Charley Rosen: New Pieces Make Magic Better, Not Elite
The result was a mixed bag of lively bodies, dead legs, alert passes, bull's-eyes, bricks, and generally atrocious defense.
He mostly functioned as a passer from either the high-post or a wing -- and his entry passes into Dwight Howard were exceptional. As ever, Turk the Turk was more effective dribbling left than he was going to his right, but he was moving much better without the ball -- mostly curls around weak-side screens -- than he has since he left Orlando.
He also was the beneficiary of several high screens, but usually hung out on the weak-side wing and waited for the ball to come to him. Turkoglu wasn't featured in Orlando's offense until the closing minutes, when he nailed a big trey and then a pull-up jumper (going right!) that finally put the Bucks to sleep.
Turkoglu's defense was routinely slow-footed and he was frequently nailed on combo screens. But he did defend with energy.
Overall, Turkoglu brings two vital benefits to the mix -- an entry-passer who can't be left alone because of his dangerous long-distance shooting and, most importantly, another clutch scorer to take the pressure off of Jameer Nelson.
J-Rich executed several nifty dive cuts and screen-curls. He also demonstrated that his hops are unimpaired when he turned two lobs into resounding dunks on the run. Even though he's been categorized as strictly a high-jumper and set-shooter, Richardson made a number of dribble-drives that eventuated in scores. His numbers were impressive -- 6-of-13 shooting for 13 points.
However, Richardson was 0 for 5 from beyond the arc. In fact, the entire team was only 5 for 22 from 3-point territory, which goes a long way to explain why the Bucks were able to keep in touch for so long.
Yet, for all of his scoring prowess, Richardson's defense was absolutely abysmal. Whenever an opponent faced him, Richardson was usually too upright to react quickly to either a drive or a shot. As a result, he was always beaten off the dribble by whomever he was presumably guarding. No surprise, then, that the Bucks went at him at every opportunity -- only several missed layups, free throws, and uncontested jumpers limited the points-against Richardson to 15.
On the other hand, J.J. Redick played better position defense, is a superior ball-handler and is much quicker moving without the ball. In the endgame, Redick played shooting guard while Richardson filled the small-forward slot. Even though the two never articulated with each other, the threat of their long-ball shooting forced Milwaukee to stretch their defense, thereby creating space for Howard, Nelson and Turkoglu to operate without attracting double-teams.
Sadly, his multiple knee surgeries have clearly sapped the spring from Arenas' legs. Subsequently, his game was flat-footed at both ends of the court. On the rare occasions when he tried to attack the rim, Arenas either stumbled, had his shot blocked or tossed up ugly shots. In truth, every shot he unleashed while on the move had no chance to make the net dance. Arenas' only two scores came on stand-still 3-pointers.
On defense, he was seldom challenged by Earl Boykins. But when he was beaten off the dribble, Dwight Howard was there to force the little man to eat the basketball.
In sum, Arenas will make a positive difference on Orlando only if he can connect on his long-distance dialing.
Earl Clark never got off the bench. That's because the young man has no idea how to play a team-oriented game.
In the first half, the Magic's ball- and player-movement was exemplary. They tallied 20 buckets before the intermission, mainly on the strength of 16 assists. But in the second half, the offense became stagnant. Treys were taken too early in too many possessions. And their 15 baskets were benefited by only eight dimes.
Still, Orlando won handily because none of his defenders -- variously Andrew Bogut, Jon Brockman and Larry Sanders -- was able to offer much resistance to Howard in the low-post. Oddly enough, Milwaukee's attempts to stymie Howard with double-teams failed because the help was usually slow in arriving.
Included in Howard's game-high 28 points was his making 10 of 15 from the stripe.
So just how good are the Magic?
Good enough to finish third in the Atlantic division, and to then overcome Atlanta, New York and Indiana should they encounter any of these squads in the playoffs. Good enough to probably beat Chicago. But not nearly able to compete on equal terms with either Boston or Miami.
In other words, while the trades have temporarily boosted the offense, the absence of Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus negatively impacts Orlando's defense.
Too bad Orlando's future is now and they are once more destined to be also-rans come the money season.