Orlando Magic v New York Knicks

How they can win it all: The Orlando Magic


I’m going to get a few jokes out of the way before we start this, okay? I want to give the Magic their due. I do. And I will. I just have to get a few of these out of the way. See, I’ll even use bullets to keep it short.

How the Magic can win it all:

  • Use the time-traveling technology from the “Terminator” series to send Chris Duhon back (he’s expendable) and warn Otis Smith about Vince Carter/Gilbert Arenas.
  • Create magical formula to boost 3-point shooting efficiency by 700%, bringing them to a top five team.
  • Put Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson in a blender for six to seven minutes and hope a legit well-rounded power-forward comes out of it.

Okay, so realistically what has to happen?

Shots Gotta Fall

The “Live by the three, die by the three” thing is played out. It really is. Every great team needs to hit some perimeter shots, and the Magic don’t shoot ill-advised threes (most of the time). It’s a product of their system. But that only works for them when they actually, you know, hit. The Magic are a great defensive team, but their postseason success has been defined by hot shooting. Gilbert Arenas absolutely must get hot if the Magic are going to have a chance. Ryan Anderson will help, as will a healthy J.J. Redick. But if Arenas is getting as many minutes as he does and still taking terrible threes and missing even worse, Orlando doesn’t have the weaponry it used to.

Dwight has to prove it

A lot of people think Dwight Howard should be the MVP over Derrick Rose. If he wants to make an Olajuwon like statement about his inevitable snub, now would be a great time to. Howard has the ability to take over a game and just overwhelm teams with his physical abilities. He has to put that kind of effort in, consistently, if the Magic are going to win it all. It has to be one of the great offensive showcases by a center in NBA history. I wish I was exaggerating. It has to be legendary. If he just goes through his 20-12 motions, it won’t be enough for the Magic to advance past the second round.

SVG has to keep their heads

SVG will lose the team eventually. That’s not a knock on SVG. He’s one of the top three coaches in the league in any given year. He’s a brilliant tactician, patient, motivates his guys and gets consistent effort. But if this team, whose chemistry is still an unknown, starts to drift, things will come apart. 2009’s success for Orlando was determined by faith in themselves, faith in the system. SVG has to keep getting his guys to buy in night after night.

In reality, there’s not a lot Orlando can do to win it all. Chicago’s defense will stifle them on the perimeter, Boston would pound them on the interior, the Heat would overwhelm them with firepower, and the Lakers, well, we’ve seen that act before. The window closed on Orlando despite their best efforts. The window was firmly open, and then just like that, it closed. If the Magic were to make the Finals and win, it would be one of the biggest upsets in NBA history.  The fact that the Magic were in the Finals just two years ago shows you how fast these things can change.

But if they get hot from the perimeter…

Chris Paul drops Rudy Gobert with stepback (and Gobert says why)

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When Chris Paul recognized he got matched up with Rudy Gobert in transition, he slowed it down and set it up for an isolation — then used his step back to drop him to the ground and drain the open midrange. It’s one of the better highlight plays from the Clippers this season (and they have more than a few in Lob City).

Did CP3 push off on Gobert? Of course. Welcome to the NBA, every player who drives pushes off (including Gordon Hayward). It looked like to be Gobert tried to sell the contact and didn’t get the call he wanted.

However, after the game Gobert tweeted it was something else entirely.

Either way the Jazz got the win Wednesday night, 102-91, snapping a 13-game losing streak to the Clippers. The Jazz are .500 on the season with the win (7-7), while the Clippers drop back to below .500 (7-8) with some issues to sort out still.

Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Stories to be thankful for this season

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson
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Happy Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the day, our five takeaways have become five storylines we should be thankful for this young NBA season. We at PBT are thankful to you for being here, reading our work, and, of course, we’re thankful for stuffing (the best part of the Thanksgiving meal). 

1) Record-setting Golden State revolutionizing the game. The Warriors’ revolution will be televised. And copied by half the league or more. Golden State put together the personnel to take full advantage of the current rules (zone defenses, no hand checking on the perimeter), to take what Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash started to do in Phoenix and win with it. Golden State is at the forefront of the small ball revolution sweeping the league because they can make it work — but nobody can quite copy it because nobody has Stephen Curry or Draymond Green. Those guys are the lynchpins. Curry is the perfect modern point guard, one who can shoot the three comfortably out to nearly 30 feet, but can also recognize the defense and set guys up. Green is his dangerous pick-and-roll partner who makes going small work because their defense doesn’t suffer when they do.

