Can the Orlando Magic Stay "Hot" From the Field After Their Record-Setting Game 3?

A popular storyline after the Orlando Magic's 108-104 defeat of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the 2009 NBA Finals was their small victory margin despite their shooting an NBA Finals record-best 62.5% from the field. Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily wrote that the four-point win somewhat tainted fans' enjoyment of the brilliant offensive performance, while Andrea Adelson wrote that Orlando should be concerned that it took such marksmanship just to eke out a win on its home floor. These points are all valid. For his part, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant--whose 31-point effort ultimately counted for nothing--isn't willing to call the Magic's hot shooting a fluke. From NBA.com's John Schuhmann:

"This team can stay hot for weeks," Bryant said. "They're in this position because they shoot the ball well. It's not something that is just a fluke or one game where they got hot. I mean, they can get hot and stay hot. When that happens, you're dealing with a monster."

I wanted to investigate Bryant's theory, that the Magic can stay this hot after shooting so well in a game, in order to get a better read on how they might shoot tonight. Instead of raw field goal percentage, I used effective field goal percentage, which rewards three-point shooting. In the table that follows the jump, you'll see results from the Magic's games in which they shot better than 60.0% (eFG%) highlighted in silver, with the results of the game immediately subsequent to it in white. Playoff games are indicated by an asterisk preceding the date. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to pore over "weeks," despite Bryant's stating Orlando can stay hot for that long.

Orlando over 60% eFG%
Date OPP eFG% W/L
13 Jan 09 @ SAC 74.7% W
16 Jan 09 @ LAL 51.8% W
*9 Jun 09 LAL 66.4% W
*11 Jun 09 LAL ? ?
4 Feb 09 LAC 66.3% W
6 Feb 09 @ IND 50.6% L
22 Feb 09 MIA 66.0% W
24 Feb 09 @ CHI 50.0% L
3 Dec 08 MIN 64.6% W
5 Dec 08 OKC 53.0% W
*8 May 09 BOS 64.4% W
*10 May 09 BOS 42.9% L
27 Jan 09 IND 64.0% W
29 Jan 09 CLE 51.9% W
3 Apr 09 CLE 61.6% W
4 Apr 09 @ ATL 43.7% W
27 Dec 08 @ MIN 61.3% W
29 Dec 08 @ DET 47.4% L
*30 Apr 09 @ PHI 61.0% W
*4 May 09 @ BOS 48.8% W
*20 May 09 @ CLE 60.9% W
*22 May 09 @ CLE 54.9% L
*17 May 09 @ BOS 60.7% W
*20 May 09 @ CLE 60.9% W
*26 May 09 CLE 60.6% W
*28 May 09 @ CLE 51.4% L
1 Nov 08 SAC 60.0% W
3 Nov 08 CHI 46.9% W

Make the jump to read the conclusions we can draw from these data.

For one thing, it's pretty obvious that Orlando is unstoppable when it gets as hot as it did in Game 3. The Magic are 13-0, counting the playoffs, when topping 60.0% (eFG%). And, in the regular season, they went 5-3 in games immediately thereafter. In the playoffs, their fortune has changed somewhat, as they're just 2-3 following similar performances in the postsason. Now, that record is a bit deceptive, since 2 of those 3 losses came on buzzer-beating shots.

Rather than rely on win/loss to tell us what we want to know--namely, if the Magic can keep shooting remarkably well two games in a row--let us look at the obvious and average their eFG% in those second games. Counting the playoffs, the Magic have shot 50.2% (eFG%) in games immediately following games in which they have bested 60.0% (eFG%). That's below their season-average of 52.0% overall, but not significantly so as to raise any red flags.

In short, Orlando tends to shoot well in any situation, regardless of performance in its previous game. It'd be unwise to count on an encore of Tuesday night, but it'd also be (almost) equally unwise to believe the bottom will drop out, either. Both extremes are unlikely, an obvious conclusion, because if they were likely, they wouldn't be extremes. In any event, shooting is but just one aspect of the game, and it will take much more than that to even up the Finals at 2 games apiece tonight.

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