By Josh Cohen
April 7, 2017
The Orlando Magic rank seventh in the NBA over the last 10 games in assists. They also have averaged a little over 10 made 3-pointers over the last eight games.
Why the sudden offensive improvement?
Well, for one, the Magic are playing much faster with their small-ball lineups. Since the All-Star break, Orlando is averaging a little over 100 possessions per 48 minutes and nearly 102 over the last 15 games (seventh highest pace in league during this span).
The floor is less crowded and there’s more space for guys to find teammates in position to shoot. By playing faster, opponents aren’t able to set their half-court defense and get in position to play quality individual defense.
Also, the Magic have a very unselfish cast of players. Nikola Vucevic has excellent court vision and is a very willing passer. He ranks fifth among centers in assists (3.3) over the last 10 games. The rest of the group is also passing up contested shots for open shots.
Frank Vogel and his coaching staff deserve a lot of credit too for making it easy for the entire team to adapt to a small-ball lineup. All of the starters have benefited from the new strategy and Terrence Ross has fit in seamlessly.
Let’s take a look at a few plays from the Magic’s win over the Nets that highlight the Magic’s unselfishness.
Here, Aaron Gordon chooses not to recklessly attack multiple defenders at the rim. He whips a pass out to Ross, who wisely swings the ball to a wide open Elfrid Payton. WATCH:
On this possession, Vucevic sees that Gordon has a mismatch. Instead of settling for a mid-range jump shot, he tosses the ball into Gordon and he finishes with ease near the hoop. WATCH:
Here, Payton could have tried to shoot over the reach of Brook Lopez. But instead, he cleverly drops the pass off to Vucevic and he makes a nice spin move to finish with the left hand. WATCH: