Stan Van Gundy made it one of his points of emphasis in his postgame press conference. It is something he faults himself with in the early part of this series. The offense is not working.
Orlando scored 81 points in the Game One victory and then followed it with 78 points in the Game Two loss. That is an average of 79.5 points per game. And the 159 total points in about 169 possessions is a 94.2 offensive rating. Throw in a 43.0 percent effective field goal percentage and you have an offense that just is not scoring points.
That is about the nicest way you can put it.
The Magic were 12 for 22 on shots at the rim according to HoopData in Game Two and 10 for 18 on shots at the rim in Game One. As I noted before the postseason started, the Magic averaged 21.6 shots per game at the rim in the regular season and shot 63.8 percent on those shots (Dwight Howard accounting for a huge chunk of that). In the games without Howard, the team averaged 26.8 shots per game at the rim and shot 60.6 percent.
In this postseason, the Magic are at 20.0 shots per game at the rim and are shooting 55 percent.
The Magic offense has been inconsistent to say the least. Sometimes awful if you want to be really mean.
And so the big task for Stan Van Gundy and the Magic entering Game Three is to get better shots and to make the ones they do get. Offense does get more difficult in the Playoffs with defenses zeroing in on your every strength. But the good teams find a way. You certainly have to find a way to win this series.
It does not take long to figure out that the Magic have some issues offensively. At times, it looks like Jameer Nelson can get anywhere he wants on the pick and roll. And then at other times it looks like the Magic could not get a ballhandler past the 3-point line if they tried. This is the frustrating part about the Magic’s offense right now.
There is one very big problem — aside from missing Dwight Howard, which is just a general problem. That is the lack of versatility in the Magic’s offensive sets and offensive playmakers. The Magic cannot do much about the roster at this point, and so they have to try and create more out of the plays they run.
When Orlando runs a play it is typically just a pick and roll. They will have Nelson (typically) come off a screen from Glen Davis, hoping to turn the corner and draw the defense in or dish back to Davis rolling to the basket or popping out for a jumper.
In the second quarter of Game Two, Nelson was able to turn the corner and Davis was getting some free space to get toward the rim. In the second half, the Pacers hedged much harder and prevented Nelson from turning the corner — trapping him at times — and forcing him away from the basket. Davis also popped more as he got more tired and he missed some open jumpers.
When Nelson gets stuck, he dishes it to another player and they run another side pick and roll using Ryan Anderson as the roll man. There are only so many of these you can do in 24 seconds.
The Magic have to add some variability to their offense. But that is extremely tough right now with no practice time to install anything new offensively. Everything is going to have to be built off the pick and roll.
Undoubtedly though, the Magic need to do a better job freeing up their shooters and it all starts with what they do off this simple play.
Typically, Orlando has the secondary option of Dwight Howard in the post. But the Magic do not run any post ups for Glen Davis. So Orlando has to get creative.
Take the end of Game One as an example of what Orlando can do. The Magic scored the go-ahead 3-pointer on a play with multiple options. It started with a 1/2 pick and roll with Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson. Nelson was the first option, turning the corner and trying to get to the basket. If that did not work though, Nelson would have Ryan Anderson possibly cutting down the lane or Jason Richardson coming off the Anderson screen for a 3-pointer. We know what happened.
What was important about this play was that Nelson had a secondary option and there was movement off the ball to give the Orlando offense some variability. The Pacers defense focused on the ballhandler and the pick and roll to their doom in Game One.
Multiple and secondary action is critical to keeping Indiana off balance. This may come in a variety of ways — Orlando has a special affinity for curl plays using Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick — but the Magic have to keep trying new ways and adding new wrinkles to their favored pick and roll sets.
Return to boxing out
It is easy to forget to box out when you have the league’s best rebounder taking care of the glass most of the time. Dwight Howard is a huge luxury.
Orlando is learning that it has to still rebound as a team and lock down the boards. The Pacers got a big boost on the offensive glass in Game Two and you could very well argue that it was the difference in the game. After all, the play that gave the Pacers a nine-point lead in the third quarter came after Danny Granger beat Ryan Anderson to a missed free throw and the ball worked its way around to an open George Hill for three.
Indiana held a 12-1 advantage at one point in the third quarter on the glass. Some of that was the Magic’s missed shots. A lot of that was the work on the glass. You could easily say that Orlando kept things even on the glass throughout the game except for the third quarter. And there is no bigger symbol of a team outworking another than getting to the offensive glass.
Orlando’s margin for error is incredibly small. The Magic have to return their focus on defense to finishing possessions and boxing out to prevent offensive rebounds. Giving up second chance opportunities is an absolute no-no in Game Three.
Feed off the energy
The other thing Van Gundy specifically mentioned in his postgame press conference to Game Two was how his team did not have energy at the beginning of both games and at the beginning of both second halves. For sure, that has to chance when the scene shifts to Amway Center.
One thing that will certainly help is having the home crowd behind them. Somehow I doubt very many Indiana fans will find their way into the stadium, so the Orlando faithful have to be loud all game. This goes especially at the start. The Magic can get a lot of energy from the home court support.
I would expect the Magic to get off to a better start in Game Three and really come out fighting. This will be key. Orlando has to feed off this energy from the home crowd. But the team cannot get over amped. That is usually something you worry about with young teams. Honestly, I still do not know exactly what to expect from the Magic on a nightly basis.
The call is definitely on the fans to help pick up the Magic when they get tired and bring energy to the building. This goes at all points. An empty arena during the beginning of the third quarter would not be a good thing considering how the Pacers have played the third quarter throughout the season.