Friday, December 4, 2009

Magic Wands: December 4, 2009

-Some scientists have discovered the way to make the perfect free throw (courtesy of Ball Don't Lie).

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Message to My Readers

Well, my player option is coming up and I am seeing the greener pastures of free agency ahead of me. And I am sorry to say, that this small pond can no longer hold this big fish.

OK, enough with the Shaquille O'Neal references. I am not leaving the world of Orlando Magic blogs for some rich Los Angeles Laker blog, three championships leaving nearly a dozen years of disappointment and mediocrity in my wake.

I want to thank all the loyal followers of The Curse of the Big Aristotle for valiantly reading my blog as I attempt to fit in my thoughts and opinions of the Magic inside my schoolwork and class schedule. Since Blogspot does not provide any statistics for my Web site, I assume there are many of you.

But an opportunity has arisen to gain further exposure for my Magic writing and thoughts that I cannot pass up.

As many of you know Zach McCann and Woody Womack run a very good blog called Orlando Magic Daily, which is part of ESPN's TrueHoop Network. They have invited me to help them with their site and write for Orlando Magic Daily.

Very little will change in my writing or what I hope to convey with my Magic coverage. It will just be at a new Web site, one I am sure you all check often.

So mosey on over to Orlando Magic Daily.

Orlando Magic 114, New York Knicks 102

Mickael Pietrus rebounded the ball along the baseline and flung a shot over the defense as the buzzer sounded. It swished through the net, for Orlando's second buzzer-beating shot to end the quarter. If you add JJ Redick's miracle fling off the backboard for three early in the fourth quarter, and you have a pretty good description of the Magic's offense Sunday night in their only trip to Madison Square Garden.

Orlando used a couple of quick 3-pointers in the third quarter from Rashard Lewis and Pietrus to help turn a one-point defitict into a nine-point lead the team would not surrender. In fact, both teams shot an identical 42 of 83 from the field but the Magic hit three more 3-pointers (10 of 33 to be exact) for what turned into a 114-102 win.

After the third quarter, the teams pretty much exchanged shots in an up and down fourth quarter that saw Nate Robinson score 22 of his 24 points in the final period. Stan Van Gundy did not seem to mind.

Defense was an issue, but tired legs and a versatile and dangerous New York Knick lineup made things difficult. Orlando was slow rotating on the pick and roll early in the game but progressively got better. The team made enough stops to win.

Offensively, the Magic got what they wanted starting with Dwight Howard. For the third straight game, Orlando made a concerted effort to get the ball into the post to Howard and he rewarded the team's efforts to get him the ball. Superman posted 24 points on eight of nine shooting and grabbed 16 rebounds.

Howard struggled with New York's versatile big men -- David Lee had 20 points and 12 rebounds but cooled off after a big first half and Jared Jeffries did a good job keeping Howard away from the basket -- on defense. But they struggled with him on offense as Howard got into the lane and shed double teamers like he had done the previous two games.

Howard hit eight of his 15 free throws (not great, but good enough) and did what he needed to do to establish the offense around him.

It certainly helped as Rashard Lewis continued to look like he is almost completely back from his suspension. Lewis made his shots when he was open and continued to look to attack -- something he cannot do enough of. Lewis had 26 points and eight rebounds.

Vince Carter also did his part with 23 points (on nine of 20 shooting), getting a steal late in the fourth quarter that all but ended any chance of New York making a comeback.

In the end, the game was a simple matchup of offenses. Orlando, playing its fourth game in five days, can be somewhat excused for the poor defensive effort. Robinson yo-yoed his way through the lane and got open shots in the fourth quarter. But the Knicks looked equally flat-footed throughout the entire game and the Magic are too good not to take advantage of it.

New York just did not have the firepower to keep up in this track meet. Kudos to Orlando for muscling out a win on the road and extending its road winning streak and completing a tough stretch in the schedule.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What They're Saying: Magic vs. Knicks 11/29

-Tim Povtak did a similar story a while ago, but George Diaz of The Orlando Sentinel catches up with former Magic player David Vaughn and is happy to report he was volunteering at the Salvation Army soup kitchen this Thanksgiving.

-Dwight Howard has learned sharing is indeed caring. "Big Bird" had another 20-20 performance last night in Milwaukee displaying an array of offensive moves. He then shared his thoughts on Charles Barkley's criticism of his offensive game.

-Stan Van Gundy is hoping to see a change in the way the NBA schedules back to backs, according to Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel.

-Darko Milicic is unhappy and finds himself in Mike D'Antoni's doghouse as the Knicks try to feature Eddy Curry in their offense. He vents his frustration with Marc Berman of the New York Post.

-Matt Gagne of the New York Daily News says not to expect a change in point guards as Nate Robinson still comes off the bench behind (the now hobbled) Chris Duhon.

-Other teams and the media may not be overlooking the Magic as a team anymore, but in the talk of the game's greatest stars, Dwight Howard might be left behind as he continues to struggle offensively and at the line.

-It was a very quietly efficient night for the Magic last night in Milwaukee.

