Overview: The Magic shot 14-31 from beyond the arc in a 110-100 win against the Cavaliers. The team got out to a double-digit first-quarter lead, and was never really threatened again. Dwight Howard led the Magic with 23 points, while Antawn Jamison led the Cavs with 22.
I understand that the Magic are a great basketball team. I understand that losing by 11 on the road isn’t all that terrible. I realize that the Magic love to shoot threes and are pretty good at making them. I understand that nobody on this roster has much of a chance at guarding Dwight Howard straight up. I understand all of this. But the Cavs’ defense is freaking embarrassing right now.
Again, 93 of the Magic’s 110 points came from the paint, the free-throw line, or beyond the arc. That’s about eight mid-range jumpers, and five of those mid-range jumpers were taken from Brandon Bass’ favorite spots on the floor. This is getting ridiculous. The Cavaliers are playing like the “Os” in the other teams’ playbooks right now.
When the Magic wanted open threes, they got them. Sometimes they had to force a double-team on Howard and make a few passes around the perimeter. Sometimes they used dribble-penetration to get wide open looks from deep. Sometimes they swung the ball from side to side and the Cavs would just stare at the guy catching it instead of running him off the three-point line.
If it weren’t for Mickael Pietrus, who literally does not know or care about the difference between open and contested three-pointers, the Magic would have shot 13-25 from beyond the arc. 13-25. And it wasn’t hot shooting, it was wide-open looks. That’s not a size thing, it’s not a talent thing, and it isn’t even that much of an athleticism thing. This team cannot just watch other teams play offense. They have to run guys off threes, get in their faces, force them to make plays, and take a few shots they don’t want to take, and they are not doing that. On every level, this team has to change the way it plays defense. Everything else is a lesser concern.
- Antawn Jamison: 22 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, assist, and block. A few threes, some pick-and-pop jumpers, and some finishes inside. Malkovich Malkovich. In all seriousness, Jamison has really improved as a spot-up shooter this season while losing some of his effectiveness inside, and that could be important: teams are going to want a forward who shoots 40%+ from beyond the arc at deadline time. Perception matters.
- Not really liking Joey Graham as a starter — there were some times when the ball would swing to Graham out of a nice set and he just wouldn’t know what to do with it. He’s not a confident three-point shooter, and he’s not athletic enough to get to the cup after one or two dribbles. I like his toughness and ability to post smaller guys off the bench, but he is not a solution in the starting lineup. This team desperately needs a wing who can really shoot the ball and run the floor.
- Give Anthony Parker for being automatic on catch-and-shoot threes. Give him little credit for everything else. And again, a heady veteran who happens to be automatic on open threes could be something teams want at deadline time. They won’t give up first-rounders for him or anything, but he could be a nice throw-in piece.
- Hickson is in a very deep funk. He has no confidence in the parts of his game he’s added this summer, and the ball isn’t moving enough for him to be effective cutting and dunking. Scott should try and get him going early against Memphis.
- Nobody expected Andy to do much offensively against Howard. I was impressed by his defense — Howard got his, but I’m not sure if he got any points against Varejao on straight post-up situations.
- Mo was left on an island and asked to do it all for much of the game. He finished with 20 points and 8 assists, but never really got into a groove, and had his share of forced shots and passes.
- The Cavs scored 44 in the paint and 100 overall, but it seemed like the Magic weren’t trying very hard on defense because they knew they were getting any shot they wanted offensively. That Sessions finished 6-8 from the floor and had six assists confirms this for me — an engaged Dwight Howard would get about 20 blocks playing against Sessions.
Well, that’s all for now. Memphis tomorrow. First fix the defense, then worry about everything else.