Each day, we are going to preview the night's NBA Playoffs action by looking at the adjustments that can be made by the losing team and showing what they can do to win.
Going into Game 5, the Orlando Magic are facing elimination, trailing their series with the Atlanta Hawks 3-1. If the Magic want to extend the series, and their season, they are going to have to make a few adjustments on both sides of the basketball.
Offense: Hit The Roll Man
The Orlando Magic have one of the best screeners in the NBA in Dwight Howard, so when Synergy Sports Technology tells us that Orlando has one of the worst pick-and-roll games in the playoffs, it is hard to believe. However, this is the case as the Magic are scoring just 0.82 PPP whenever they run the pick-and-roll, which is good for just No. 11 out of the 16 playoff teams in the NBA.
One of the reasons why Orlando has been so unsuccessful in the pick-and-roll game is because they flat out refuse to use the roll man as a threat when coming off of screens. Out of the 93 pick-and-rolls run by Orlando, the roll man has been hit just nine times. On pick-and-rolls, the Magic have been a little too shot-happy (and willing to kick the ball out) when coming off of screens:
Here, Hedo Turkoglu comes off of the screen, and attacks the rim with Dwight Howard rolling on the opposite side of the rim. Instead of driving at Jason Collins, forcing him to help, and then making the lob pass to Howard, Turkoglu kicks the ball out to Brandon Bass, who misses the corner jumper.
This isn't just the fault of the ball handler. Orlando's screeners are also at fault because they seem to pop out instead of rolling to the rim too often:
Here, Bass sets the screen and his man leaves to trap the ball handler. Instead of rolling to the rim and making himself available, Bass pops out and hangs out around the three-point line. This pop effectively lets the defense off of the hook and prevents the Magic from taking advantage of Atlanta's decision to commit two defenders to the man coming off of the ball screen.
The Hawks have been doing a good job of contesting the Magic when they are taking jumpers coming off of screens. If the Magic start hitting the roll man on screens, this will keep the defense honest, allowing the ball handler to have more space to make strong decisions.
Defense: Close Out On Shooters
According to Synergy Sports Technology, the Atlanta Hawks are second among playoff teams in terms of points per possession on spot up opportunities, scoring 1.10 points every possession. Compared to their regular season number of 0.99 PPP, the Magic are allowing Atlanta to knock down shots at a higher rate in this series. This comes down to Orlando's inability to close out on shooters effectively, which is due to Orlando's defenders committing too much to the inside and allowing Atlanta to spot up on the outside:
Here, Kirk Hinrich sets a backscreen for his teammate during a sideline out-of-bounds set. Both defenders run with the man getting screened, allowing Hinrich to pop out behind the three-point line. Once Hinrich makes the catch, the defense tries to close out on him, but it is too late and Hinrich is able to knock the shot down.
On this play, the Hawks are running a high pick-and-roll, with Joe Johnson coming off of the screen and attacking the middle. Despite the fact that the Magic have Dwight Howard in the middle of the paint, Jameer Nelson feels that it is necessary to sink in and help. As soon as he sinks, Johnson kicks the ball out to Hinrich behind the three-point line, allowing him to knock down the shot.
In my opinion, Orlando should have one of the best defenses when it comes to defending spot up opportunities. This is because with Dwight Howard protecting the rim, the Magic should be able to close out hard and prevent clean shots. In addition, with Howard, there shouldn't be a rush to leave your man if you are a wing defender. This is happening way too much for Orlando right now.