I don't think there are two more polar opposite teams in the NBA than the Magic and the Wolves. The Magic win their games with an average point differential of +6.6. The Wolves lose by nearly 10/game. The Magic are #1 in the league in 3PA and 3PM while the Wolves are 27th and 28th in the league in both categories. The Magic rank in the league's top 10 in both OE and DE while the Wolves rank in the bottom 10 in both categories. The Magic are long and athletic; the Wolves are short and athletically average.
It took the Orlando Magic announcing team all of 4 minutes to fully understand the large gaps between the guys in blue and the guys in white. They let out a chuckle about the Wolves' defense a whole 1:40 into the contest. They had gone through a list of the Wolves' league worst categories a few minutes later. Unfortunately for them, they had to sweat out 3 1/2 quarters of close ball before all their hopes and wishes about the Wolves' awfulness came to fruition.
It was mentioned in the comments that we need to come up with a new addition to the Official Hoopus Wolves Dictionary that accurately describes a ball that Kevin Love somehow manages to tap out of traffic to a teammate. "Love Tap" sounds good but should it encompass offensive rebounds that lead to scores, or simply impossible taps to teammates on balls that he has no business getting his mitts on?
However we want to definte it, here is the first half Love possession keeper tracker:
6:11- Offensive rebound leads to layup and foul on Rashard Lewis
5:16- Kevin Love tap out against 3 Magic defenders leads to Al Jefferson and1 with a shooting foul on Dwight Howard
10:02- Following the most egregious 3 second non call in league history, Love fights off Lewis for a put back plus a foul.
1:20- A pair of offensive rebounds leading to a Wiklins dunk.
The Big Piranha had 8 offensive rebounds at the half. He single handedly kept the Wolves in the game and was singled out in the Magic halftime show as being the one player that Orlando needed to stop if they wanted to win the game.
All of that being written, this game also highlighted the limitations of Love's game; namely, that he will always have trouble guarding long and athletic power forwards that can operate out near the three point line. Not only does Love not have the foot speed to keep up with guys like Rashard Lewis (no matter how much small area quickness he may have) but guys like Lewis and Ryan Anderson drag him away from the basket which diminishes the impact of his greatest ability: rebounding. The first play of the game was a Lewis three made against a sagging Love. Throughout the game Love constantly had to weigh his options: Does he fully commit to the outside and get burned/take himself out of rebounding position or does he sag and hope that his mark misses the long shot while maintaining a slightly better rebounding position? Love is a decent team defender (i.e. he's good in relation to the rest of the roster) but he is limited in certain man-to-man situations. This is probably the reason he got yanked down the stretch in the 4th when Ryan Anderson caught fire. When he came back in he was on the wrong end of a Lewis ally-oop. It was an all-around bad defensive night for Love. That being said, it's hard to get upset with the guy after his first half kept the Wolves in the game....even though the Magic power forwards went nuts from beyond the arc in the 2nd half.
Another issue is that Love seems to have trouble passing out of back-to-the basket situations where he is double teamed. I think I counted 3 tipped passes in the first half (at least two of them by Ryan Anderson) where he was unable to pass the ball in a close-quartered situation. This is somewhat problematic in the pinch post and it is something that we need to keep an eye on.
This was one of those games where you really could think about little else than what would this squad be like with competent wing play? What would this game look like with a 2 that could shoot and get to the line? What would this game look like with someone like Rudy Gay taking up Wiklins' minutes? There was a spot in the 3rd quarter where Brewer took 3-4 shots in a row and it was hard to ignore the idea that this is where the Wolves lost the game. There is no reason why a shooter like Brewer should be taking that many shots in a row. Those are wasted possessions.
Misc Game Notes:
- The Magic announcing team ran a poll asking its viewers what they thought was the most essential winter item: gloves, scarf, hat, or ear muffs? Correct answer: a working furnace.
- Al Jefferson may be improving his overall game but he is still capable of some mind-numbingly awful help defense moments. Last night's best example came when Brewer gambled on Jameer Nelson and Jefferson didn't make an attempt to make up for Brewer's high risk play. This was in stark contrast to the wing players of Orlando, who could take all sorts of risks with Dwight Howard patrolling the paint.
- Best Orlando Magic announcer line of the night: "That's not how the Triangle is supposed to be run. The ball just stopped."
- The Magic attempted 37 three poniters. They attempted only 3 shots between 10-15 feet and 12 shots between 16-23 feet. Everything else was close to the rim or beyond the arc. Out of their 80 shots, only 15 were from no man's land in mid-range; 65 were from inside 10 feet or beyond the arc. While they were a bit heavy on the three ball, that's the sort of shooting that makes me smile, as the mid-range shot is the worst shot in all of basketball. BTW: Hat's off to the Magic announcing crew for making this simple point during last night's game. Threes, layups, and free throws. They are your friends.
- The Magic had no FTAs in the first quarter and only 6 at the half. For a team that averages in the mid 20s, this was a big deal.
Well that about does it for this wrap up. We'll see you tonight in the Indiana game thread.