Orlando Magic’s open shot problem: Just make some shots

Jalen Suggs and the Orlando Magic are struggling to hit from the outside, but they believe it is a matter of hitting open shots to turn things around. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Suggs and the Orlando Magic are struggling to hit from the outside, but they believe it is a matter of hitting open shots to turn things around. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic were frustrated but determined following Tuesday’s loss to the LA Clippers.

For the first time this season, the defense could not sustain the team and keep them in the game. Orlando’s offensive shortcomings were on full display as the team could not keep up with the onslaught from Paul George and Russell Westbrook in a 41-point third quarter.

The team was fairly competitive and kept the game fairly ugly — the way the Magic might like it — the rest of the game. One bad quarter determined the game.

The discussion for the Magic in the postgame was a simple one. The team got its good looks and could not hit them. It is a tale as old as time: The point of the game is to make shots and the Magic simply are not doing that.

Is that enough to fix the Magic’s offensive issues?

The Orlando Magic were frustrated by a flurry of missed shots. But the team is not panicking, believing they are getting the looks to break through soon.

So far this season, Orlando is shooting 45.0 percent from the floor and 30.7 percent on 3-pointers. The 3-point shooting is 26th in the league and hardly the worst in the league but still not anywhere near good enough.

Take out the opening night game, where the Magic did not even shoot the ball particularly well from deep, and they are making 43.9 percent of their shots and 32.3 percent of their 3-pointers.

Orlando certainly could use making more shots. That is probably the most obvious statement.

But there is certainly something to saying that the poor shooting from Tuesday’s game — 7 for 30 shooting from deep and a really ugly first quarter where the teams combined for 31 points total — was emblematic of larger problems for the team.

Opponents are starting to pack the paint more against the Magic and dare them to shoot. Perhaps the reason the Magic felt like they missed a lot of open shots.

"“We shot 7 for 30 and still had 23 assists,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Tuesday’s game. “We’re trying to share the basketball. I thought the ball movement was very good tonight. The energy with the ball moving and our focus level of trying to attack and do the right things was there. Shots didn’t fall tonight. But our guys never hung their head and they continued to fight.”"

Indeed, breaking down the numbers, the Magic had a lot of open looks in Tuesday’s game.

According to NBA.com’s stats database, Orlando was only 14 for 38 (36.8 percent) on shots where the closest defender was four or more feet away (“open” and “wide open” shots), including 7 for 27 from three (25.9 percent). That should be noted that 27 of the Magic’s 30 3-pointers in Tuesday’s game were objectively good shots.

Regardless of the percentages, the Magic have to keep shooting these shots.

Here comes the problem, Orlando has to get more of these shots.

For the season, the team is averaging only 22.0 “open” (when the closest defender is 4-6 feet away) shots per game and 10.5 3-pointers per game this season, ranking 19th and 21st respectively. The Magic are shooting 31.0 percent on threes and 37.5 percent — a 44.9 percent effective field goal percentage — in such situations.

On “wide-open” shots (where the defender is six or more feet away), the Magic are taking 22.3 such attempts per game (12th in the league) and 18.5 such attempts per game (also 12th in the league). They are making 32.4 percent of their 3-pointers on wide-open shots and 33.7 percent overall.

The Magic do simply need to make shots.

"“I think we’re doing a great job,” Jalen Suggs said after Tuesday’s game. “We’re doing what needs to be done. We’re doing the hard part. Now we just need to knock down the shots. That’s going to come with continued reps. We all have confidence in each other knowing we can make shots and knock them down. That’s all it is. Just continue to play the right way and not allowing this to make some big shift and stop doing what we’re doing. It’s leading to good things, we just have to execute and finish.”"

Suggs is a good example of this issue. He is shooting 41.0 percent from the floor overall and 6 for 20 on 3-pointers (30.0 percent). On these “open” and “wide-open” shots, Suggs is shooting 10 for 30 (33.3 percent, including 4 for 10 on “wide-open” shots) and all 6 of his 20 threes. All of his threes are either open or wide-open and he has made only 2 of his 11 wide-open threes.

Other notable players struggling in this category. Franz Wagner is 10 for 26 on open and wide-open threes (38.5 percent). Paolo Banchero is 6 for 20 (30.0 percent) on these shots.

Orlando just has to make these open opportunities.

It is still really early in the season. And while the Magic are not expected to be a great shooting team, they will certainly shoot better. Orlando’s players and coaching staff seem to have faith that there will be a breakthrough or some game to make the stats look normal.

The team has not found its level. The Magic will keep focusing on creating these looks. And eventually they will have to make them to break the defense and get them to come out of the paint.

That might be the biggest key though. Orlando’s whole focus this season is putting pressure on the rim and scoring in the paint. That should be the basis for everything the team is doing.

So far this season, the Magic are ninth in the league scoring 51.5 points in the paint per game. This is encouraging for the team being able to grow its offense. Winning the paint — the team is third in the league giving up 43.5 points in the paint per game — is the key to this team’s success.

But here, the Magic can be even better. Orlando is fifth in the league with 30.3 field goal attempts per game in the restricted area this season. But the team is shooting 67.0 percent on these shots, 14th in the league. The Magic are also shooting 15.3 field goal attempts per game in the paint outside the restricted area but making only 32.6 percent of those shots.

Orlando plays a slower game and limit its possessions. So misses do feel bigger because the Magic are a lower-possession team. But there is something here that Orlando is getting to the basket and getting some open shots and missing a lot.

Quite simply the way to fix the Magic is to keep working for quality shots and to make them. That will make everyone’s life easier — especially the team’s defense which does appear to be the real deal.

No doubt, offense has been difficult for the team so far this season, despite the chances to win against the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers on this road trip (the team is 1-1 in those games).

The good flow and vibes from the 118 points scored against the Houston Rockets or the beautiful flow from the preseason feel completely gone.

Take out the 120.8 offensive rating in the opener against the Rockets and the Magic have a 102.7 offensive rating and a negative net rating despite a solid 107.0 defensive rating (12th in the league though taking out the Rockets game).

Stats are still not quite stuck yet. Outliers can have huge swings on the full-season numbers at this point.

Next. Orlando Magic need more from Paolo Banchero. dark

But sometimes too the answers are simple. The Magic just need to make shots. And that might be why the Magic are not panicking or changing much. They know they are getting decent looks and right now they are not going down. That shooting “luck” can turn at any moment.