Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Enough Depth to Live by the 3-Pointer?

Last night in Sacramento, the Orlando Magic went absolutely berserk from the beyond the arc, setting a new NBA record with 23 made 3-pointers, on the way to handing the hometown Kings a 139-107 beating. Two nights after making 14 of 23 attempts in a big road win over the San Antonio Spurs, the Magic knocked down twelve of their eighteen first half 3-point attempts en route to building a 19-point halftime lead, and continued the exhibition after the break, hitting on eleven of their second half attempts as they cruised to the 32-point win.

What’s especially impressive about this record is it was not a result of just one guy having the night of life and hitting ten or twelve 3’s- Orlando’s hot shooting in Sacramento was the result of a balanced outside attack, with nine (nine!) players hitting on a 3, led by Jameer Nelson who made all five of his attempts, four each by J.J. Redick and Keith Bogans and three apiece from Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. Watching seemingly every Orlando player light up the Kings from the outside, it became clear that the Magic, who do not seem to receive enough credit for their fantastic 31-8 record, deserve a place alongside the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics in the NBA’s top tier.

Without a doubt, this performance will be very tough to duplicate, but it should be noted that Orlando didn’t abandon their normal style of play on their record night- they were just all hitting their shots. While the Magic’s 37 3-point attempts is an awfully high number, they didn’t come at the expense of Dwight Howard, who led the team with 25 points in just 32 minutes. This is a team that is second in the league in 3-point attempts, averaging roughly 26 per game. And not only do the Magic take a bunch of 3’s, they’re really good at them, making 40.1% of their attempts, just .1% behind the San Antonio Spurs for best in the league, and do not have a real weak link from 3-point range.

Of the eight Magic players averaging at least one 3-point attempt per game, four (Nelson, Courtney Lee, Redick and Lewis) are shooting at least 40%, with the remaining four (Turkoglu, Bogans, Anthony Johnson and Mickael Pietrus) all making at least 35.6% of their attempts. With that kind of depth and consistency, it’s frankly not difficult to see how last night happened, and will 23 makes is a bit much, it’s not difficult to envision a similar performance in the future. Given that this team is getting its 10+ made 3-pointers per game from eight different guys, it’s a good bet that at least a couple of them will hitting their shots every. Plus, with a beast like Dwight Howard in the middle consistently drawing double-teams, clean looks from the outside should be readily available.

It’s been said for years that team that live by the 3, ultimately die by the 3 as well. This doesn’t seem to be the case with the Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard’s dominance in the middle, combined with the deep arsenal of shooters that surround him, it is not unreasonable to think that this is a team that could challenge any other in the league in a seven-game series.

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