Magic Fading as Long-Bomb Attack Fails Them Again
That's about to change. It's not working anymore. The luster has left their perimeter game.
The Magic (34-21) are no longer among the NBA elite, losing their eighth consecutive game Friday night against teams with a winning record, falling at home to the New Orleans Hornets, 99-93, with the same tired story line.
They may have led the NBA in both 3-pointers made and attempted last season -- and are leading again now -- but the quantity is ruining the quality, which is taking them down.
The Magic are 9-9 in their last 18 games, dropping to fifth in the Eastern Conference. In their last nine games, they are shooting just 28.5 percent (65 of 228) from 3-point range.
They made just five of 21 from 3-point range Friday, which finally has set off an alarm with Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who has signaled an end to the open-door policy when it comes to the 3-point shot.
"Our perimeter play right now is mind boggling,'' Van Gundy said. "The ball (tonight) should have been going inside, nothing but going inside. I didn't get Dwight (Howard) the ball enough. I'm pissed off at myself for that. Dwight didn't get the ball enough.''
Howard has complained in the past about not getting the ball enough -- he did Sunday after the loss in Boston -- but he preferred to let Van Gundy do the talking Friday.
"That's not the reason we lost this game,'' Howard said. "There were a lot of things we could have done better. We just have to make better decisions with the ball.''
A big reason the 3-point philosophy isn't working as well anymore is that teams aren't collapsing as heavily on Howard as they once did. The Boston Celtics taught everyone a better way in the playoffs last spring. Now they just foul Howard instead, relying on his inability to make free throws. He made only four of 12 Friday. He is shooting just 57.9 percent this season.
"The free-throw shooting (of Howard) scared me off a little bit, but that's not a good enough excuse now,'' Van Gundy. "Dwight's free throws scared me off, but they shouldn't have. When the play started getting bad in the fourth quarter, I should have gotten him the ball.''
Howard had only one fourth-quarter field-goal attempt, and he converted the dunk. He made eight of his 12 shots, most of anyone on the Magic, but clearly not enough for his or Van Gundy's satisfaction.
"I'm not going to go into a deep discussion about not getting the ball,'' Howard said. "I'll do it with my friends and my family, but there is no reason to do it with you guys (in the media).''
In three-plus seasons under Van Gundy, the Magic have shot 37.8 percent from 3-point range, but they are shooting just 36.2 percent this season. The trades they made in December -- bringing in Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas -- were designed to make their perimeter game better, but it hasn't happened. Richardson and Turkoglu are shooting 36 percent, Arenas 25 percent.
"Bottom line is we can't beat a good team,'' Van Gundy said. "We just haven't been able to play at the level we need to be playing. It's going to have to change. Right now, we don't play hard enough, or well enough to make it happen.''