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The Orlando Magic are the most efficient NBA team in the fourth quarter since December – Basketball Insiders

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If your team is playing against Orlando lately and you feel confident as they are winning the game in the third quarter – watch out! The Magic are casting their best spells in the final streches of the match, as they are the season’s best performing in the final quarter since December started. 

They might be one of the league’s weakest teams of the campaign, but incredibly no one plays better than the Florida side during the fourth quarter. Since December 1st, the Magic are the only team in the league that has a top five offensive rating and top five defensive rating in the final frame!

During these past 26 games, their offensive rank 3rd best in the league with a 121.1 rating, whereas their defensive is tied at 4th place with a 107.9 rating. Compared to last season, the Magic had a fourth-quarter rating of 110.6 (16th best) and a 111.6 defensive rating (19th in the league).

This just goes to show the impact of coach Jamahl Mosley’s progress so far, as the team decided to give him another chance and trust the process after Orlando finished last in the Eastern Conference after the 2021/22 regular season with a 22-60 record. Today, they are still at the lower end of their conference (13th place) but at least they are already three victories away from reaching the same amount they managed last year.

Magic’s headcoach says it’s all about the transition and energy on the court. “I really think what it is, we are allowing the defense to spark that offense,” Mosley said. “Coming down the stretch, getting stops, being able to get out on the break and get easy baskets. We talk to our guys about that a ton. Getting stops down the stretch, getting three stops in a row in order to get out on the break.”

Another impressive stat is how poorly Orlando has performed over turnovers this campaign, as they rank 23rd in that regard. Nevertheless, this has not been a problem in the last quarter. Ever since December started, they are the team who average less turnovers in the fourth, with only 2.6.

The Magic have become experts at keeping their opponents on the petimeter when defending, as stats prove their rival teams average the second fewest field goal attempts within five feet of the basket. And subsequently as they attack, they average the second most from 25 to 29 feet away with a shot efficiency of 30.4% on those long-range attempts.

You can watch below a perfect example of this winning formula on Orlando’s last game out, as they beat the Indiana Pacers (126-120) with an inspired Paolo Banchero:

Lately the player who most embodies this amazing fourth-quarter-surge in the Magic camp is german player Franz Wagner, as the 21-year-old is dropping 46.2% on floor shots and 45.5% when trying from behind the arc.

“I think that’s why you play basketball. Those important plays, important moments – but I think to win a game is not just scoring the ball,” Wagner said. “I think you have to do a lot – a lot of small little things as a group.”

Most of our favorite sport betting sites do not consider Orlando to even have possibilities of making it to the conference’s playoffs at this point. Do you believe they still have a chance standing 13th in the East?





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What is the ceiling for Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija?

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Key Highlights:

  • Deni Avdija is playing the best basketball of his career this season
  • He’s made massive improvements to his 3-point shooting, drive game, and ability to generate free throws
  • Avdija has the outline of a future superstar role player

Over his last four games, fourth-year forward Deni Avdija is averaging 28.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG, and 3.8 APG on 72.7% true shooting. Avdija enters the All-Star break playing the best basketball of his career, which is pretty refreshing considering how long people have been waiting for Avdija to take that leap forward. But this year, Avdija has done just that.

Now, he’s starting to become the player people envisioned him as when the Washington Wizards selected him ninth overall in the 2020 NBA Draft. This begs the question: how much further can Avdija take this?

Why People Love Avdija

As a general rule, those who really follow basketball have an affinity toward tantalizing defensive prospects with a poor jumper. As a 6’9 forward who hasn’t surpassed the 32% mark from beyond the arc in his first three NBA seasons, Avdija certainly fits that characterization.

Avdija isn’t an elite guard defender like his draft class peer, Jaden McDaniels. And he doesn’t create turnovers at the same rate as McDaniels, either. But what Avdija lacks in lateral quickness and defensive playmaking, he makes up for with his size and physicality. He can guard bigger players, provide secondary paint protection, and help crash the defensive glass (90th percentile among forwards, per Cleaning the Glass). In keeping with the 2020 Draft comparisons, Avdija’s defensive style is similar to that of Patrick Williams.

Avdija isn’t an All-Defensive caliber player. But he is clearly a positive performer on that end of the floor. Despite the Wizards being horrible on the defensive side of the ball (27th in defensive rating), Avdija is still in the 75th percentile (per Dunks & Threes) in Defensive Estimated Plus-Minus (DEF EPM). Washington’s defense is also 5.8 points stingier per 100 possessions (90th percentile) when Avdija is on the floor compared to when he’s on the bench.

