Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson, and Hedo Turkoglu Lead the Orlando Magic's Improvement in Three-Point Shooting

Rashard Lewis of the Orlando Magic shoots a three-point field goal against Matt Bonner of the San Antonio Spurs in their NBA basketball game on Sunday, January 11th, 2009. The Magic won, 105-98Jameer Nelson of the Orlando Magic shoots a three-point field goal against Beno Udrih of the Sacramento Kings in their NBA basketball game on Tuesday, January 13th, 2009. The Magic won, 139-107, and set an NBA record by making 23 three-point field goals as a teamHedo Turkoglu of the Orlando Magic shoots a three-point field goal against Spencer Hawes and John Salmons of the Sacramento Kings in their NBA basketball game on Tuesday, January 13th, 2009. The Magic won, 139-107, and set an NBA record by making 23 three-point field goals as a team

Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson, and Hedo Turkoglu are leading the once-struggling Orlando Magic's three-point shooting surge over their last 21 games

Lewis photo by Ronald Martinez, Getty Images; Nelson and Turkoglu photos by Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images

Last season, the Orlando Magic paced the NBA with 801 three-pointers made, and finished fourth in three-point percentage at 38.6%. This year, however, they got off to a rocky start shooting the ball. As a graphic during Tuesday night's Magic game against the Sacramento Kings showed, the team struggled from downtown during its first 18 games, yet had come on strong of late; oddly enough, the broadcast crew showed this graphic before the Magic broke a single-game NBA record with 23 made three-ponters.

Inspired by that graphic, and by that record-setting performance, I decided to look at the team's three-point shooting using the same splits the graphic did: games 1-18 on one side, and games 19-since on the other. I also looked at the same splits for the team's three top three-point shooters: Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson, and Hedo Turkoglu. Take a look at the tables, and the impressive turnaround the team and those players made, after the jump. Note that the splits for Nelson and Turkoglu reflect their performances during the team's first 18 games, not their first 18 games, since those players missed time due to injury.

Orlando Magic three-point shooting through 39 games, 2008-09 Season
First 18 Games
Orlando Magic main logo
Since
148 Team 3FGM 259
449 Team 3FGA 565
32.9% Team 3FG% 45.8%
Rashard Lewis three-point shooting through 39 games, 2008-09 Season
First 18 Games
Since
46 3FGM 68
127 3FGA 146
36.2% 3FG% 46.6%
Jameer Nelson three-point shooting through 39 games, 2008-09 Season
First 14 Games
Since
12 3FGM 53
45 3FGA 97
26.7% 3FG% 54.6%
Hedo Turkoglu three-point shooting through 39 games, 2008-09 Season
First 17 Games
Since
26 3FGM 41
88 3FGA 100
29.5% 3FG% 41.0%

Indeed, the Magic have shot 45.8% over their last 21 games. Their combined 37-of-59 performance in their last two games only skews that percentage slightly; remove that hot shooting and the team has still connected on 44% of its three-pointers over a 19-game span. Orlando and its three stud shooters are bound to regress toward the mean eventually, but the Magic have nonetheless established that they are among the league's most formidable three-point shooting teams.

However, there is cause for concern. In six games against the top five three-point defenses they've played, the Magic are 52-of-162 from long range, or 32.1%. To specify, they've played two games against Chicago (2nd in three-point defense), and one game each against Houston (3rd), Detroit (5th), Boston (7th), and Dallas (8th). They have not played New York (1st) or Cleveland (4th), and are 6th in three-point defense themselves. Against these better teams, they won't be able to count on as many open looks from the outside. In other words, they will want to have a Plan B in the playoffs, when they'll face stiffer competition that will also have the opportunity to make adjustments between games. But right now, their offense is clicking well, and one is hard-pressed to complain about anything the Magic are doing on that end of the floor.

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