Orlando Magic v Indiana Pacers - Game Five

NBA Preview: Orlando Magic

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Last season: Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

The Magic won 37 games (to 29 losses) last season because for a stretch in the first half of the season they were one of the top-five teams in the NBA. Dwight Howard was putting up his usual MVP numbers (well, not last season next to LeBron but he should be in the conversation most years), the Magic were defending and on offense knocking down threes.

But from the first days the foundation was going to crumble and it came apart in a way worthy of The Days of Our Lives. Howard and his people were pushing hard for a trade to the Nets, and they had leverage with his ability to opt-out in the summer. Except the Magic were not playing along, wanting a better deal and not to give Howard what he wanted. Then Howard caved and opted-in with the Magic for next season, so they didn’t have to trade him. Then Stan Van Gundy threw Howard under the bus in front of he New York Media. Then Howard’s back injury worsened and he had to sit out of the playoffs.

The Magic got run in the first round of the playoffs by the Pacers, then they fired Stan Van Gundy, then they eventually traded Howard to the Lakers in a four-team deal that netted them essentially five picks (three future picks and two recent players) but none of them lottery picks.

Key Departures: Orlando is going the Oklahoma City model — they are looking to be terrible and get good again through the draft. Dwight Howard is gone. While that is obvious you really need to think through how big a loss that is — he is a three-time defensive player of the year who made them one of the better defensive teams in the league for years, plus he was the hub of their offense. He is arguably the third best player in basketball right now. That’s not easy to replace.

Also gone is stretch-four sharpshooter Ryan Anderson, a guy bordering on All-Star status. Then there is Jason Richardson. That would be three of the top four scorers for the Magic. By the way, numbers five and six on the scoring list last season — J.J. Redick and Hedo Turkoglu — can be yours in a trade for picks and prospects.

Key Additions: The best player they got in the Howard trade is Arron Afflalo, a solid two-way swingman who will be asked to do a lot more scoring than he has in the past but will play well. Through the trade they also landed rookie Moe Harkless, the St. John’s star who has promise but is raw. There also is Gustavo Ayon and Al Harrington, but you get the idea. The Magic did not make this trade trying to get better, they are intentionally going to be bad.

One guy who could catch on, Andrew Nicholson. You didn’t see him play in college unless you watched a lot of St. Bonaventure, but in Summer League he averaged 12.6 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. He will get a chance.

Orlando also added new head coach Jacque Vaughn, who gets thrown into the fire of his first NBA job in charge of a roster Phil Jackson couldn’t win with.

Three keys to the Magic season:

1) When do they trade J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis? The Magic are not going to be good this year, but they are going to get worse. Orlando is going with what is now called the Oklahoma City Thunder model of building through the draft. So the second they can unload one of these veterans for picks and prospects they will. Likely it all happens closer to the deadline, but you are going to hear a lot of Magic trade rumors. General Manager Rob Hennigan has a plan and they are not going halfway on it.

2) How many wins does Jameer Nelson get them? With all the roster changes and revamping the Magic brought Nelson back on a three-year deal. He is the one guy still on the roster who has proven he can up points plenty of at the NBA level, although last season he averaged 11.9 points and 5.7 assists per game. The light for Nelson will be green; he is now freed up to shoot pretty much whenever he wants. His career high is 16.7 points per game and don’t be shocked if he bests that.

But he’s not going to get them a lot of wins. (Not that the Magic brass want him to.) This is the guy you pair with an elite player, he is not elite. And his defense has not been impressive at all the past couple seasons.

3) Can Jacque Vaughn get the youth to develop? In the end for the Magic, it’s really about seeing if Moe Harkless and Andrew Nicholson can develop into solid complimentary players to the franchise guy they hope to draft down the line. Same with Kyle O’Quinn and Christian Eyenga. (Afflalo certainly would fit in, he’s proven it.) Right now it’s about developing talent for the long-term and seeing if the guys can fit in. And part of that has to fall to Vaughn to lead and teach them.

