Game Five Adjustments: Forget the 3, Attack the Basket


Orlando is still trying to figure out what happened to its 3-point shooting. The Magic led the league in 3-point makes this season and have never been afraid to hoist away from long distance. It is part of who they are and how this team got to where it is.

Push the criticism aside of the 1-in/4-out system and whether it can win a title — that is a serious debate for the summer. This is about what the Magic can do to avoid elimination tonight and force a return trip to Atlanta for Game Six. Orlando is not going to be able to change its identity in one night. The Magic will still have to put up 3-pointers to have a chance at advancing.

But with Orlando coming off a game where it shot 2 for 23 and considering the team is shooting 21.9 percent from 3-point range in the series, Van Gundy has to continue to believe his team will make jump shots and find ways to (continue to) get them open jumpers. By Van Gundy’s count, Orlando had eight wide open 3-pointers in Game Four.


You would expect to make at least half of those. Instead, Orlando made only one.

That tells you a few things: the Magic are in fact executing their game plan. They are getting open looks and simply missing them. If you look at the Four Factors from the last two games, Orlando has won three of the four factors the last two games. They lost offensive rating (obviously) in both Games Three and Four and lost effective field goal percentage in Game Four and Turnover Rate in Game Three.

If there was ever a reason to believe the Magic can come back and win this series, it is in these numbers which show Orlando is playing well enough to win — just not making shots and making shots at the right time.

Stan Van Gundy might be right not to change things. As a team full of shooters, as he plainly put it and/or notified Otis Smith, he has to believe they will start making shots at some point.

Where Van Gundy has failed is in realizing shots are not falling and trying to urge his team to get better looks. Orlando does not need an entirely new game plan. The team just needs to tweak its emphasis a little more.

Orlando has to attack the basket more and not think of the 3-pointer as the main option offensively. Yes, it is difficult to get a bunch of players programmed to shoot when open or even semi-open since October to change their mindset all of a sudden, but it is what the Magic have to do.

The Magic were arguably most successful in Game Four when it elected to get to the basket. No player could better exemplify this than Gilbert Arenas. Arenas averaged only 1.3 attempts at the rim and 0.8 attempt from 3-9 feet for the Magic this season — approximately 26 percent of his shots per game. Arenas has been better known in his time in Orlando for hoisting up threes and turning the ball over.

But something changed in Game Four. Arenas came off the pick and roll and attacked the basket. He got to the rim consistently (unfortunately HoopData has not released its box score) and was scoring lay ups. It helped him get into some rhythm as he hit the only 3-pointer of the second half for the Magic, a wild 3-pointer shot only with the thought of drawing a foul.

Arenas scored seven points in the first half of the fourth quarter that featured runs of 5-0 and 6-1 to tie the game. Arenas did a lot of this work by attacking the basket. This is likely the strategy Orlando should employ in Game Five.

Hedo Turkoglu too was trying to get to the rim although failing to finish. This is the strategy Orlando must employ.

The Magic are an inside-out team. They get their open jumpers from getting the ball into Dwight Howard or driving in off the pick and roll and forcing the defense to collapse. I have already said that I believe Orlando needs to run more pick and rolls to force Atlanta’s defense to work more. But it is more than this now. Every player needs to know the Hawks are trying to run them off the 3-point line and make the extra play to draw them in further.

This is really what Orlando has to do. I noticed more in the second viewing of Game Four. The Magic are forcing their individual play and not making the extra plays that have made the Magic so successful the last four years.

There are no extra passes to the true open shooter — often the guy who first receives the ball is the one that is supposed to draw in the defender and then dish it off to a wide open player now two rotations away from a defender. There really are not even pump fakes to draw the defense out and create more open driving lanes. It seems the focus is so much on correcting 3-point shooting that the team is forgetting to just play basketball and get open shots.

This is not a strategy that will be without problems. The Hawks are extremely long and athletic and can recover very quickly. But that does not mean Orlando should not look to get to the basket more. The Magic are getting to the free throw line and this attacking style could further reveal the Hawks lack of discipline on both ends of the floor.

Orlando is not going to win unless the team makes open shots. That is the bottom line. It is an incredibly simple game.

But getting those open shots through ball movement and drives is perhaps the most important adjustment the Magic can make in Game Five. Arenas made this adjustment in Game Four. The rest of the team must follow suit. All it might take is one roll of 3-pointers off this inside-out attack to really turn this entire series around.

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