It's a brand new day, everything is A-OK.
Orlando makes (5.3) and shoots (13.2) the fewest 16-23 foot jumpers per game of any team in the NBA. And yet they make (10.3) and shoot (28.2) the most three-pointers per game. Based on getting two points for a 23-footer and three points for a 24-footer, this strategy would seem to make sense.
[update: Check out Ziller's map of team shot locations. Really, do this.]
That was then...
A month ago yesterday, the Magic beat the Bucks 100-98, but it was the kind of loss that left your heart beating hard. Milwaukee built a 17-point lead into the second half against the defending conference champs -- and it was all without Andrew Bogut, Michael Redd, or Luc Mbah a Moute.
Who would have thought that a short time later, all three of the aforementioned now healthy players would get benched for entire halves within a two-game span? First Mbah a Moute rather inexplicably in the first half against the Spurs, and then both Redd and Bogut rather deservedly in the second half against the Bobcats.
The Bucks were full of energy in the first matchup -- Ilyasova powered his way to 20/16, Jennings and Ridnour combined for 38 points, the team moved the ball freely and defended as well as possible without its two defensive aces and against a dynamic offense. That was then...
Work hard, play hard.
That is the mantra, heard in all corners of the Bradley Center this season.
And for all its simplicity and/or silliness, it rang loudly true until about a week ago. It's hard to believe because everything has come crashing down oh-so-fast, but the Bucks were in a thriller just ten days against Sacramento, and followed that up with a win in Indy. The win over the Pacers was rather uninspiring, but you couldn't imagine at the time that it would foretell such a speedy, steep decline in imagination and effort.
So, what have the Magic been up to while the Bucks have sunk? Well, nothing. Orlando returns to the court after four days of rest, having not played since Christmas Day when the Celtics downed them 86-77. Sort of wish the Bucks hadn't played since then.
Bogut should start, though Redd can't/shouldn't be considered a sure thing at this juncture. The Bucks are 3-10 with Redd this season, 9-7 without him, and he sports a -98 straight differential. That is all far too simple, but it's also far too believable. Of course, Ridnour has thrived coming off the bench and Bell doesn't offer much offensively, so don't be surprised if we see more Mike.
Defensive stalwart Mickael Pietrus started at small forward for Orlando and didn't score a single point in the first matchup between these teams, and that worked for the Magic. As Frank noted in the Bobs' recap, Skiles was happy to pull Carlos Delfino early and give Mbah a Moute the heavy minutes in Charlotte, but it's odd that he keeps starting the Argentine.
To be fair, Mbah a Moute is actually playing slightly more this month (27.2 to 26.2 minutes/game) than Delfino, but still...
Delfino is shooting 4-21 in the last four games, and here are his December shooting splits: 38.4 field goal % 24.5 three point % and 5-5 at the line. Yes, five free throw attempts. So, what again is he contributing that Mbah a Moute is not?