Carter or Redick?
It has been the big debate of the season so far. Vince Carter has been disappointing; JJ Redick has been surprising. It has led many fans to lose faith in the new acquisition in Carter and try to promote Redick into the starting lineup to replace him.
No one doubts that Carter has more talent and has the potential to still be the explosive scorer he has been his entire career. But the results on the court say Redick is the better player.
I do not quite know what to make, then, of what happens when both played very well in Tuesday’s win over the Bucks.
Carter averaged 8.7 points per game and shot 28.4 percent from the floor. He had only four games in the month of January where he scored more than 10 points. Hardly the dominant scorer the team expected.
But after falling behind in the first quarter and seeing Dwight Howard go to the bench with early foul trouble, it was Carter who took over and led Orlando back into the game. Carter scored 17 points and more impressively nearly had a triple double with 10 rebounds and seven assists. This on 7-of-15 shooting.
Momentum is the next day’s pitcher, so it is unclear whether this is a flash in the pan or a sign Carter is starting to gain more confidence and finding his true role on the Magic.
Not helping the debate, JJ Redick also turned in a very solid game. Redick scored 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting and handed out four assists. He also posted a team-high +17 as Orlando took control of the game with a 27-10 second quarter.
Redick continues to play fantastic basketball as he averaged 11.1 points per game in January. Not a high number, but knowing Redick’s history with the team and his role, it is certainly a very strong contribution to Orlando.
Defense, Defense, Defense
One thing that has to remain pretty constant for the Magic to make a push for the title is their strong defense. Anchored by Dwight Howard, Orlando had the top defensive efficiency in the league last year.
This year, the defense has been spotty — still good, but not at that dominant level. Orlando has dropped to fourth (again, not bad, but not the dominating effort they had last year). Howard’s foul trouble has not helped.
When Howard went out with two fouls last night, Milwaukee was playing very well and had the lead. A 10-point second quarter changed just about all of that.
Orlando gave up only 36.3 percent shooting to Milwaukee last night and only two players had a positive +/- rating (Milwaukee’s two best players, Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings). The Bucks had an 89.5 offensive rating. A very very solid number for a defense.
Howard was his usual dominant self once he got back into the game with five blocks.
They are inglorious, but everyone seems to always point out Orlando’s problems at the line. Most of that can be attributed to Dwight Howard, who is better but not yet a great free throw shooter.
The Magic though do some things very well at the line. Like getting to it.
Orlando hit 24 of 34 free throws last night and currently rank third in the league in free throws attempted. The Magic attempt 27.4 free throws per game. Again, a lot of that can be attributed to Howard.
But no one can doubt getting to the line is a very good thing. Orlando does a good job of that (and providing the home fans with free Chick-Fil-A when they make 20 of them in a home game).
On the flip side, Orlando gave up 19 free throw attempts to Milwaukee (the team made nine). The Bucks are last in the league in free throws attempted and were still held below their average of 20.6. It helps that the Magic only committed 15 fouls — 10 of them from Dwight Howard, Matt Barnes and Rashard Lewis.
Interestingly, Orlando ranks ninth in the league in free throw attempts given up with 23.4 per game.
Just something to keep an eye on as the season wanes.