Film Room: Magic Look Like Better Defensive Team With Terrence Ross

By Josh Cohen
March 4, 2017

It’s a small sample size – four games to be exact – but the Magic appear to be a better defensive team with Terrence Ross as opposed to Serge Ibaka.

Understandably, four games aren’t enough to come to any definitive conclusions. However, the Magic’s speed and versatility is playing in their favor.

Ross, for one, is an underrated perimeter defender. He helped limit Dion Waiters to just 1-of-11 shooting from the field in Orlando’s victory over Miami on Friday. Aaron Gordon has been more of a help/switch defender and that is lessening the burden when his teammates aren’t able to elude a screen. And while he’s not the fastest or most intimidating in the paint, Nikola Vucevic is holding his ground inside.

Over these last four games, the Magic rank fifth in opponent points per game (99.5) and eighth in opponent made 3-pointers (8.5). They are doing a superb job closing out on shooters and contesting shots along the arc.

Orlando also ranks fourth in limiting points off turnovers and seventh in opponent second chance points during this span.

By playing faster, the Magic are making it more difficult for opponents to play at their preferred rhythm. Let’s take a look at a few possessions that highlight Orlando’s defensive precision and toughness.

In the play featured below, Ross fights over a Goran Dragic flare screen, which denies Waiters from garnering space to catch and shoot. Then, Gordon makes the appropriate switch onto Waiters when the ball screen comes and he is forced into a difficult corner 3-pointer. WATCH:

Here is an example of great defensive rotation. As Waiters creeps into the lane, Vucevic is there to greet him and contest. But more importantly, watch how Gordon and Evan Fournier slide down toward the lane (realizing Waiters is not a playmaker in this situation) to deny Willie Reed from collecting a pass on the roll. WATCH:

Gordon’s individual defense is hard to rival. He has outstanding anticipation and timing. You can tell he does his homework before games. Against Carmelo Anthony on this possession, he demonstrates the whole package. He stays low, keeps his hands active and has super quick foot speed to stay in front of Anthony. WATCH: