Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus was at the Orlando/Boston matinee and provided five quick thoughts from the game. Here are the Magic-related posts.
3. Celtics fans, Marcin Gortat.
The largely obscure reserve Magic center offered his introduction to Boston fans in a big way. With Dwight Howard in foul trouble, Gortat played more than 23 minutes during the first three quarters and offered a credible impersonation of Howard’s production. Orlando was +13 with Gortat on the floor, tops on the team. Gortat is a solid defender with lateral quickness that belies his size and strength. The box score had him down for two blocks, but I counted at least one more, and Gortat was a factor contesting shots at other times. Then a rested Howard came back in to play big down the stretch for the Magic
4. Orlando’s offense struggled down the stretch.
The Magic wasn’t quite as bad in the second half as the Celtics were before halftime, but 35 points in 43 possessions is problematic in its own right. Orlando was 4-of-19 from the field in the fourth quarter, with go-to players Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Tukoglu combining to make three of their 11 shot attempts. The Magic usually likes to go to pick-and-rolls with Turkoglu in those situations, but Boston defended those well and Turkoglu ended up taking multiple off-balance shots. Certainly the Celtics’ defense deserves a lot of credit, and the other time I watched Orlando in person the Magic executed brilliantly to rally from a good-sized deficit late to win in Portland. Still, it’s worth noting Orlando was not even close to perfect in what was for the team an important win.
David Whitley believes after the Magic's victory over the Celtics, Orlando can step in the ring and battle with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics for Eastern Conference supremacy.
I applaud Whitley's enthusiasm but I'll have to respectfully disagree with his notion. In the Magic's current state, I have a hard time believing the team can beat either the Cavs or C's (when they're each at full strength). In my opinion, only with a healthy Jameer Nelson can Orlando legitimately match up with either squad and realistically have a chance at winning in a seven-game series (no offense to Rafer Alston). But right now, my paranoia is directed towards a possible first-round matchup with the Detroit Pistons (which is looking increasingly like a possible early exit for the Magic).
- Kyle Hightower cautions Magic fans to keep the Celtics game in perspective.
UPDATE: Click after the jump to get the input of various ESPN scribes. It appears the cat is starting to get out of the bag on Marcin Gortat. A must read.
Here's what several ESPN writers had to say regarding the game between Orlando and Boston.
John Hollinger, ESPN Insider
One of the things we kept discussing was how much Marcin Gortat might fetch as a free agent this summer. Orlando's backup center gets little mention, but has been amazingly productive this year. His 21.0 rebound rate is among the best in the league, plus he's shooting 53.7 percent and has a 17.18 PER (all numbers entering Sunday's game).
Additionally, he was an active force defensively, blocking two shots and altering at least three others. Given the sample size we should take his numbers with a bit of a grain of salt, but he put up good numbers in limited minutes last year too. I haven't heard anyone talking about him and the 25-year-old from Poland could help a lot of team's frontcourt needs.
I'll add that Gortat's rebounding rate is just behind Dwight Howard (22.1%), which is impressive. Likewise, Gortat is holding opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 46.4% (league average is 49.9%) and overall, making a positive impact defensively for the Magic (crude measures, I know). I agree with Hollinger that Gortat's numbers should be taken in a certain context, but there's no denying his productivity when he's been on the court this year.
Also, I was able to get in contact with Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics a few days prior, and (as of March 6th) Gortat's Value Rating % is 97.43% ($711,517), which would be best on the team. It's worth repeating; Gortat's VR % doesn't mean he's the best player on Orlando. It simply means he has the greatest value on the squad. Not surprising, given his production in correlation to his price tag. Needless to say, Gortat is an extremely valuable role player for Orlando and it's imperative general manager Otis Smith does his best to re-up Gortat during the off-season. It'll be tough, however, given that re-signing Hedo Turkoglu is on the top of the Magic's to-do list.
[...] That said, those pesky Magic are still in position to throw a wrench into the playoff seeding. Orlando is only one game behind Boston and two behind Cleveland in the loss column and has one game left against the Celtics and two against the Cavs; with a split of the latter two, Orlando would also own the tiebreaker against Cleveland.
David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.
Given Nelson's status, it's hard to envision giving either of the big two real problems without much better play from Turkoglu. More drives. More free throw attempts. More made shots altogether. Lewis seems ready to raise his game to another level. Howard too. But Hedo?
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com
On the surface, Orlando is regarded as the mystery guest at the adult table in the Eastern Conference. It's easy to forget that this "upstart" team has plenty of wily veterans: Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and, now, Rafer Alston. When the Celtics made their fourth-quarter run, the Magic didn't wilt, didn't panic, and didn't get away from their game. At the 4:07 mark of the fourth, having seen their massive lead of over 20 points whittled down to nine, the Magic come down and get a silky 3-pointer from Turkoglu off a beautiful possession -- stretching the Celtics' defense with crisp passes on a great-looking reversal. That's Orlando basketball, and even when the Celtics' tightened the game further in the closing minutes, the Magic never got away from what they do best.