Everyone associated with the Magic is pretty rocked by what occurred last night at American Airlines Arena. It was something completely unexpected after Orlando expressed so much confidence that it could not only hang with Miami but win. It is difficult to make too many conclusions based on a single game, but Friday night served as something resembling a wake-up call — even this early in the year.
It is safe to say, Orlando will circle Nov. 24 as a day of redemption when Miami makes its first trip to the Amway Center.
Until then, the team will have to stew on what was perhaps the worst second half performance in franchise history. Five assists in the entire game testify to how poor the offense was. But the box score reveals plenty more to be worried about the next time. As Stan Van Gundy said, it might be a good thing because now the Magic know there are major things to work and improve on rather than believing (possibly falsely) that small adjustment will be enough to get over the top.
One thing I am certain of is that Van Gundy will learn a lot from watching the video of this game and make the appropriate adjustment. Very few coaches are better than him at finding holes in a defense and shifting the defensive strategy to contain an offense. Not that that will be enough. It will still take effort and determination to beat a team with Miami’s talents. That kind of effort was present for a good portion of the first half, but gave way to frustration as the Heat pulled away in the third quarter.
So what went wrong last night? Lots. I will attempt to enumerate some of them by taking a deeper look at the box score here. But there were also some things that went right (or rather OK). Signs that Orlando is not completely hopeless against this Miami team. Orlando definitely has a long way to go to erase what happened Friday night.
What Went Wrong? The Offense… or Lack Thereof
The offense was clearly a huge issue as Miami’s defense hounded Orlando all night long. The Magic struggled to pass the ball and it was not just the franchise-low five assists. Orlando was fumbling the ball and had numerous turnovers where the ball just sailed out of bounds. It was very uncharacteristic of a Magic team in the Stan Van Gundy era.
It is hard to say whether it was shell shock or simply being unable to handle the Heat’s length and athleticism. LeBron James was the designated roamer to double on Dwight Howard, but he was able to recover in time to contest or hurry jumpers that are normally open and comfortable. If anything the intensity, speed and commitment the Heat gave surprised everyone and threw Orlando off its game.
According to HoopData, Orlando had a 76.9 offensive rating and a 17.6 turnover percentage. Not fantastic numbers. Miami’s defense hounded Orlando all night.
And that was not even the half of it.
According to HoopData, the Magic took only seven shots at the rim (making four) and were just three for seven on shots inside of 10 feet. The Heat got to the rim for 10 shots (making only three) and hit 6 of 10 shots from inside. What is important is how many more opportunities Miami got from close range and what that did to the team’s mid-range opportunities.
Orlando was 10 for 31 (32.3 percent) on mid-range shots (10-23 feet). Miami was 15 for 43 (34.9 percent). That is a slight difference based on percentages, but it is also the most inefficient shot. What should be taken from these numbers are the amount of assists that led to these shots and 3-pointers.
Miami had 13 assists on 21 shots beyond 16 feet. Orlando had three on its eight (on 38 attempts). The low assist numbers are certainly the major cause for concern. Orlando has to move the ball much better for it to find any success against this team.
That is what the Heat did Friday night. Miami had a 16.3 percent assist rate. That is a solid number and something Miami will surely be going for and getting near the rest of the season.
What Went Wrong? Miami’s Bench and Role Players Produced:
Miami is going to do what it did to Orlando to a lot of teams this season. The Heat will try to overwhelm most teams with an unrelenting wave of fast breaks and plays from Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and then wear them down with the chance that they can make any shot, even well-defended ones.
Orlando last night attempted to make the other players on Miami win the game. And they did. That opened things up for James and Wade throughout the second half, as did the poor offense (more on that in a little bit).
For supposedly having more depth, Orlando’s bench was as non-existent as the starters. Orlando’s bench scored 33 points, Miami’s scored 37. That is not what this team had in mind.
The Magic’s bench players posted a 43.8 percent effective field goal percentage and 53.2 true shooting percentage (helped a lot by the team’s ability to get to the free throw line… more on that later). Those number put a lot more tarnish on a horrible 9-for-24 performance from Orlando’s bench. And Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson accounted for 21 of the bench’s 33 points, with Anderson getting 12 points mostly in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand.
The Heat’s bench on the other hand posted a 48.4 percent effective field goal percentage and 52.1 true shooting percentage. Obviously it was not just the bench that gave Orlando problems.
It was more specifically the role players. It was Zydrunas Ilgauskas (8 points, 4-10 FGs) stepping out and hitting jumpers as Dwight Howard left to help in the paint. It was James Jones (9 points, 3-5 3FGs) draining 3-pointers and keeping the Magic honest. We even saw former Magic point guard Carlos Arroyo (7 points, 3-7 FGs) burning the Magic off of mid-range jumpers on the pick and roll.
Those numbers are not fantastic, but they did enough to keep the lane free for Wade and James by the third quarter. It is painfully clear that these players don’t have to do too much to gain Orlando’s respect and open things up. It is also clear they will need to take advantage of the extra space Miami’s big three will give them.
What Went OK? Dwight Howard
Only one guy could say he had a halfway decent game in this one. And if there is something Magic fans can get really excited about is the maturing play of Dwight Howard.
Howard displayed a ridiculous array of moves and single-handedly kept Orlando in the game in the first half as Orlando slogged through and kept Miami under relative control.
Howard scored all 19 of his points in the first half which included a 5-for-9 effort from 10-23 feet. He was three for six inside of 10 feet. That is not a type-o, unless HoopData is playing some sick joke on me, Howard actually took more shots outside of 10 feet than inside.
That usually means Orlando lost the game easily. Well, the Magic did.
Like I said in my recap of the game, Howard was scoring a lot on Miami’s terms. The Heat were happy to let Howard shoot jumpers. But the fact he made them should be something for future opponents to consider.
It is difficult to remember this game was not a blowout in the first half and the Magic very much had a chance of winning it. That falls squarely on Howard’s efforts as the only guy who could do anything offensively.
When he picked up three quick fouls in the third quarter, you knew the Magic had no chance to make a comeback. It was very easy to see how vitally important it was for Howard to be on the floor. Even with Zydrunas Ilgauskas pulling him away from the paint, Howard did enough to keep Miami on the perimeter for much of the first half.
Of course, it was a 48-minute game and Howard did not get the benefit of a few calls and went to the bench with foul trouble. Suffice it to say, Howard needs his teammates to support him offensively and make his life easier. Miami is the kind of team that does have the players to get Howard in foul trouble.
And a Final Note
Orlando was fatally exposed in this game. Even for an early season game, it brought up a lot of the team’s greatest fears about its roster. Someone besides Howard has to be able to create their own offense as it appears Miami has too much speed, length and athleticism to be beaten by pick and rolls and good ball movement.
The good ball movement that is a trademark of this team was not there Friday night. No one outside of Howard could do much offensively. And eventually a good defense was overwhelmed by frustration.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done.
But that does not mean it cannot be done. The Magic know what they are up against more than they did before Friday night and have time to adjust. The season is only two games old for Orlando, so it does not make sense to call it over and end all dreams of winning the championship.
The Finals are not won in October. There is a long way to go until the Playoffs, even.
That Nov. 24 game against the Heat at Amway Center will be a second test to see if the Magic learned anything from this. By then, we should have a better idea of what kind of team we have — although hardly a complete one.
What happened Friday night will most likely be considered a random game that is far from the norm for this team.
If Otis Smith decides to make any changes it will be because Orlando showed little improvement in this game.