Magic Doing Terrific Job Closing Out and Contesting Shots

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

By Josh CohenNov. 20, 2016

ORLANDO - There’s a reason why the Magic’s opponents take the third lowest number of 3-pointers per game in the NBA. Through 13 games, opponents are averaging just 22.8 3-point attempts and they’re shooting 34.5 percent from beyond the arc.

The Magic are doing an excellent job closing out on the perimeter, contesting shots and forcing opponents off the 3-point line. Orlando ranks eighth this season in total contested shots (830).

Also, over the last five games, the Magic rank No. 1 in the league in defensive field goal percentage (40.5 percent) and seventh in defensive 3-point percentage (33.1 percent).

Orlando’s defense this past week has been suffocating. The Magic have been able to overcome anemic offense with staunch defense. While Frank Vogel has admitted the plan is not to be first in defense and last in offense, it’s true that this team was built with defensive principles in mind.

So, what has changed in these past several games? You can see the difference in intensity and alertness from the entire team. They give very little space for opponents to operate. They are boxing out and preventing second chance opportunities. They are recovering quickly and providing terrific weak side defensive help. Let’s take a look at a couple of key defensive plays from the Magic’s win over the Mavs.

In the play featured below, the Mavs swing the ball around the perimeter. What’s noticeable is how fast each Magic defender is able to race out to the 3-point line and inhibit the Mavs from creating enough space to launch a high percentage shot. Evan Fournier closes out on Wesley Matthews, Aaron Gordon closes out on Harrison Barnes and Elfrid Payton makes a nice contest on Seth Curry. WATCH:

C.J. Watson is a much better defender than he gets credit for. In fact, Watson ranks No. 1 on the Magic in defensive field goal percentage. Opponents are shooting 33.3 percent from the field against him (those same opponents average 40.5 percent shooting this season) and 22.2 percent from 3-point distance (those same opponents average 33.8 shooting from deep).

In the play featured below, Nikola Vucevic switches on Matthews and keeps his arms and body straight up. Subsequently, watch Watson’s awareness. First, he helps deny an entry pass by guarding Andrew Bogut. He, then, races out to defend Curry and forces him into a tough baseline jumper. WATCH:

It’s often the things you don’t see in the box score or in highlight reels that define good defensive teams. Lately, the Magic have been paying attention to those obscure details and it’s helping them immensely.