Orlando Magic's lack of 3-point shooting hinders their ability to catch up

The Orlando Magic had a historically bad shooting night in their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. It continues to raise issues with the team's relationship with 3-pointers and whether it is something the team can resolve internally.

Cole Anthony and the Orlando Magic are struggling to create 3-point shots and struggling to make the ones they do get.
Cole Anthony and the Orlando Magic are struggling to create 3-point shots and struggling to make the ones they do get. / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
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The Orlando Magic did not make a 3-pointer in 10 attempts during the first half of their game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. It was noticeable in a modern NBA that seems to be all about 3-point shooting.

When Paolo Banchero got the ball and finally drained one from deep. He ran down the court with a relieved expression on his face. Finally one went down.

There would not be much more relief as Orlando lost the game 121-111 and made only one more 3-pointer in the game.

There were a lot of reasons for that defeat -- including another poor first quarter that put the team behind the 8-ball and in the hole. But the team making 2 of 23 3-pointers stood out like a sore thumb.

Cleveland, for the record, hit seven in the first quarter alone and 14 for the game. Those 12 3-pointers -- and 36 points -- were difficult to overcome in a 10-point loss.

"I think we could have made some shots. That would have been nice.," Jamahl Mosley said after Wednesday's game in assessing his team's performance. "Listen, you give them 37 points to start the first quarter, I think that's where it began. Then you are playing catch up from there. So you spot a team 17 points to start the game and then you are chasing a little bit."

Being down big so early and having to play some catch-up definitely affected the team. The avalanche of 3-pointers for a second straight game -- the Brooklyn Nets made six of their 14 3-pointers in the first quarter to take a 21-point lead -- left the Magic scrambling to climb uphill. And without any constant threat from beyond the arc, it became tough for the team to catch up.

To be sure, the Magic's biggest problem early in that game and throughout the loss to the Cavaliers was the team's overall defense and setting the team up for success. This is not a Magic team that is often going to be able to keep up from deep.

When the Cavaliers started hitting shots and the Magic could not match, the team seemed to be pressing. And as the misses seemed to pile up, the pressure to make shots only increased.

"I think early in the game, we passed up some open ones, and I think when you pass up some open ones that throws your rhythm off a little bit," Banchero said after Wednesday's loss. "Some nights it's tough. You have tough shooting nights. [Wednesday] was one of those nights. You can't get discouraged. We have to keep taking threes. We're going to knock them down."

Every team is going to have a bad shooting night. If a team loses because it missed shots, that is something they can live with as long as the shot quality is fine.

No team wants to shoot as poorly as the Magic ended up shooting. And it is not like the team was not shooting quality shots in those attempts.

Both of Orlando's makes and 12 of the team's 23 attempts were considered open according to NBA.com's tracking stats (when the closest defender was 4-6 feet away). The team went 0 for 7 on wide-open attempts (when the closest defender was six or more feet away).

That means all but four attempts were at least subjectively "open" shots. The Magic need to continue taking those shots when they come and work to create more of those shots.

That may be the bigger issue may be more that Orlando does not generate 3-pointers at all.

Orlando ranked 27th in the league last year with 31.1 3-point attempts per game. This year, the team is 29th with 29.6 per game. The team is 25th in the league shooting 34.4 percent from deep.

Orlando's offense seems no worse for the wear. The team ranks 17th in offensive rating at 113.4 points per 100 possessions. The team is 16th in true shooting percentage at 57.7 percent, a credit to the team's focus on getting to the foul line to help make up this 3-point defense.

With those few attempts, the Magic are at least making sure to take good attempts. The Magic take 10.7 "open" attempts per game, the eighth fewest in the league, and 17.0 "wide open" attempts per game, the seventh-fewest in the league. They make just 38.5 percent of those wide-open attempts and 30.8 percent of those open attempts.

Regardless of anything else, the Magic need to make those shots. But at least 89.1 percent of their 3-point attempts are open or wide open according to NBA.com.

For reference, the Dallas Mavericks have taken the most 3-pointers in the NBA this season with 865 and only 79.7 percent of their shots are open or wide open. Of course, Dallas makes 42.3 percent of their wide-open shots.

At the end of the day, the Magic need to make shots. That is something they are doing at home, at least, where the team averages 29.1 attempts per game and makes 37.8 percent of those attempts compared to 30.8 percent on 30.2 attempts per game on the road.

The biggest conclusion is simple: The Magic are not a 3-point shooting team and are not looking to take a ton of attempts. Even their best shooters are fairly low-volume shooters.

Paolo Banchero is hitting 42.4 percent of his threes on just 3.1 attempts per game. Jalen Suggs has improved to get to 36.5 percent on 4.3 attempts per game. Sharpshooters Joe Ingles and Gary Harris are not even getting their shots up -- Ingles is at 38.5 percent on just 2.5 attempts per game and Harris is at 35.8 percent on 4.2 attempts per game.

Cole Anthony and Franz Wagner are about as high volume as the team gets. Anthony is shooting a cool 36.6 percent on just 3.9 attempts per game. And Wagner has struggled to 31.1 percent on a team-high 5.0 attempts per game. At least he has increased that volume some.

But it is noteworthy that Orlando's three heaviest 3-point shooters, only one is outperforming his shooting from last year in Suggs.

The Magic's problems on Wednesday were about making or missing shots. But it is still very much about getting attempts up and working to get those open shots. That was a quality that was perhaps missing in the loss to prevent the team from getting up more attempts and even more quality attempts.

"I applaud our guys for their effort to come back but we've got to start the game off better," Mosley said after Wednesday's game. "We have to be a little more attention to detail and focused on what we need to do defensively first. The shots we were taking, there were some where we could move the ball a little bit more. But we have to be willing to step in otherwise we're looking to cause turnovers in that situation if we don't take those shots."

Everything is part of the same piece. The Magic's lack of focus on defense early in the game was the start of the dominos that knocked down the Magic's shooting and put pressure on them to make shots.

Very clearly, this Orlando team is going to be selective about which 3-pointers it takes. This is not an offense necessarily designed for 3-point shooting. The team knows that is not its strength.

Wednesday was certainly a product of a bad shooting night. That will be tough for any team to overcome.

Next. 3 goals first quarter 12.06.23. 3 goals to reset after Orlando Magic's first 20 games. dark

The bigger question for this team moving forward -- especially when it gets to the postseason -- is whether it can sustain itself without more consistent shooting and even a more consistent shooting threat.