Denton: Magic Looking to be More Efficient on Offense

By John Denton
May 1, 2012

ORLANDO – Because their margin for error is so small with superstar center Dwight Howard out injured, the Orlando Magic usually have to scrap and claw just to stay within reach of full-strength teams such as the Indiana Pacers.

Orlando’s perseverance paid off in a big way in Saturday’s Game 1 when it withstood an early Indiana punch, gamely hung around in the second half and stole a victory by scoring the final 11 points to wipe out a seven-point deficit.

A similar scenario seemed to be in play in Monday’s Game 2 when Orlando overcame an 11-point hole with an inspiring second quarter to surge into halftime with a two-point lead and dreams of a 2-0 start in the series.

But because the Magic had to work so hard in that first half – they overcame 31.9 percent with 12 gritty offensive rebounds and six 3-pointers – that it caught up with them after halftime. A 30-13 third quarter – and especially a crushing 14-0 Indiana run – doomed the Magic in Game 2, allowing the Pacers to even the best-of-seven series at 1-all.

Now, as the Magic head back to the comfort of the Amway Center for Wednesday’s Game 3, they are desperately seeking ways to become more effective and efficient offensively to erase that small margin of error. The sixth-seeded Magic are fully aware that they will have to play better, especially on the offensive end, if are to upset the No. 3 Pacers.

``We get a chance to go back and play off the momentum of our crowd and play better than we did (on Monday,’’ Magic forward Ryan Anderson said. ``We know we can play a lot better. We just need to come out with a great will than (the Pacers) and limit our turnovers. Every play for us has to be exact and it comes down to execution.’’

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, for one, is worried about Orlando’s size disadvantage at virtually every position on the floor. Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, all 6-foot-8 of him, has had trouble with 7-3 Roy Hibbert, while 6-8 wing players Danny Granger and Paul George and 6-3 point guard George Hill have worn down the Magic’s perimeter players.

``You do worry with guys playing 40 minutes and it’s hard work and guys wear down,’’ Van Gundy said. ``The one thing that we all know – and I don’t care what the sport is – when you are giving away size the thing you worry about is wearing down over time. There’s an old saying that as the game goes on the quick guys slow down a little bit, but the tall guys don’t shrink. So that’s the advantage of size and we just have to keep battling and fighting.’’

The series is tied despite the numbers being somewhat unsightly so far for the Magic. In the two playoff games, the Magic are shooting 37.6 percent from floor and 34.7 percent from 3-point range, while averaging just 79.5 points per game. The Magic scored 78 points and shot 35.5 percent on Monday just two days after scoring 81 points and hitting 39.5 percent on Saturday.

By comparison, the Magic shot 44.1 percent overall and 37.5 percent from 3-point range and averaged 94.2 points during the regular season.

Those regular-season numbers, of course, were mostly with a healthy Howard, who is out for the rest of the playoffs after having back surgery to repair a herniated disc. Orlando had Hedo Turkoglu in the regular season, but he’s been limited in the postseason so far by the protective mask he’s wearing to protect three fractures below his right eye.

In two games, Turkoglu has made just seven of 21 shots. That’s even more impressive considering that he has complained to the Magic bench several times that he has little to no peripheral vision because of the mask he’s forced to wear.

``He hasn’t played great, but he’s just getting back. He’s giving us everything that he has and his effort has been tremendous,’’ Van Gundy said. ``This would have been easy with his injury and Dwight being out for him to just bail. The injury itself should have taken longer (to recover). I’m just happy he’s out there giving us everything that he has. Hopefully he’ll play better as the series goes on. The mask can’t be a comfortable situation and I give him all of the credit in the world for being out there playing.’’

The Magic are hoping that Monday’s day off will restore their energy and they will also get an emotional lift from the home crowd at the Amway Center. The Magic and the Pacers split two games in Orlando during the regular season.

Orlando had hopes of heading home with a 2-0 lead, especially after the way that Davis played in Monday’s first half. However, 14 of his 18 points and eight of his 10 rebounds came in the first 24 minutes, and he simply could not keep up that pace in the second half.

``We would have liked to have gotten two wins, but we fell short. But we switched the home court advantage back to us,’’ Davis said. ``Now, we get the opportunity to go back home to our crowd, but at the same time we can’t just rely on that. We have to be more aggressive and find our niche on offense. We have to do a better job of getting guys the ball at the right time.’’

Magic reserve shooting guard J.J. Redick, who had 13 points in Monday’s loss, is confident that the Magic will find ways to be more efficient offensively against the longer, bigger Pacers in Game 3. The Magic were able to pull Hibbert away from the basket more in Game 2 after he blocked nine shots in Game 1. The Magic’s pick-and-roll game was actually much more effective in Game 2 with Hibbert on the floor than he was when he was off. Indiana led just 57-55 when Hibbert ran over Anderson for his fourth foul and headed to the bench. From there, Indiana scored the game’s next 13 points to pull away for the victory.

Redick said that Van Gundy is too good a coach and the Magic have too many weapons to continue to struggle offensively despite their limitations because of a lack of size and shortage of depth.

``In this series the games are going to be won in the half court,’’ Redick said. ``Stan will figure it out and we’ll get better shots. (Van Gundy) is smart enough to make the adjustments and we have guys on our team who can figure it out and we’ll get better shots. I’m very confident of that.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com

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