Victor Oladipo Much-Improved 3-Point Shooter

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By John Denton
March 21, 2016

BOSTON – A recent hot stretch from 3-point range for Orlando’s Victor Oladipo was a product of the standout guard spending countless hours – after practice, before games and late at night in nearly empty gyms – working to perfect his stroke.

Now, if Oladipo can make another major jump in his 3-point stroke it could tremendously aid the advancement of the Magic’s offense, head coach Scott Skiles said.

``Victor really works hard on his game. He’s a factor on both ends always, but for his career and for (the Magic) going forward, if he can become a 36-to-37 percent 3-point shooter, more guys will be flying at him and it will open up driving lanes for him,’’ said Skiles, who believes that Oladipo (a career 33.8 percent 3-point shooter) can still make several more big steps with his 3-point shot. ``He really, really works hard at it and when somebody works like that eventually it’s going to pay off. Then, you’re happy when he has a game like he did (last Friday).’’

Last Friday, Oladipo pumped in a career best 45 points by making 16 of 22 shots, six of seven shots and seven of eight free throws. He easily topped his previous high of 38 points set in March of 2015 and he also set new highs for field goals made and 3-point shots made in a game.

Oladipo entered Monday’s game in Boston shooting 34.8 percent from 3-point range – a mark that’s better than the 32.7 percent he shot as a rookie and the 33.9 percent he shot last season. In the first 10 games of March, Oladipo has averaged 21.8 points while connecting on 38.9 percent of his threes. And in the 16 games since the NBA All-Star break, the guard has boosted his 3-point accuracy to 35.3 percent.

Skiles thinks there’s still another level for Oladipo to get to as a shooter.

``You could tell (last Friday) night on his release that he felt like every ball was going in. That’s what you feel like (when you’re in the zone),’’ Skiles said. ``I wouldn’t put a ceiling on (Oladipo’s shooting percentage); I don’t know why he couldn’t shoot 40 percent. But from a guard perspective when you’re going into a game and you look at 3-point percentages and you see guys at 38 percent or better, then it’s in the game plan that you have to get that guy off the (3-point line).’’

PAYTON’S PLACE: After missing five games with a sprained right elbow, Elfrid Payton was back in action on Sunday in Toronto – but used as a reserve. He was in that same role again on Monday in Boston, but that could be changing soon.

``Depending on his elbow, we’re going to put him back in the starting lineup,’’ Skiles said of Payton, who sprained his right elbow on March 8 when he caught it between two Los Angeles Lakers players. ``We’re not going to (Monday) because I’d like that thing to be fully healed and be pretty much pain free before we did that.’’

Payton played 17 minutes on Sunday and made one of his three shots. He handed out four assists and grabbed two rebounds, but it was the defensive end of the floor where Skiles wanted to see more activity from a point guard who got to the NBA on the stretch of his ball pressure.

``When (Payton) came into the game – nothing against (Toronto’s Delon) Wright, but he’s a third-string point guard – and we’d like (Payton) to pressure the heck out of that guy instead of being 4 feet off of him,’’ Skiles said. ``We’ve said it many times, when (Payton) is really, really turned on he’s really effective; and when he’s not quite (as energized), he’s not as effective.’’

BOARD WORK: The Magic were once again without center Nikola Vucevic on Monday night because of a strained right groin. That meant that Skiles was left searching once again for rebounding from his short-handed roster.

Vucevic, who hasn’t played since March 4, is Orlando’s leading scorer (17.8 ppg.) and rebounder (9.0 rpg.). Not having the 7-footer available has effected the Magic greatly in terms of rebounding and low-post scoring.

In the first eight games that Vucevic missed, Orlando was outrebounded in seven of those. Not only are foes grabbing 5.9 rebounds more a game, they have corralled 86 offensive rebounds (10.8 a game) in the last eight without Vucevic. In particular, Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson (15 rebounds, four offensive) and Toronto’s Bismack Biyombo (11 rebounds, five offensive) have throttled the Magic on the glass.

Dewayne Dedmon (3.5 rpg.) has started of late in place of Vucevic, but Skiles opted for Andrew Nicholson (3.5 rpg.) along with reserve forward Ersan Ilyasova (5.5 rpg.) down the stretch in Sunday’s loss in Toronto.

``We’re going to search until we find (rebounding),’’ Skiles said. ``(Sunday), when you look at our game, there’s multiple times that Biyombo is jumping, jumping, jumping and our guys are our three guys are standing on the ground while he’s jumping. So we’re just kind of searching around right now.’’