Last Monday, the Orlando Magic were held to 56 points, a franchise-low, in a loss to Boston. The Magic bounced back nicely the following night with a 102-83 win over a good Indiana team. Two nights later, Orlando looked as if it would cruise to a victory over Boston and move into a tie for first place in the Southeast Division and a second place tie in the Eastern Conference. Instead, Orlando blew what was a 27-point second quarter lead and a 58-37 halftime lead in a 91-83 loss. The Magic have yet to recover from the loss going 0-3 in the three games since. But what has been startling about Orlando’s recent play is their inability to put the ball in the basket.
Orlando used to be a team that could seemingly overcome any deficit. Just last season, the Magic rallied from a 24-deficit on the road to beat the eventual Eastern Conference Champion, Miami Heat. With superstar center Dwight Howard and all the shooters surrounding him, Orlando could play inside-out or outside-in. Scoring has rarely been a problem for Stan Van Gundy’s Magic teams. Orlando’s recent skid however, has watched the Magic vanish offensively in the third and fourth quarters of games.
Orlando has lost four straight and five of six games; in those five losses, the Magic are averaging 29.6 points in the entire seconds half. Four times during those five games, Orlando was held to 10 points or fewer in a quarter. Orlando has been without starting point guard Jameer Nelson for most of the last three contests, but there is no excuse for a NBA team to average below 30 points for an entire half over any five game stretch regardless of who is or isn’t in the lineup. In three of Orlando’s last five losses, the Magic have been held below 70 points.
The Magic used to be a team that was regarded as a young team that could get out and run, shoot the three and could score in bunches. Over the past six games, Orlando has looked like an old team with a disgruntled superstar and tired legs. The Glen Davis for Brandon Bass trade has not worked out; sure, Ryan Anderson has emerged due to increased playing time, but Bass has excelled for Boston coming off the bench, scoring nearly 15 points-per-game and better than six rebounds. Davis is averaging just 7.3 points and 5.2 rebounds-per-game while Von Wafer, who also came over from Boston in the Bass deal, has shown an ability to give Orlando some instant offense and athleticism, but Wafer is getting just shy of 13 minutes-per-game and has not seen any playing time in a third of Orlando’s games. Jason Richardson, a former winner of the Slam Dunk Contest, has been relegated to a jump-shooter with old knees. Richardson’s scoring average is down to nearly 10 points-per-game this season, more than a 9-point-drop from when Orlando acquired him from Phoenix last season. Hedo Turkoglu, who looked to be returning to form through 15 games this season, has shot just 8-for-38 with an average of 6 points-per-game in Orlando’s last five losses.
While Ryan Anderson and reserve guard J.J. Redick are having career-years, neither provide Orlando with the athleticism that it sorely lacks. With the exception of of an inconsistent Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, Orlando’s smallest player, seems to be the only guy that can get into the lane and create for others. It doesn’t help that Orlando has been without Nelson for the last two games and for most of the previous game. With Dwight Howard’s chances of finishing the season in Orlando becoming more questionable with each dismal offensive performance, it is time for the Magic to put up or shut up. And by put up, I mean some points.