Orlando Magic not to built to rise and fall on their 3-point shot

Terrence Ross is one of the best shooters on the Orlando Magic. But the team can rely on it far too much. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
Terrence Ross is one of the best shooters on the Orlando Magic. But the team can rely on it far too much. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

Final. 105. 64. 93. 38

The NBA and its offenses have changed. Everyone around the league recognizes this. The shots that are valuable and the skills necessary to win at a high level have changed it seems.

The 3-point shot is here to stay. It is vital to any team’s success in this league. Steve Clifford and the 2009 Orlando Magic made sure of that, proving the 3-point shot could be a successful strategy.

Ever since then, the Magic have been searching for an offensive system to match. They have not had a top-15 offense since Dwight Howard left. The league has continued that transformation they started.

The league is much more 3-point reliant now than it was then.

Orlando is still 3-point reliant too. The difference between winning and losing in this league and for this team is still often making 3-point shots. That is an easy way to find which team has the advantage. It is hard to win in this league nowadays making fewer threes.

But this is not a 3-point shooting team. It cannot pretend it is and relying too heavily on making threes is certainly a sign of the team’s lack of focus and preparation.

The Orlando Magic’s need for shooting is obvious. And it becomes more obvious when the team gets stuck and they rely on the shot even more as a shortcut. This is not a team that can make that bet often.

Clifford said the team has a way to play to win games. This Orlando Magic team especially has a narrow path to walk to get wins — even against mediocre and poor opponents like the Detroit Pistons.

In many ways, a bad sign for a team like the Magic is that they are relying so heavily on 3-pointers. One of their biggest weaknesses is key to their success.

That goes without saying. But the quality of these shots and how much the Magic rely on the 3-pointer is usually a good sign of how well they are playing. In this modern NBA, it is easy to fall into the trap of hoisting up 3-pointers as a bailout for bad offense.

For the season, the Magic are making 35.2-percent of their 3-pointers, 23rd in the league. Orlando is taking just 32.8 3-pointers per game, also 23rd in the league.

This is not a team on average that takes a ton of 3-pointers.

In wins, Orlando shoots 40.0-percent from deep on 31.2 attempts per game. In losses, the team shoots 32.2-percent from deep on 33.9 attempts per game.

The differences feel slight. But the Magic shoot fewer 3-pointers and make more of them in wins (that last part is obvious) than in losses. The team needs 3-point shooting to win but easily fall into the trap of taking too many in games where they struggle.

In Tuesday’s loss to the Detroit Pistons, the Orlando Magic shot 14 for 38 from beyond the arc (36.8-percent). Orlando took way more 3-pointers than its average and certainly still shot a good percentage, but it was the only thing keeping the team in the game.

The third quarter was especially a poor sign for Orlando. The Magic did not make any of the team’s 10 attempts in the quarter. If you are looking for the reason why Orlando scored only 14 points and saw a two-point deficit turn to double digits, there is your reason.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The 3-pointer is key to victory in this league and for this team. But it is not something the Magic should be relying on. At least, not this heavily. It is safe to say that in a game like Tuesday — and it was not the first one this season — the Magic lost because of their 3-point shooting. At least, among other reasons.

Orlando at least typically does a good job getting open shots. The Magic take 27.5 3-point field goal attempts with the closest defender four or more feet away according to NBA.com. They make 9.8 per game, equating to roughly 35.6-percent. These are all among the worst marks in the league (although not the worst).

In wins, the Magic make 10.6 of 26.0 attempts (roughly 40.8-percent) when the closest defender is four or more feet away. Again, the issue is more about making 3-pointers than the volume of 3-pointers.

How did the Magic do getting open 3-pointers in Tuesday’s loss?

Orlando got 12 of 30 open 3-pointers to go down. The Magic were working to get open shots and made a decent amount of them.

But this is clearly not their strength. They are not a team that should be reliant on making 3-pointers. Their 3-point shooting is not what is going to carry the day. Their 3-point shooting needs to supplement their way to play.

Unfortunately, it seems like when things go wrong, the Magic lean more heavily on their 3-point shooting. When they cannot get into the paint, they will settle for those 3-point shots. If Orlando cannot get inside to Nikola Vucevic or elsewhere, the team will fire away.

This is where the team’s overreliance on three players came to roost. Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross combined to shoot 17 for 48 (35.4-percent) and 8 for 25 from deep (32.0-percent).

The Magic lost Tuesday because they did not play with the attention to detail or execution necessary to win. They let the Pistons dictate terms. As Clifford put it after the game, they played the way they prepared.

"“We had played a good stretch of intense, purposeful games where we had an edge,” Clifford said after Tuesday’s game. “Tonight we had none of that and they did. They took the game to us from the start and we had to play from behind. At the end of the day, they were more prepared than we were, they put more into the game than we did. And we’re not that team. if we have everybody ready, we’re good enough to beat anybody on any night. if we’re anything less than that, it’s going to be hard.”"

The Magic have a small margin for error. They could easily say their 3-point shooting and defense kept them in the game — the Pistons posted a 105.0 offensive rating, suggesting the Magic played good enough defense to win.

As everyone who has watched this team for any length of time, the Magic’s lack of shooting is the biggest thing holding the offense back. Orlando’s inconsistent shooting limits spacing and the ability to attack the paint.

This is not a 3-point shooting team, but the Magic play like one that relies on 3-point shooting to bail them out. They need to hit from the outside to give the offense some life. And when their key players struggle from there, the results can be downright ugly.

dark. Next. Orlando Magic struggle to move forward with uncertainty in future

It is the obvious answer, but Orlando has to put a focus on improving 3-point shooting and finding more shooters to space the floor. That may be a concern at the trade deadline and in the offseason — or just from getting healthy again.