Game Four Adjustments: Bench’s Time to Shine


It is not going to take a genius to know Orlando needs more from its bench players in Game Four. Jason Richardson is out with the suspension, forcing players to fill in the 34.3 minutes per game Richardson would normally play. Sure, Richardson has struggled throughout this series, but he has provided decent defense on Joe Johnson and, at least, the threat of making the big shot — remember Game Two anybody?

There is no sense lamenting losing Richardson for Sunday’s game. There is the expectation though that a bench that has struggled mightily throughout the series is going to step up in his absence.

Quentin Richardson will step into the starting lineup, but J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson and (yes) Gilbert Arenas will have to provide both a spark and a scoring punch off the bench for Orlando. Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu should continue to split point guard duties, but with the opportunity to play more at the two opened up by Jason Richardson‘s absence, opportunity needs to be taken.

For this series, the Magic are getting 14.3 points per game from the bench and shooting 34.9 percent from the floor. Jamal Crawford is averaging a team-high 23.7 points per game off the bench by himself. Crawford would start for many teams and can create his own shot, but the difference is startling.

Orlando will need more from these players to get a win in tonight’s game.

Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel recognized this after Game Two, where J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson provided a big lift of energy and grit to secure the win. Orlando will need the same thing from them in Game Four to even the series once again.

Jason Richardson‘s suspension most definitely means that Orlando will be piecemealing a rotation together again. The team was doing this throughout the final month of the season with Redick out of the lineup. It forced Arenas to play more at the two and forced guys to slide around the lineup. But at least they were producing then. Nobody on the team is making shots right now.

What could losing a guy like Richardson and throwing the bench and rotation into turmoil do to help that? That is a pretty weighty question.

One might argue the opportunity could inspire guys like Quentin Richardson and Gilbert Arenas, who have seen limited playing time in the postseason, to play with more energy. Or one could argue it means the lineup is only that much worse. It is definitely a question the Magic will have to answer.

Van Gundy does not like playing Quentin Richardson at the two for long stretches of time. But he will get the first call on Joe Johnson. It is important tonight for Richardson to get off to a good start defensively on Johnson and help set the tone. His energy level could be a difference in the game for a struggling Orlando team. A couple of hustle plays for the new starter could spread to the rest of the team.

Most believe this injection of energy is the real role of the bench. Richardson has the chance to provide that energy at the beginning, and really he must do that.

It brings the Magic to the big question mark for Game Four. What kind of lift or energy can Gilbert Arenas provide? In all likelihood he will get an opportunity to play some in this game. Whether he handles the ball is anybody’s guess. Most likely Stan Van Gundy will ask him to be a spot up shooter as a two guard.

Arenas was taken out of the rotation early in Game Two because of his proclivity to turn the ball over. He was clearly nowhere near 100 percent as he was slowed by his knee issues and not able to make moves with any type of speed.

Arenas is getting another opportunity. And there may not be a more important time for him to deliver.

Arenas can deliver. He won’t get the same type of responsibilities as Van Gundy envisioned earlier in the series. Arenas is just going to have to control Jamal Crawford defensively and keep him from getting to the basket. On the offensive end, Arenas has an advantage over Crawford that Orlando may want to attack. Twice in the second quarter of Game Two, Arenas successfully posted up and attacked the basket against Crawford. The Magic should try to exploit this once again.

Of course, Arenas’ playing time will be determined by his defense on Kirk Hinrich or Jamal Crawford or Jeff Teague (we don’t want him guarding Joe Johnson at all).

The bench is going to have to step up to replace the solid play Jason Richardson always seems to provide. Quentin Richardson and Gilbert Arenas especially will have to fill this void. It could be their energy early in the game that finally turns around the Magic’s poor shooting.

Photos via