The Orlando Magic have their last game against a league pushover tonight, and thus a final chance to pad their record before the schedule toughens up ahead, when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight. Minnesota has lost 14 straight games in its first season under head coach Kurt Rambis, whom Kelly Dwyer has deemed "about as bad a coach as we have in this league." As Josh Robbins writes, only Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, and Jonny Flynn look like building blocks for this team, which is marketing its overseas draft pick Nikola Pekovic and not its current players, to give you an idea of where it stands in its rebuilding effort. But the Wolves, such as they are, gave the Magic a decent game at their place back in January, taking a brief lead early in the 4th quarter before Orlando shut the door.
|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|14-58 (5-32 road)
|50-22 (28-7 home)
|March 26th, 2010|
|Jonny Flynn||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|Corey Brewer||SG||Vince Carter|
|Ryan Gomes||SF||Matt Barnes|
|Al Jefferson||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Darko Milicic||C||Dwight Howard|
|January 1st: Magic 106, Timberwolves 94|
|96.2 (3rd)||Pace||92.2 (19th)|
|101.3 (29th)||ORtg||110.1 (8th)|
|111.2 (28th)||DRtg||102.6 (3rd)|
Rambis' refusal to give Love, arguably the team's most talented player, enough minutes is what's earned him so much scorn. Love is, at 21 years old, already an elite rebounder: among players who average at least 25 minutes per game, he ranks first in both offensive rebound rate and offensive rebounds per 36 minutes; seventh in defensive rebound rate and eighth in defensive rebounds per 36 minutes; and 4th in total rebounding rate and third in total rebounds per 36 minutes. There's no getting around it. Yet Love averages just 29 minutes per game and occasionally loses minutes to Magic castoff Darko Milicic.
But the Wolves can be lethal, at times, despite Rambis' shortcomings. For one, Jefferson is among the most talented low-post scorers in the league, though recovery from a knee injury sustained last season has robbed him of his effectiveness. Additionally, they're 4-4 when they make at least 8 three-pointers. That's key for them, because, using my keen math skills, I've deduced that they're 10-54 without the benefit of 8 long balls. Yup, it's not been a great year for them. Finally, Love and Jefferson are outstanding rebounders, and I don't think I need to say more about Orlando's lapses in that area this season.
Orlando has advantages just about across the board tonight, starting in the middle, where Jefferson, Milicic, and Nathan "Outback Shaq" Jawai (he's huge and Australian) will have to tangle with Dwight Howard. Jefferson's not known for his, uh, effort or ability on that end, but it's nonetheless a compliment when a player of his caliber says, "I don't think you can stop Dwight Howard." Minnesota kept him quiet in their first game against Orlando this season, but paid the price for paying so much attention to him: the Magic drilled 15 three-pointers in 37 tries, including 9 in 20 attempts from power forwards Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson. I'm quite interested to see how the Magic play differently tonight, with Brandon Bass having taken over Anderson's spot in the rotation since that prior meeting. Orlando likely doesn't win that game without Anderson's shooting.
Here's an interview with Minnesota President Chris Wright from the folks at Canis Hoopus, SB Nation's Wolves blog. I love it when organizations recognize and respect bloggers, and I'm not just saying that because the Magic do it, too.
Speaking of, I'll be on press row at The Am tonight, while my photographer, Bruce Maddox, will be parked along the baseline. Solid.