-Posting and Toasting wonders whether Darko Milicic is ready to head home.

Orlando Magic 100, Milwaukee Bucks 98

In one fell swoop, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis proved their worth and paid for their contracts... maybe not completely. Carter hit a go-ahead bucket with nearly a minute and a half remaining to complete an Orlando comeback and scored 25 points. It was Rashard Lewis though who followed with a driving layup after Carter missed with the game tied as the Magic won 100-98 in Milwaukee.

It was another uneven effort for the Magic and probably the third straight game where they played for only one half and nearly got away with it.

Orlando trailed by 18 points at one point at the raucos and college atmosphere that is (apparently) the Bradley Center. The Bucks were up 56-47 at the half. But much like Thursday's game at Atlanta, Orlando locked everything down in the second half to help earn the win.

It was not a 25-point half, but it was a solid half as the offense woke up from sleepwalking through the first 24 minutes to bring Orlando back by the beginning of the fourth quarter.

As with everything with this team, it all started with Dwight Howard.

Howard was very active offensively in the second half, finishing with 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting. He did a good job reading the double teams (that actually rarely came) and passing out and re-posting. This is becoming Howard's favorite tactic as he often has deeper post position and can just turn and fire on the re-post.

Outside of that, he looked very comfortable in the post and making strong moves to get in scoring position. Again, it did not seem like Milwaukee was willing to double him afraid of Orlando's shooting -- which for the first half did not come through.

Howard was more than active defensively with 20 rebounds and four blocks -- many more changed. It was not surprising to see Milwaukee struggling to get inside the paint and rely on its 3-point shooting.

Brandon Jennings did not disappoint with his speed and playmaking ability. Jennings finished with 18 points and four assists. He got to the basket and made superstar shots. He has a very bright future and showed plenty of flashes tonight. But he is not quite ready to take over games in the way a Vince Carter or Allen Iverson can. He certainly pestered the Magic like Iverson used to do.

The concerning part is still Orlando's general lack of energy early in the games. It was evident even well into the third quarter that the Magic believed they could show up and win. That is how an 18-point deficit is created.

Look at Ersan Ilyasova's stat line.

Ilyasova had 20 points and 16 rebounds and outworked Orlando for much of the night until Howard woke up and re-established dominance in the second half. Even then, Ilyasova was all over the glass. Ilyasova is a good young player. But not a near 20-20 guy against Howard and the Magic.

That is a big sign that Orlando might lose a game here or there to teams simply willing to outwork them. Tonight was apparently not one of them as the Magic woke up in time to erase the deficit and win the game.

Stan Van Gundy was desperate for energy in the game and he even went to Brandon Bass for the first time since the November 18 game against Oklahoma City. Bass had eight points and four rebounds in 8:41. He provided some nice energy and the muscle Orlando needed to re-establish its dominance down low and its superiority on offense and defense.

As I told my cousin who was reminding me that the score was dangerously close to the score of the Miami game (99-98), single games do not mean much. Strings of games do. And this is three in a row where Orlando did not put in a full effort.

The season is 82 games long and is a marathon. Orlando is running that marathon and doing fine. It is not very concerning at this point in the season to see the uneven effort. I am sure it drives Stan Van Gundy crazy, but it would be nice to see the Magic come in and blow some of these lesser teams out and get Howard and the starters some rest (especially with a back-to-back tonight and a West Coast trip upcoming).

The team is still learning how to dominate. For now, we are happy to just scratch out and gut out wins.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What They're Saying: Magic vs. Bucks 11/28

-Veteran point guard Anthony "Dad' Johnson has had to deal with a lot of disappointment after being benched during the Finals last year and being buried on the bench behind Jason Williams and Jameer Nelson. But Johnson continues to take these setbacks in stride, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel, and is taking advantage of his opportunities.

-Positive Stan Van Gundy said he likes his team's defensive effort and approach. The bad Stan Van Gundy cannot figure out why the Magic feel they can still flip the switch.

-The Bucks finished a struggling road trip with a loss on the national stage at Oklahoma City last night.

-Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily recaps the first month of the season and tries to figure out where the Magic land between "tinkered too much" and "sure-fire NBA Champions."

-After running some numbers, in pure wins and losses, Jameer Nelson's absence does not make a huge difference.

-The offensive struggles Bucks fans expected at the beginning of the season before Brandon Jennings' revelations reared their ugly head during last night's loss in Oklahoma City.

-Orlando's defense is starting to move up the rankings. Looks like Stan Van Positivity is helping.

-Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports talks about Milwaukee's winning pair.

Fran Vazquez Update

From time to time I like to update Fran Vazquez's progress in the extremely unlikely hope that he will someday don a Magic uniform.

That likelihood seems to be getting less and less likely as Orlando has gone in a completely different direction since drafting him and he is still playing and playing well for Regal Barcelona. If anything would happen, this upcoming summer is the one that anything would.

It is still early in the season for Regal and Vazquez continues to put up decent stats for his team. Vazquez is averaging 7.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 17.4 minutes per game in nine games for the Spanish ACB League.

