A Look at Orlando’s Offensive Struggles Against Chicago


The caveat to what I am about to write is Chicago is one of the best defensive teams, if not the best (at least statistically) in the league. But there is also no doubt Orlando’s poor offense took the team out of the game and prevented it from scoring a critical win in a tight Eastern Conference race.

Even still, Dwight Howard’s 40-point effort nearly gave the Magic a shot at winning. But in the last few possessions, Orlando went back to what was not working — namely anything else — to try and win the game.

The raw offensive stats had the Magic scoring 90 points, shooting 41.1 percent from the floor and 5 for 21 from beyond the arc. The advanced offensive stats: a 95.7 offensive rating and 44.2 percent effective field goal percentage according to HoopData. Those are all below Orlando’s season averages.

Friday night seemed particularly bad though.

The Magic were 11 for 28 on jumpers from 10-22 feet in Friday’s game. Now, that is not a horrible percentage. It is not great either. Obviously a big different in Friday’s game came from the missed 3-pointers. But it should also be noted, Orlando took 16 shots at the rim, making 9.

In Wednesday’s win over Indiana, the Magic had 22 shots between 10 and 23 feet and were 7 for 10 at the rim. The 3-point shooting in that game (16 for 34) was obviously a huge difference.

Comparing those two games, you can see a huge difference in 3-point shooting. The fact of the matter is Orlando is best when it is moving the ball and getting assisted 3-pointers.  Ball movement is key and that was not present Friday. It says something that the Magic had 19 assists on their 32 field goals. Orlando was not moving the ball enough, but when they were they were making shots.

Go figure.

Interestingly, the numbers in Orlando’s other loss this week to Detroit were similar. The Magic shot 45.3 percent from the floor and similarly had 19 assists on 33 field goals. Going 7 for 27 from long range did not help either. Orlando was a more efficient 8 for 14 from 10-23 feet in that game.

The thing I think you can take from this game is that Orlando is a much better team when it is making 3-point shots. It does not take a genius to figure that out. But the Magic also have to do a better job balancing where their shots come from.

GameOff. Rtg.%Shots At Rim%Shots <10 Ft.%Shots 10-23 Ft.%Shots 3Pt.
@ Chicago (L)95.720.5%16.7%35.9%26.9%
@ Indiana (W)114.412.2%19.5%26.8%41.5%
vs. Detroit (L)104.335.6%8.2%19.1%37.0%
@ Houston (W)122.916.1%24.1%23.0%36.8%
vs. Toronto (W)125.843.8%9.0%16.9%30.3%

Those are the last five games, taking a look at where Orlando’s shots are coming from courtesy of HoopData.

The first thing, yes Orlando is taking a ton of 3-pointers. That makes people the most uncomfortable with the Magic’s offense. They literally do live and die by the three on a lot of nights. That obviously is not going to be a recipe for success. At least, not until the defense comes around (if it comes around).

Pushing those numbers aside for now, you see that in the three wins in the last five games Orlando did not take as many shots from outside the paint and inside the 3-point line. The Indiana game appears to be something of an anomaly where the Magic just drained 3-pointers at an unbelievable clip. But in the other two games, the percentage was low. Against Chicago on Friday, the Magic attempted 36 percent of their shots from this range.

You also see, Orlando took a lot of shots at the rim or within 10 feet. Getting those kinds of shots will be a recipe for success.

The level of opponent in those games is obviously pretty low. Only Chicago is going to be in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the shot distribution in games against, say, decent teams.

GameOff. Rtg.%Shots At Rim%Shots <10 Ft.%Shots 10-23 Ft.%Shots 3Pt.
@ Chicago (L)95.720.5%16.7%35.9%26.9%
@ Boston (L)120.517.6%12.2%33.8%36.5%
@ Oklahoma City (L)130.523.3%18.9%26.7%31.1%
@ New Orleans (L)91.817.4%12.0%37.0%33.7%
@ Dallas (W)112.625.9%18.5%16.0%39.5%

Orlando has been on the road for a lot of its “big games” lately. But to go 1-4 is a little bit more discouraging. Oklahoma City and Dallas were probably the two best offensive performances and most of those type of offensive efforts will get you a win. The thing I notice is a lot of shots are close to the rim. The next most come from 3-point range.

In the losses, it appears more shots come from that mid-range area.

It is a simple tenant of this team’s offense. Score at the rim or take a (preferably open) 3-pointer. Those are widely considered the most efficient shots you can take.

A lot of what Orlando does is predicated on 3-pointers. The Magic are going to take a lot of 3-pointers for better or worse. When they make them like they did in the win over Indiana, a lot of things are not going to matter.

When 3-pointers are not falling, shot selection matters even more. The Magic have to do a better job creating better shots — closer shots — when they struggle to make 3-pointers. The numbers back that up (as you can see above).