What really makes Avdija such a fascinating prospect is his vision and court mapping. During the pre-draft process, Avdija’s combination of passing and size garnered comparisons to Hedo Turkoglu and even Luka Doncic. This season, Avdija’s Passer Rating (one of the best publicly available estimates of a player’s passing prowess) ranks in the 81st percentile league-wide.

Avdija is comfortable making passes out of the pick-and-roll (first and second clip in the montage below), while attacking off the catch (third clip), playing in the post (fourth), and as he’s operating in transition (fifth and sixth clip).

The theory with Avdija is that if you can add a jumper to his defense and passing, you get an elite complimentary piece.

What He’s Done This Year

Guess what? Avdija got the jumper everyone was hoping he would develop!

After never eclipsing the 32% mark in years one through three, Avdija is now hitting 40.5% of his 2.8 3-point attempts per game. Even more promising, Avdija is hitting 46% of his wide-open triples (per NBA.com). Before that, his career-high was 38.8% in 2021-22.

(Sidebar: For future reference, wide-open 3-point shooting is a great way to measure a player’s shooting ability independent of team context).

There are some reasons to pump the brakes on these numbers. First off, Avidja’s 3-point percentage may just be the product of a small sample size. He’s only taken 153 threes on the season. So, there’s a good chance that his 40.5% mark regresses to the mean with more attempts.

Second, his free throw percentage (another good context-independent way to measure a player’s shooting) has hardly changed from his past seasons. In fact, his current free throw percentage (74%) is almost identical to the one he had last season (73.9%).

With those pieces in mind, Avdija’s form does look quick and replicable (here’s a great example of his jumper in action). So, there is a chance that this isn’t a fluke and that Avdija continues to be an above-average outside shooter moving forward.

But do you know what is a pretty easily sustainable part of Avdija’s growth this year? His rim finishing. After being a 61.9% finisher around the rim last year (47th percentile), Avdija is now converting on 67% of his interior looks (74th percentile). He’s also taking more shots around the rim now too – going from 4.7 rim attempts per 75 (57th percentile) to 6.2 per 75 (78th percentile).

Most of Avdija’s attempts around the rim come from drives. He’s always been a pretty good finisher off drives, but he’s lacked the killer instinct to constantly try and attack the paint. A big reason for this lack of confidence is his below-average handle and first step.

The beautiful thing about basketball, though, is that you can overcome a lot of your talent deficiencies by just being aggressive. And it seems like someone must have bestowed that wisdom on to Avdija, as he’s driving more than ever (71st percentile in drives per 36 minutes, per Thinking Basketball) while also maintaining his efficiency (70th percentile in true shooting on drives).

As Nekias Duncan (great Twitter follow, by the way) alluded to, Avdija’s added aggression has increased his chances at the charity stripe (from the 56th percentile in free throws per 75 last year to the 76th percentile). Between his growth as a shooter, driver, and free throw grifter, Avdija is experiencing his most efficient scoring season by far (77th percentile in true shooting).

What Is His Ceiling?

This season has shown that Avdija isn’t just another fun, young player. He’s a legitimate NBA guy who will be a part of the league for a long time. But how much more than that can he be?

With his passing and improved driving, some may wonder if Avdija can evolve into a primary creator on offense. However, while Avdija is a good passer, he’s not an elite one. Plus, he’s not a good enough pull-up shooter (5th percentile on midrange jumpers) to bend defenses enough to be a volume playmaker. Take this clip, for example:

Deandre Ayton plays the Avdija pick-and-roll in a deep drop. This lets the rest of the defenders stay home on their assignment and keeps the action contained to a 2-on-2 dance. On offense, the protocol for these situations is to penalize the defense with a pull-up jumper. Unfortunately, Avdija can’t do that. So, he tries attacking Ayton at the rim. That doesn’t go as planned, there is no open man to kick it to since no defenders helped, and it leads to a turnover.

Unless his pull-up shooting somehow rapidly improves, Avdija will likely never graduate to the All-Star status.

Still, Avdija’s passing, size, improved shooting (if it holds), and drive game give him a pretty nice skillset for flanking high-level offensive players. Add those ingredients together with his already stout defense, and you have the recipe for one of the best role players in basketball.

In a lot ways, Avdija reminds me of a better-passing, less-athletic version of Aaron Gordon – a player who, in the right system, blossomed into an integral part of a championship team. And that’s exactly what I think Avdija’s ceiling is – a high-level starter on a team that goes the distance.





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Klay Thompson Reaches 15,000 Career Points in Win Against Jazz

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Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson came off the bench for the first time since his rookie season to knock down seven 3-pointers and score a season-high 35 points in Thursday night’s 140-137 win over the Utah Jazz.

Thompson was a reserve for the first time since March 11, 2012. Rookie guard Brandin Podziemski replaced him in the starting lineup and finished with 13 points, eight assists, and six rebounds.

“You can do two things: You can pout or you can go out there and respond,” said Thompson, after he became the sixth Warriors player to reach 15,000 career points. “I thought I did the latter very well tonight.”

Thompson, 34, also finished his outing with six rebounds and two assists while shooting 13-of-22 (59.1%) from the field and 7-of-13 (53.8%) from 3-point range in 29 minutes as a reserve.

Additionally, the five-time All-Star trails five Golden State players on the franchise’s all-time scoring list — Stephen Curry (23,113), Wilt Chamberlain (17,783), Rick Barry (16,447), Paul Arizin (16,266), and Chris Mullin (16,235).

His 35-point game was the first for a Warriors player in the second unit since Ian Clark in 2017 against the San Antonio Spurs, according to the Basketball-Reference database.

Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson had started 727 straight games, the fourth-longest active streak

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Thompson had started 727 straight games, the fourth-longest active streak in the NBA, trailing only DeMar DeRozanDamian Lillard, and Curry.

More importantly, dropping Thompson from the starting lineup was not a move that Warriors coach Steve Kerr wanted to make. Kerr, who earned his 500th victory as Golden State’s coach, believed the decision motivated Thompson.

“It’s been a tricky season for him and for us,” Kerr said. “It’s not as easy to do what Klay did five or six years ago for him. I think this could be a good balance to get the best out of Klay and to get the best out of our team.”

Thompson had one NBA legend on his mind when Kerr announced his decision to move him to the second unit.

“I thought about [former Spurs great] Manu Ginobili. That guy has four rings and gold medal, and he came off the bench his whole career, and I don’t think anyone looks down on his Hall of Fame candidacy,” he said. “He’s one of the greats. And I thought, I mean, I embraced it before tip, and I mean, I deserved it really.”

In the end, Kerr’s decision was a win-win for Thompson and the Warriors. The 11-year veteran put up 17 of Golden State’s 84 first-half points.

The Dubs went on to outscore Utah 50-40 in the key for their eighth win in 10 games heading into the All-Star break.





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Bucks fall to Grizzlies as 14.5-point favorite, third-largest upset loss

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The Milwaukee Bucks lost 113-110 against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night as 14.5-point favorites, making it their third-largest upset loss in the last 30 years.

For the most embarrassing part, the Bucks were coming off a 123-97 loss to a Miami Heat squad that didn’t have Jimmy Butler, Josh Richardson, or Terry Rozier.

In Milwaukee’s defeat to Memphis, the Grizzlies were without Desmond Bane, Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marcus Smart, Scottie Pippen Jr., and five other players.

Upset losses are becoming a common thing for the Bucks. During the 2021-22 season, the Detroit Pistons defeated them 115-106 as 17-point underdogs on Jan. 3, 2022.

Only once since 1995 has a bigger underdog won in the NBA. That came on Aug. 4, 2020, when the Brooklyn Nets stunned the Bucks 119-116 as 18.5-point underdogs.

Furthermore, Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 35 points and 12 assists on Thursday, his 43rd double-double of the season. Damian Lillard also tallied 24 points and seven assists.

Bobby Portis added 15 points, and Brook Lopez ended his outing with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks. Milwaukee shot 42-of-90 (46.7%) from the floor and just 11-of-44 (25%) from 3-point range.

Milwaukee Bucks are 3-7 since coach Doc Rivers replaced Adrian Griffin, went 30-13 under Griffin

Bucks coach Doc Rivers thought a few of his players were looking ahead to the All-Star break. “We had some guys here, and some guys in Cabo [San Lucas],” Rivers said.

The score was tied 57-all at halftime. Although Milwaukee outscored the Grizzlies 25-19 in the fourth quarter, the East contender also allowed 37 points in the third. Memphis held a nine-point lead with 49 seconds left.

Consecutive 3-pointers from Malik Beasley brought the Bucks within 113-110 with 29.2 left. Milwaukee had the last possession, but Lillard’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was short as Memphis won its second straight.

“I think [Lillard] just got caught up in traffic,” Rivers said.

Lillard said there was miscommunication between him and Lopez that started the last play wrong right from the get-go. A clean look was never found, which led to the upset.

“We did opposite things. They just made a play on it, and it was loose. We didn’t end up getting a clean look,” Lillard added.

Milwaukee is now just 3-7 since Rivers replaced Adrian Griffin.

The Bucks are 35-21 overall, 23-7 at home, 12-14 away, and 25-13 against Eastern Conference opponents this season. They are third in the East below the Boston Celtics (43-12) and Cleveland Cavaliers (36-17).

Milwaukee visits Minnesota on Friday, Feb. 23.





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