Orlando Magic are surging from three by taking fewer of them

The Orlando Magic are still not considered a strong 3-point shooting team. But during a push in the schedule recently, Orlando has started hitting from the outside by taking fewer 3-pointers.

Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic are experiencing a shooting surge, even as they decrease their volume from three.
Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic are experiencing a shooting surge, even as they decrease their volume from three. / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
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Everyone's frustrations over the lackluster All-Star Game was keeping the loud parts quiet.

There were frustrations over the general lack of effort in that game. But the game was also a product of the times. Teams freely hoist three-pointers from further and further back. It was easy for a team to run away with the game with how low the effort was. The East won because they made their threes.

The cynics would say this is proof the NBA is not at its best. The games come down to who makes the most threes. We may indeed be hitting a tipping point where three-point volume is so high that it is no longer the right shot.

The bigger tale of the 3-point shot in the NBA will get told and will evolve as teams worry about the thing in front of them -- winning the games.

And that is where the Orlando Magic are sitting. They are trying to figure out how to win games with the sixth-worst 3-point field goal percentage in the league. How does a team win without reliable 3-point shooting?

That has been the central conundrum this year. But the Magic have discovered something. Or at least they are going through a hot shooting streak lately. Orlando is starting to hit 3-pointers.

The surprising thing about that is the Magic are taking fewer threes than at any point in the season. They are suddenly a low-volume and high-efficiency 3-point shooting team. That is a formula for success. The question will be whether they can make this last.

For now, Orlando is reaping the rewards.

The Magic have won eight of their past 11 games. In those 11 games, the Magic have an offensive rating of 114.6 points per 100 possessions. That is still 17th in the league but is more than respectable (the defense has slipped some to 113.1, slightly above the league median in the last 11 games).

In those 11 games, the Magic have been one of the best shooting teams in the league. They are hitting 40.1 percent from deep, the fourth-best mark among teams' last 11 games.

In the last 11 games, the Magic have five rotation players shooting better than 40.0 percent on threes -- Joe Ingles (51.9 percent), Gary Harris (47.8 percent), Wendell Carter (41.7 percent), Paolo Banchero (40.5 percent) and Jonathan Isaac (40.0 percent). Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony are sitting at 39.3 and 39.1 percent in the last 11 games.

Everything looks better when you are making shots. The Magic are making shots right now.

The Magic though are doing this on a surprisingly low volume of 3-point shots. They are generally not a high-volume 3-point shooting team anyway -- the Magic are 28th in the league overall with 31.1 3-point attempts per game. But in the last 11 games, the Magic have been more selective, taking only 29.0 per game, the second-fewest in the league.

At this point, the Magic taking more than 30 3-pointers is usually a sign of trouble. This is not a team that can settle for threes, regardless of whether it makes them or not. Orlando is only 4-16 when the team takes more than 35 3-point attempts.

This is more about the team's identity than anything else.

The Magic are not a volume 3-point shooting team. Their focus on offense is about getting to the paint and putting pressure on the rim -- indeed, in the last 11 games, the Magic are averaging 53.1 points in the paint per game. But that is not so different than the team's overall average of 52.3 points in the paint per game.

Orlando is getting 45.0 field goal attempts per game in the paint this season. In the last 11 games, the team is getting 45.6 attempts per game in the paint.

What is the difference and where are these shots going? Are they taking more mid-range shots? What about the quality of the team's 3-point shots?

The Magic are experiencing a surge in 3-point efficiency. They are making shots. That has always been the solution.

The Magic have typically done a good job getting open shots. The issue has never been about that, even as defenses seem OK to give up open shots to the Magic.

Orlando is taking 18.0 3-point attempts per game with the closest defender six or more feet away this season (making 38.4 percent of these shots) and 10.6 attempts per game with the closest defender 4-6 feet away (making only 33.6 percent of these shots).

That is 28.6 of the team's 31.1 attempts per game. Overall, 91.9 percent of the team's 3-point attempts come with the closest defender four or more feet away.

In the last 11 games, the Magic are averaging 17.6 3-point attempts per game with the closest defender more than six feet away (but making 43.8 percent of those shots). The team is taking 9.3 3-point attempts per game with the closest defender 4-6 feet away, but making 37.3 percent of these shots.

Again, 92.8 percent of the team's overall 3-point attempts come with the closest defender four or more feet away. These are typically quality shots the Magic just needed to make.

The Magic may be selective with their 3-point shooting. But the numbers seem to suggest, they are not passing up on good shots. And, most importantly, they are making shots. That makes everything look good.

Maybe that was the solution for this team all along. And finally healthy, players are finding their rhythm. In the last 11 games, 109 of the team's 128 3-pointers are assisted. The team is averaging 25.9 assists per game in the last 11 games (up from 24.9 assists per game for the season to date).

Things are just fitting together and there is not a lot to put your finger on. The Magic are not doing a whole lot of things differently. They are just making shots.

Symbolically, taking fewer threes suggests the team is more aggressive in getting to the basket. But the solution comes down to making shots. That has always been the secret formula for this team. It makes everything look good.

For now, everything is clicking for the Magic -- save for the injury concerns the team is facing with both Jonathan Isaac and Paolo Banchero QUESTIONABLE for Tuesday's game. There are still bumps in the road.

Magic beyond excuses 02.26.24. Orlando Magic have to be beyond excuses. dark. Next

Orlando is making things work with an even lower volume of shots somehow, bucking trends around the league. Time will tell if this is a sustainable formula.