What Magic fans should fear: That the plan doesn’t really work. It’s not easy to land three years of consecutive top four picks like the Thunder did, and they were fortunate to have Kevin Durant fall to them. Then they nailed the Westbrook and Harden picks. Cleveland had the series of top picks as well and they have Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, and we’ll see how that plays out. But to get the picks is hard and to get the right guy at spots No. 2 and No. 4 is not easy (sometimes not even at No. 1).

This tear it down and build it back up strategy is the right one, but it’s far from easy or foolproof. And it’s going to take years to judge.

How it likely works out: Orlando will be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season, and Magic fans better be prepared for that. It’s not about wins, it’s about Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel. Expect trades mid-season and a lot of very hard-to-watch losses. Most painful may be that the biggest weakness will be big men in the paint.

The hope is that you see sparks from Harkless, that Nelson and Afflalo can provide some points and the team rallies around Vaughn and is competitive. We saw a lot of losses from the Hornets last season but they played hard for Monty Williams, they defended better, and that’s where the signs of hope will be for Magic fans.

Prediction: 22-60 and a whole lot of ping-pong balls. It’s not going to be pretty in the short term, but that is the plan.

Gordon Hayward scores 30 points as Jazz beat Wizards 102-92

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WASHINGTON (AP) Gordon Hayward scored 30 points, Rudy Gobert added 15 points and 20 rebounds, and the Utah Jazz beat the Washington Wizards 102-92 on Sunday for their third straight victory.

Northwest Division-leading Utah led by as many as 24 points before Washington got within six with just over 2 minutes left. Hayward hit a pair of jumpers to seal the win.

George Hill added 21 points for Utah.

Washington, the Southeast Division leader, has lost two in a row for the first time since early January. John Wall led the Wizards with 23 points and 11 assists. Bradley Beal, who was scoreless in the first half, added 22 points.

Utah converted 23 of 32 free throws, while Washington made 10 of 13. The Jazz outrebounded the Wizards 52-27.

Utah led 49-39 at halftime and opened a 62-43 lead with 6:48 left in the third quarter on Derrick Favors‘ dunk off a feed from Gobert, necessitating Wizards coach Scott Brooks’ second timeout of the quarter.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Hill soon increased the lead to 24.

Bojan Bogdanovic‘s 33-footer capped a 14-3 Wizards run to end the quarter and Utah’s lead was 73-60 to start the fourth.

Washington trailed by 16 when Wall hit a 3 and Beal followed with five quick points to make it 93-85 with 3:11 remaining. Bogdanovic’s two free throws cut the deficit to six at the 2:01 mark, but Hayward sandwiched a 3-pointer and a long 2 around a Washington turnover to stall the rally.

The Jazz shot 50 percent from the field and hit 13 of 18 free throws in the first half to build a 10-point lead.

The margin could have been bigger but Utah turned the ball over 14 times, leading to 15 Washington points. The Wizards shot 36.7 percent (18 of 49) and made their only free throw attempt.

After scoring 40 points in his previous game, Beal went to the bench with 5:08 left in the first half with three fouls and no points.

TIP-INS:

Jazz: Gobert was fined $25,000 for making physical contact with an official in the third quarter of Utah’s 109-95 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. . Rodney Hood, who had three points Friday night in his return after missing seven games with a bone contusion in his knee, had nine points in the first quarter. . It was Utah’s first win in Washington since Nov. 17, 2012.

Wizards: The 39 points were the team’s lowest first-half total of the season. . Washington had reached 100 points in 23 straight games. . It was Wall’s 37th double-double of the season. . Bogdanovic, in his second game with Washington, scored 15 points. . Washington last lost two in a row on Jan. 2-3 in back-to-back road games at Houston and Dallas.

UP NEXT

Jazz: Travel to Oklahoma City on Tuesday for the finale of a three-game road trip.

Wizards: Host the Warriors on Tuesday night.

