Magic Playing Effective Inside-Out Basketball

By John Denton
Feb. 6, 2018

ORLANDO – Like a boxer with a big knockout punch, the Orlando Magic are giving themselves a chance to win every game of late with their ability to batter foes with flurries of 3-point haymakers.

Orlando came into Wednesday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers riding a four-game streak where they have made at least 10 3-pointers each time. In the last 10 games – a stretch that includes wins against Boston, Minnesota, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers – the Magic have drilled double-digit 3-pointers seven times.

Recently, Orlando set a franchise record for 3-pointers in a quarter (nine) and they tied a season high for threes in a game (18). On Monday in Miami, the Magic wiped out an early 12-point deficit and surged ahead by as much as 14 points thanks, in part, to drilling 13 3-pointers.

``Guys are shooting with confidence right now because everybody is getting the opportunity and getting to touch the ball,’’ said reserve point guard D.J. Augustin, who made three 3-pointers on Monday in Miami and has made 11 of 24 in his previous five games. ``We’ve just got to keep playing like that. We’ve been stressing playing like this all season and now it’s starting to click.’’

In their 10 games prior to Wednesday, the Magic have shot 38.4 percent from the 3-point line – good for the sixth-best accuracy in the NBA since Jan. 12. Also, the Magic have made 10.9 3-pointers a game in that same timeframe – the 12th most in the league.

For the season, the Magic rank 15th in the NBA in 3-point makes a game (10.5), 13th in 3-point attempts (29.2) and 18th in 3-point accuracy (35.9 percent). Those numbers are significant improvements over last season when Orlando often faced big deficits at the 3-point line.

``We’re playing inside-out basketball by design and the shot selection this year is far better than last year,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``Part of (growing) young players is helping them to understand (strong shot selection). Part of trying to build what we’re trying to build takes time. Our team improvement in shot selection is the biggest reason for that jump.

SIMMONS STRONG: The Magic came into Tuesday unsure as to whether guard Jonathan Simmons would play because of an ankle injury he suffered on Monday. That was probably surprising to Magic fans that watched the 111-109 defeat of Miami considering that Simmons had what proved to be the game-winning dunk with 1:31 remaining.

Simmons, who was ultimately cleared to play on Tuesday, hurt his ankle as the Magic saw a 14-point lead disappear in the fourth quarter. His left-handed layup with 4:02 remaining was Orlando’s only points during a 16-2 burst by Miami that tied the game at 109. With the Magic needing a basket to avoid a major collapse, Evan Fournier got the ball to Simmons just as the defense opened up and the guard aggressively drove hard to the rim and dunked with authority.

``I just made plays down the stretch because Coach (Vogel) and my teammates trusted me with the ball,’’ said Simmons, who scored 10 of his 16 points after halftime. ``I just made a play.’’

That winning play almost never happened because of Simmons’ ankle sprain earlier. However, he convinced Vogel that he was healthy enough to go down the stretch and he certainly showed no signs of weakness on the dunk for the winning points.

``That’s one of those things where your adrenaline is still going,’’ Vogel said. ``Once he came back out, I wasn’t really going to put him back in the game at that point. But knowing how ankles are, the more you sit, the (stiffer) that it gets. So, I wanted to get him back in there. But, you know, afterward, it’s going to tighten up and swell up.’’

TRADE TALK: With the NBA’s trade deadline falling on Thursday – approximately two weeks earlier than usual as the NBA adjusted the date of it this season – it’s understandable that some players would be concerned about their futures.

Vogel said he hasn’t addressed the matter with his team – not this season, nor any season before it. The coach said that players, for the most part, understand that the possibility of getting traded is part of the business of pro sports.

``I’m sure it’s there, it’s natural and every player in the league is feeling that (trepidation),’’ Vogel said of the trade deadline. ``I don’t know that I’ve ever talked to a player about the trade deadline. I think everyone understands that it’s part of the business.’’

Vogel said the one time he did talk trades with a player was last season when a false internet rumor stated that the Magic had dealt veteran forward Jeff Green. Vogel went to Green after the deadline to stress that the Magic never tried trading him.

UP NEXT: After playing Monday in Miami and Tuesday at home against Cleveland, the Magic will get a much-needed day off on Wednesday. The Magic will be back in action on Thursday when they host the Atlanta Hawks.

The Magic and Hawks have split two games thus far – Orlando winning 110-106 in overtime on Dec. 6 at the Amway Center and Atlanta winning 117-110 on its home floor on Dec. 9.

The Magic will wrap up their three-game home stand on Saturday when they host superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

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