He has had his share go decent games and his share of not so decent games. But it is tough to judge European stats. He seems like he is producing the same amount as he had in previous seasons. Don't know if he is being helped by the presence of former NBA player Juan Carlos Navarro (who never quite felt comfortable in America) and Timberwolves draft pick Ricky Rubio (5.6 points and 4.9 assists per game in 19.8 minutes per game).

This is not any different than what we have previously seen from Vazquez by looking at stats. Taking a look at some highlights, it kind of looks like he is a pure Marcin Gortat copy. He is long and lanky and knows how to finish off the pick and roll it appears. Certainly not a jump shooter so if he ever came over it would be to replace Gortat and fill in as Dwight Howard's backup.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Magic Wands: November 27, 2009

-There will be no league-wide retiring of Michael Jordan's number, per His Airness.

-Someone clearly lost a bet somewhere to a Dukie and was forced to write a bizarre description of last week's Magic-Celtics game.

-JJ Redick and Ryan Anderson's rap group has a name... and maybe a special guest singer.

-How did Dwight Howard get so strong? Chitlins.

-The manufacture of NBA jerseys could be moving overseas.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Orlando Magic 93, Atlanta Hawks 76

The struggles continued in the first half. The Hawks collected offensive rebounds and outworked the Magic, making it seem like Orlando was heading to its second straight loss (against division opponents, no less) and its first losing streak of the season.

Then, something clicked. In a complete reversal, the Magic came out the aggressors and completely locked down the Hawks. Orlando trailed by as much as 14 points, but erased hte deficit in the third quarter and pulled away in the fourth behind the strong play down low by Dwight Howard and the surprising play of Anthony Johnson.

Things seemed to be clicking and one good half was enough for the Magic to take home a 93-76 win.

You hate using the tale of two halves cliche lead, but it was clear that exact scenario happened in tonight's game. Atlanta scored 25 and 26 points in the first and second quarter, but the team was held to 25 points in the entire second half.

The difference? Energy. The Magic lacked it in the first half, and had it in the second.

Atlanta was beating Orlando to every loose ball and offensive rebound in the first half and attacked the glass. The Magic were content to shoot jumpers and hardly looked inside to Dwight Howard or drive to the basket.

That all changed. Stan Van Gundy challenged Howard to be the best player on the court and he clearly got the message. The Magic looked for Howard early in the third quarter and he established himself in the post early in the half to set the tone. Howard dominated the second half and finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds -- including six offensive rebounds -- total.

As always when the Magic are successful, everything starts with Howard being involved in the offense and converting. He was more energetic on the defensive end and deterred the hard-driving Hawks from getting to the rim. They were content with jumpers (afraid might be the better word) and Howard kept any drives from causing any harm with four blocks. It was certainly most active game I have seen him play this season.

That led to the surprise of the night when Anthony Johnson stepped up to help Orlando extend its lead in the fourth quarter. Johnson had 17 points, most of them in the fourth quarter, and looked to attack off the pick and roll with Howard. He played aggressively and looked to attack.

And that has really been the difference these last two games. When Orlando plays with energy and urgency the team is pretty tough to beat.

But the Magic have found it difficult to keep that intensity every night. That is understandable. They know the end goal is a long, long way away.

It is frustrating to watch a stagnant Magic team. The first half was unbearable, but in the second half the team's hands got active, the defense tightened up and the Hawks could literally do nothing. Yes, some jumpers did not fall that maybe could have but Orlando locked down and stymied a solid Atlanta team.

No cause for concern, but there is definitely a feeling they can turn on the switch and play well or get away with playing poorly and still win. This was an impressive performance and a good win. But there is still a lot of work to do.

What They're Saying: Magic vs. Hawks 11/26

-Rich DeVos was on a radio show in Detroit earlier today and said he has no interest in buying another pro franchise and that the small teams in the NBA really struggle.

-Repeating what I wrote this morning, Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel agrees the Magic gave one away last night against the Heat.

-Jason Williams had one crazy night last night. For all but 30 seconds, it was probably one of the best games of his career with 25 points, eight assists and one turnover in 39 minutes of action.

-Stan Van Gundy's positive attitude is getting some laugh among his fellow coaches.

-It's a Josh Smith Thanksgiving! Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

-The Hawks are 11-3 and a serious threat to the Magic's Southeast Division supremacy, but they are still struggling at the gate. Ken Suguira of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the team is struggling to fill Philips Arena despite the hot start and last year's second-round playoff appearance.

-Mike Bibby is uncertain for tonight's game after spraining his ankle Saturday against New Orleans. The Hawks will also be wearing their sparkling new red alternat uniforms too.

-Erivera7 of 3rd Quarter Collapse called last night's game an instant classic between in-state rivals. I cannot stand reading any more about this game since it is so clear we blew it.

-Rashard Lewis admits he is still playing catch up after his 10-game suspension.

-How did Dwight Howard get so strong? Chitlins.

Video of the Week

Updated: 11/8/2009

NBA Playoffs 2009 Tracker

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