Kawhi Leonard scores 25, leads Spurs to 119-98 rout of Lakers

SAN ANTONIO,TX - MAY 2: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts after a defensive stop against the Oklahoma City Thunder during game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals for the 2016 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on May 2, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs routed the Lakers 119-98 on Sunday in Los Angeles’ first home game since Magic Johnson took over the franchise’s basketball operations.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points for the Spurs, who have won four straight and nine of 11.

Pau Gasol added 15 points against his former team, and the Southwest Division leaders had little trouble with the Lakers, who have lost four straight and 15 of 19.

Five days after owner Jeanie Buss put Johnson in charge of basketball operations, the Lakers’ dismal season still hasn’t changed much, although new Lakers acquisitions Corey Brewer and Tyler Ennis got limited playing time.

Rookie Brandon Ingram scored a season-high 22 points as the Lakers fell to 19-41, ensuring their fourth consecutive non-winning season.

One more defeat will clinch the Lakers’ longest stretch of losing seasons since 1961, the former Minneapolis Lakers’ first year on the West Coast.

Jordan Clarkson scored 19 points and D'Angelo Russell had 18 for the Lakers, who have lost their first two games since Buss dismissed general manager Mitch Kupchak and her brother, Jim.

Johnson made no pregame speech to the Staples Center fans who have watched the worst four years in franchise history. Jeanie Buss watched the game from her usual spot in the second row, while Kupchak’s normal seats were empty.

SPURRED ON

The Spurs have won eight straight over the Lakers, surpassing their 2004-06 run for their longest winning streak in the series between these longtime Western Conference rivals. San Antonio also has beaten the Lakers seven straight times at Staples Center.

Leonard, who grew up 60 miles east of Staples Center in Moreno Valley, scored 19 points in the first half while the Spurs streaked to a 21-point lead.

AFTER LOU

In the Lakers’ first home game since trading leading scorer Lou Williams to Houston for a draft pick, Clarkson excelled off the bench in Williams’ usual spot as the second unit’s offensive fuel. Brewer scored five points in his first home game, while Ennis played eight minutes and hit a late 3-pointer in his Lakers debut.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Gasol played 20 minutes in his second game back from a 15-game absence with a broken left hand. Gasol, who won two NBA titles in Los Angeles, got a warm ovation from Lakers fans. … USC product Dewayne Dedmon had 11 points and nine rebounds. The Spurs’ unlikely starting big man is another product of LA’s far-flung suburbs, growing up in Lancaster.

Lakers: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar received a standing ovation at halftime when the Lakers honored him for his social activism. … The game was just the Lakers’ second home game in February and their third home game in five weeks. After playing eight of their previous 10 on the road, they began a four-game homestand.

UP NEXT

Spurs: Host Pacers on Wednesday.

Lakers: Host Hornets on Tuesday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scores 28, Bucks beat Suns 100-96

Giannis Antetokounmpo
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MILWAUKEE (AP) Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points, Tony Snell made a clinching 3-pointer from the corner in the closing seconds and the Milwaukee Bucks held off the Phoenix Suns, 100-96 on Sunday.

Michael Beasley added 17 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 15 as the Bucks swept the two-game season series with the Suns. Greg Monroe finished with 14 points and Snell had 13.

TJ Warren led the Suns with 23 points. Alan Williams scored a career-high 17 points and tied his season high with 15 rebounds, while Devin Booker added 15 points and Eric Bledsoe had 11.

Clinging to a one-point lead, the Bucks came out of timeout with Monroe inbounding the ball to Antetokounmpo. He dribbled the clock down before passing to Brogdon, who whipped the ball to Snell in the corner. Snell hit a 3 with a defender flying at him.

Watch Pistons C Andre Drummond blow a fancy breakaway dunk (VIDEO)

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Andre Drummond had a breakaway on Sunday against the Boston Celtics. Fans in Detroit should have been in for a treat from their franchise center — a former NBA Dunk Contest participant — but instead they got something worth of Shaqtin’ A Fool.

Unfortunately for Drummond, the result of the one man fastbreak was a blown dunk, a ball that went sky high, and a sheepish look from the Pistons center.

Bummer.