Bench Holding Things Steady

May 26, 2010 - Orlando, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - epa02174617 Orlando Magic's J.J. Redick (L) uses the screen of teammate Marcin Gortat (R) to get past the defense of Boston Celtics' Tony Allen during the first period of game five of the NBA Eastern Conference finals at the Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida, USA, 26 May 2010. The Celtics hold a three games to one lead in the best of seven series.
JJ Redick is heading back to the bench most likely with Vince Carter coming back. But with Redick in the lineup, the Magic’s bench did its job in steadying the ship.
Zuma Press/PicApp 

One of the advantage Orlando is said to have is a very very deep bench. Guys like JJ Redick, Brandon Bass, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, Chris Duhon and even Ryan Anderson all could find starting roles on most teams in the NBA. Not the star-studded championship-aspiring Magic though. These guys are the guys that come in and hold the ship steady for Orlando when Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and company get their obligatory rest — you don’t want those guys playing all 48 minutes for 82 games plus the playoffs.

These guys are in there to hold the ship steady in the beginning of the second and fourth quarters.

But you can feel by watching this team that there are some troubles with this unit. It lacks a go-to scorer who can penetrate and create offense for himself. Rather it depends a lot on ball movement and pick and rolls. There is no one guy who you can give the ball to and they will score. In all likelihood, there are no Sixth Man of the Year Award candidates on this roster along the lines of last year’s winner, Jamal Crawford.

“The main thing is we have to play with energy,” Duhon said after Saturday’s 111-100 win over Cleveland. “Usually with our group, Dwight is not in there. So we really don’t have a guy we don’t throw it in and play off him. With our unit, it’s more on ball movement and energy on the offensive end.”

Not having that guy to dump the ball in to, with all due respect to Marcin Gortat, means the Magic suddenly turn into a perimeter-oriented team without a great perimeter scorer. Duhon’s presence has made things better as he is able to get into the lane off the pick and roll and dish the ball out. His nine assists Friday night (and eight points) shows the kind of difference he can make off the bench.

It was something I watched very closely after Wednesday’s game against the Heat. The beginning of the second and fourth quarters are not momentum-killing, but they have quite a different feel to the rest of the game. It feels more like Orlando is trying to survive with its starters on the bench.

And really that has become the bench’s job. Maintain the ship until the starters can come in and get things moving again. That is what the numbers show.

I took a look at the last three games where Dwight Howard was not on the court as time when “the bench” or second unit is in — obviously there are times when some starters are playing too. Mainly these stats are for when Chris Duhon and Marcin Gortat are in. Brandon Bass being in is a plus, but Rashard Lewis spent a lot of time on the floor with the second unit Wednesday against Miami.

The final stats? The Magic’s second unit outscored its opponents 61-60. Keeping the ship steady.

“It’s always going to be up and down,” Van Gundy said before Friday’s game. “It’s going to fluctuate by the way you are defended and by matchups. It’s going to be different guys producing better on certain nights. As long as the team is playing well, I don’t really get into that.

“If your starters are playing great, they may get more minutes and you may look at the end of the night, and say we didn’t have a lot of bench points, but we won the game by 12. It doesn’t really matter where it comes from and it comes from different places every night. To me, it’s all about the scoreboard.”

It is important to note that the reason players come off the bench, by and large, is because they are somewhat inconsistent. And the Magic went 3-0 in those games. Therefore the bench did its job.

But a deeper look at the numbers reveals some interesting things.

The second unit posted a 117.3 offensive rating and 111.1 defensive rating over the last three games, according to the Advanced Stats Calculator. The team as a whole is averaging 107.5 offensive rating and 100.5 defensive rating. In the last three games at least, the defense has been worse but the offense has been picking up the slack.

Steadying the ship, once again.

Most interesting was how the team played against Miami on Wednesday. In that game, Brandon Bass scored 16 first-half points in relief for Rashard Lewis and 18 points in the game. The second unit also had to play against Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James at one time or another. The potential for disaster was there. But that did not happen. Instead the second unit played extremely good defense holding Miami to 5-for-15 shooting while they were on the floor and “winning” 21-18, even with a 112.5 defensive rating.

You see a theme here, steadying the ship.

When the Magic do get incredible games from their bench, the team is pretty difficult to stop thanks to the defensive stopping power of Dwight Howard. And in the postseason, that is what you want your bench to do. Steady the ship until your stars are rested enough to play at the highest level.

So, all that needs to happen at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters is to steady the ship. 

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily