Terrence Ross found his spark on Orlando Magic’s road trip

Terrence Ross is starting to heat up again and the Orlando Magic are reaping the benefits. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Terrence Ross is starting to heat up again and the Orlando Magic are reaping the benefits. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

When Terrence Ross gets cooking, it is hard to stop him.

Since the Orlando Magic started making their playoff runs, their potential to score an upset and compete against the best teams in the league largely depended on Terrence Ross’ ability to catch fire and score a bunch of points in a hurry.

He did not earn “The Human Torch” nickname for nothing. And his ability to create a spark especially early in the fourth quarter built momentum and confidence for a team that always seemed to be playing above its head.

Ross is on the top of most teams’ scouting reports. After Nikola Vucevic, teams know slowing Terrence Ross down is the biggest key to stoping the Magic.

The Magic have sunk down the standings since Markelle Fultz’s injury. And no player has likely been as affected by that loss — and the injuries that followed — as Ross has. All the rotation shifts and jumbles — not to mention the instability at point guard — has left Ross a bit isolated with that second unit to start the second quarter. Defenses have keyed in on him more and made it more difficult to get cooking.

The Magic undoubtedly have struggled as much as they have because Ross has struggled so much. His season can invariably be split into three parts.

It is this third part that has been most encouraging though. With the team facing massive amounts of injuries, Ross stepped up his game as the Magic leaned on his offense even more. The Magic may have lost on their West Coast road trip, but Clifford is right, they did play better.

And they played a lot better because Ross played a lot better. If the Magic are going to make a playoff push, Ross’ play might be a bell-weather for the team’s play.

Terrence Ross struggled as the Orlando Magic lost players due to injury and jumbled the rotation. But he has started to pick up his scoring again and that bodes well for the team.

Steve Clifford’s teams are usually pretty disciplined with their shot selection and working to find a good shot. But Ross is one of the few players with the ultimate green light. He has the freedom to come around screens and fire, even with defenders draped around him. He is one of the few tough shot makers on the team.

There were plenty of games the last two seasons where Ross shot the team out of games with his penchant for taking quick shots. But the Magic are willing to accept those games from Ross knowing he will be able to shoot them into games and win games for them in the long run.

Ross for the season is averaging a career-high 15.3 points per game. He is shooting a career-high 13.3 field goal attempts per game. Predictably, Ross’ efficiency has shot down to 48.8-percent effective field goal percentage.

Ross is undoubtedly a key part of the team and its success. And when he struggles, the team can be downright bad. The consistency issues that have haunted Ross his entire career remain.

During the first eight games of the season, Ross averaged 20.7 points per game and shot 46.7-percent from beyond the arc. He shot 14 for 37 (37.8-percent) on shots where the defender was guarding him tightly — within four feet of him. Only 37.4-percent of his shots were of that variety.

But in the next month’s worth of games (16 games), Ross averaged only 10.7 points per game. He shot 36.7-percent from the floor and 24.7-percent from beyond the arc.

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  • His shot quality also decreased dramatically. He made only 27 of 90 (30.0-percent) shots where the closest defender was four feet away. That was 53.3-percent of his shots during this time period.

    After scoring at least 15 points in six of the first seven games he played (and 14 in the other), he hit the 15-point mark just four times in the next 16.

    It is hard to say why this decrease occurred. Certainly part of it was the lineups he was playing in. Cole Anthony has assisted on more shots from Terrence Ross than any other player. They started playing a lot fewer minutes together with Anthony in the starting lineup.

    Certainly, the depleted bench lineups allowed defenses to key in on Ross more. Teams are already doing a better job chasing him off the 3-point line and trying to double him as he comes around screens.

    Ross has tried to counter that by taking a dribble or driving the lane a bit more.

    He is averaging 2.5 field goal attempts per game off one dribble (making 52.2-percent effective field goal percentage on such shots) and 2.5 field goal attempts per game off two dribbles (making a 42.9-percent effective field goal percentage). Ross has taken 2.8 field goal attempts per game off 3-6 dribbles (making 47.4-percent effective field goal percentage).

    Last year, Ross averaged 1.7 field goal attempts per game off one dribble (48.3-percent effective field goal percentage), 1.7 field goal attempts per game off two dribbles (39.0-percent effective field goal percentage) and 1.7 field goal attempts per game off of 3-6 dribbles (44.3-percent effective field goal percentage).

    His efficiency might be up this year, but defenders are forcing him to go off the dribble more. And that has changed Ross’ shot menu. It has changed how he plays and where he cuts on the floor.

    Even Ross’ spot-up shooting has been more efficient. Teams are just doing a better job rushing and pushing Ross off the 3-point line.

    Things changed the last five games though.

    Orlando Magic
    Orlando Magic /

    Orlando Magic

    In that time, Ross is scoring 22.6 points per game and shooting a 49.0-percent effective field goal percentage, including 39.0-percent from beyond the arc. He is shooting 23 for 47 (48.9-percent) when the closest defender is within four feet, accounting for 45.2-percent of his shots.

    Defenses are still throwing a lot of defense at Ross. But he has adjusted. Or, he has simply made more shots. He has scored at least 15 points in his last five games.

    Something had to click for Ross to get himself going. No one will complain about the production. It is necessary for the team to find any kind of success.

    Still, even though Ross is scoring more, he is not doing so as efficiently as he could. He made five of his six 3-pointers for his first 30-point game of the season in Wednesday’s win over the New York Knicks. But he shot worse than 40-percent six of his previous eight games.

    Ross can still shoot the team out of the game. And Orlando’s offense is not exactly tearing things up in the process.

    During that time, the Magic’s injuries were certainly part of the reason why. Orlando simply did not have any other players it could turn to and Ross had to take a lot of shots. With the magic integrating Frank Mason or using Dwayne Bacon as the team’s backup point guard, they were running basic sets designed to spring Terrence Ross free quickly and allow him to shoot.

    This is the good news then.

    As the Magic get healthy and return Ross to a more comfortable role with more diverse lineups, he should be able to get the more efficient shots that he has lived on and have helped spark the team.

    Ross is playing at a level where he is set to go off and help the Magic win games. Orlando is playing better and that has helped Ross play better. Ross playing better has meant the Magic are playing better.

    Next. Orlando Magic find themselves by sharing the load. dark

    But there is still work to do to fix the Magic’s offense. It will help to have Ross beginning to simmer as he has lately.