. They fell in Indiana 97-84 as the Pacers finished the contest on a 19-3 run. Can’t go into a tight fourth period and only score 13 points in that quarter. Despite shooting 10-of-33 from 3-point range, the Magic’s shooting percentage fell to 39.7 FG% for the contest. Coughing up 44.2 FG% to Indy as well as 22 turnovers did them in.
The Pacers got 27 points of Paul George and 23 from George Hill as those two fueled that Indy offense throughout the evening. Evan Fournier led the Magic with another efficient 21 points. Channing Frye contributed 14 points off the bench, but made many mistakes on both ends that negated those points. Victor Oladipo tallied 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks, but was just 7-of-18 from the field. Tobias Harris shot an awful 3-for-13 but did grab ten boards. Elfrid Payton scored all 11 of his points in the first half to go with 7 assists.
If the Magic just didn’t implode on offense, they probably walk away with a victory and a .500 record. Nikola Vucevic‘s offensive arsenal was deeply missed down the stretch.
Below is the game recap.
There’s still a lot of maturing to do, but it’s nice to see the Orlando Magic win a game they were supposed to win as they went two-for-two in this back-to-back stretch. Scott Skiles‘ group defeated the now 0-6 Philadelphia 76ers 105-97 on Saturday.
Elfrid Payton had himself one absolutely necessary bounce back performance after going scoreless on Friday. Payton tallied a season-high 20 points to go with 5 assists and 3 steals. It’s only the fourth time in his career that Elfrid has dropped twenty or more. Dewayne Dedmon posted a career-high 12 points to go along with 9 rebounds and 3 blocks. Orlando shot 47.0 FG%. Defense could have been better as Philly shot 45.0 FG%, but they did hold the Sixers to 11-of-33 shooting from deep. Thankfully, the Sixers also missed 12 free throw attempts.
Mario Hezonja came off the bench and tied his career-high from Opening Night by dropping 11 points. The rookie did a lot of damage in the first half and proved confidence will never be an issue. Victor Oladipo finished with 15 points, but not a bad 6-of-18 shooting. Aaron Gordon and Jason Smith brought the bench toughness and hustle with ten points each.
Below is the game recap.