The Orlando Magic has been working against a season-long deficit when it comes to 3-point shooting.
Wednesday’s 139-117 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks was just another example – albeit an extreme one – of the Magic losing math.
Magic was really rolling offensively early. They scored 29 points in the first quarter, 66 in the first half, and shot down 6-of-12 3s.
They were shooting well, handling the ball at a reasonable pace and scoring frequently and efficiently.
But the numbers game caught up with them, as the Bucks knocked down 15 of 26 3s in the first half to take a 76-66 halftime lead. Milwaukee’s hot shot overshadowed the good Orlando had accomplished.
And when Magic’s 3s stopped falling on the third, it was pretty much a tie. Their margin of error grew smaller with each error, just as the Bucks’ lead grew with each hit.
The Bucks have knocked down 26 of 56 3-goal shots, tying for second on a team this season. The Magic went 9-of-33 in 3s – a 51-point lead in favor of Milwaukee from beyond the arc.
“You have to give them a lot of credit,” said head coach Jamahl Mosley. “This is a team that is rolling right now. They are playing at a high level. We were crowding the paint just right, holding them to 38 points in the paint. Knocking down 26 3s is hard to beat.”
The defeat, or even the deficit, is not surprising.
The Bucks, who are league best at 45-17, are on a 16-game winning streak and are one of the best pitching teams in the league.
But the loss was the ultimate instance of the 3-point shot being a deciding factor against the Magic.
“Our game plan was to carry.” Cole Anthony said. “In the first half we did a great job of charging. We were just a second behind the shooters in the first half. This allowed them to get into a rhythm. They won many looks and many undisputed looks. On the other hand, they got a lot of offensive rebounds and a lot of three-pointers. A credit to them and a discredit to our defense.”
Wednesday was an extreme example. Teams do not consistently make more than 20 3s. But he highlighted how narrow the margins are for the Magic because of the deficit they face.
The Magic’s 34.6% 3-point accuracy is ranked 23rd, while its 10.6 made 3s and 30.7 attempts ranked 27th. They allow the league’s second 3s attempt (37.3) and third (13.1) attempts.
Orlando generally does well with contested perimeter shots, with the Magic only allowing opponents to shoot 35% in 3s, tying for eighth in the league.
But the discrepancy in 3-point shooting most nights usually gives opposing teams a 6-9 point lead.
The Magic tries to combat this deficit by winning other facets of the game—on the ball, free throws, and possession. They’ve done better winning in those areas over the past two months.
But when your 3s aren’t falling – and especially when your opponents’ 3s are – the math has proven very difficult to beat consistently.
Magic is 6-16 when shooting 30% or worse in 3s. Only the Hornets (26), Raptors (23), Pelicans (22) and Rockets (22) shot 30% or less from beyond the arc as often or more than Orlando.
Forward Jonathan Isaac will be unavailable for Friday’s showdown in Charlotte (20-44) because of a strained right hamstring/inner thigh. It will be the fourth consecutive absence.
The Magic is operating very cautiously with Isaac after he was sidelined for 2½ years before returning to the court in late January.
This article first appeared in OrlandoSentinel.com. Khobi price by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.
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