Golden State is kind of like Brazil in international soccer — they’re everybody’s second favorite team to watch because they play such a beautiful and entertaining game. And in the case of Golden State they are winning doing it — they are a record-setting 16-0 to start the season after they won the NBA title. They are the bar to clear in the NBA right now.

2) Kristaps Porzingis, Karl-Anthony Towns lead an impressive rookie class. Even Porzingis’ biggest supporters on draft night thought it would be a year or two before he could contribute at the NBA level. Nope, he’s good right now with the potential for greatness. Karl-Anthony Towns had great offensive moves and vision but back at the draft was seen as a defensive project (especially off the ball). Nope, he is an effective rim protector and pick-and-roll defender now who looks like a franchise cornerstone big man (to go with franchise cornerstone wing Andrew Wiggins) in Minnesota. Justise Winslow is already a good NBA defender who can get some points for Miami on offense. Jahlil Okafor is as advertised, a scoring machine when he gets the ball in the post. Emmanuel Mudiay is improving and showing strong NBA potential up in Denver. Stanley Johnson and Frank Kaminsky are already contributing in Detroit and Charlotte, respectively. And the list goes on.

This is a great rookie class that is going to be fun to watch for a long time.

3) Highlights like these. The NBA’s highlight factory is back in full session with plays like these from Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin — and these were just Wednesday night’s plays. It’s like this every night.

4) Paul George is back. This is maybe my favorite story of the young season — I was not sure we’d ever see peak Paul George again after his horrific leg injury playing for Team USA. He is all the way back and more. George has scored at least 25 points in nine straight games, he has developed a much more reliable jump shot, and he can still play lock-down defense. He is back to being an elite player, and with him the Pacers are back to being a good and potentially danger ous playoff team (9-5 so far, with a top five defense). 

5) Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan are defying Father Time. Nowitzki’s jumper seemed to be deserting him in recent seasons, and then this season he has gone and gotten it back — he’s shooting 51 percent from three this season. Teams have to game plan for him again like it’s 2011. Duncan and Manu Ginobili are playing their best ball in years for what felt like it could be the final run for this era of the Spurs — San Antonio has been the second best team in the NBA so far. Duncan is playing great defense and understands what he can still do efficiently on offense. Duncan and Nowitzki could well be All-Stars in the West — and they will have earned it, they deserve it for their play.

LeBron James calls Cavs players’ only meeting after loss to Raptors

LeBron James

Yes, the Cavaliers are 11-4 on the season and on top of the East. Yes, they are outscoring teams by 6.7 points per 100 possessions, which is fourth best in the NBA. They have the third best offense in the league. All that without their starting backcourt (Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert). There are reasons to be optimistic.

But the Cavaliers have a middle-of-the-pack defense and their efforts have been up and down. Wednesday night was one of those down nights, they lost on the road to Toronto, dropping the Cavs to 3-4 outside Quicken Loans Arena. All those losses are to teams in the East.

It was enough for LeBron James and James Jones to call a players-only meeting, reports Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

Following a 103-99 road loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers held a players-only meeting during which LeBron James and James Jones got on the team for its inconsistent play through the Cavs’ 11-4 start to the season, multiple sources told ESPN.com….

“It’s all mindset,” James said after the game, still visibly frustrated. “It comes from within. I’ve always had it; my upbringing had me like that. It’s either you got it or you don’t.”

When asked whether fatigue was a factor, James said, “No. It’s not an excuse.” When another reporter asked whether injuries were to blame, James repeated, “It’s not an excuse.”

Injuries and fatigue did play a role, this was a team without four regular rotation players and that puts more of a burden on everyone else. Players can’t look at it that way, but injuries are a reality and they are impacting the Cavaliers right now.

But I get it. LeBron is trying to set a tone, one he learned in Miami and is now trying to instill in the Cavaliers. It’s about effort, it’s about attention to detail, it’s about building good habits over the course of a season so they can pay off in the playoffs. The Cavs are winning, they look clearly like the best team in the East once healthy, and yet LeBron rightfully isn’t convinced they could beat Golden State or San Antonio right now. The good news is they don’t have to beat them right now, but they need to beat them eventually. The building blocks for that are laid during the season. He wants that building to start going up.

But getting guys healthy would solve a lot of those problems.