A Daily Babble Production
Second, first, tied for first.
Those would be the Orlando Magic's respective league rankings in three-pointers attempted per game, three-pointers made per game and three-point percentage this season.
Of the top 75 qualified individuals on the NBA's three-point shooting leader board, five played substantial minutes for the Magic last night. A sixth (J.J. Redick) played sparingly, and a seventh (Jameer Nelson) is done for the year with an injury.
Indeed, the Magic make a habit of doing significant damage from the outside. This makes it all the more frustrating that the Celtics did such a poor job of defending the three-point line in last night's 84-82 loss.
The Magic hit right around their season averages with 10 makes and 25 total attempts from beyond the arc. Allowing 40 percent - a fine shooting percentage from the outside - over such a high volume of single-game attempts is bad enough. But given the type of looks the Celts afforded Orlando, they were fortunate the numbers didn't end up worse than that.
I understand that this is a Celtics defense that thrives on swarming the basketball inside and rotating well to force teams to make extra passes on the outside to score. Also, against a player like Dwight Howard, some amount of doubling is to be expected on the blocks. But especially considering that the Celtics limited their doubling of Howard (Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson raved on ESPN about Kendrick Perkins' willingness to try to handle Howard one-on-one, for better or for worse, and the Celts went that route often), none of that excuses demonstrating a lack of awareness of where shooters are on the floor.
Throughout the evening, men in white shirts seemed to be spotting up from behind the arc either wide open or with an out-of-control defender running at them late. Courtney Lee is a rookie from Western Kentucky who will probably end up with a Babble devoted to him before the season is over. He also shoots 40.6 percent from the three-point line. On multiple occasions, Ray Allen wound up sprinting at him after the fact with no real chance to challenge his shot. That's not to pick on Ray alone just because the image of Lee hitting from the left corner remains planted in my head: Other Celtics defenders wound up in similar situations with Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu.
Lee and Lewis combined to shoot for 7-for-11 from deep. While that's high compared to their normal figures, it's plausible for professional shooters being left largely unchallenged. Turkoglu, a 37.2 percent three-point shooter this year, shot just 2-for-7 from the perimeter. That's a mark of his own poor shooting night more than it is a credit to the Celtics' defense as Turkoglu's looks at the basket were just as good as those of his teammates.
The Celtics' defenders consistently looked lost in space as the Magic worked the ball to their shooters on the perimeter. Sometimes this wound up with green shirts watching shots go up. Other times, it wound up with them making a belated beeline for shooters without being early enough to contest the shot effectively or under enough control to box out well. On one occasion, Mikki Moore, defensive disaster that he is, steamrolled Rashard Lewis for a three-shot foul. That came in the middle of the fourth quarter with the Magic stuck in a rut of four and a half minutes that featured just two made field goals on nine shots.
Whether any individual shot goes in or not, those are all bad defensive practices. They are especially bad against teams that shoot the three-pointer often and well. While the Magic are no doubt difficult to cover because of their many offensive options (and they also deserve credit for the ball movement Stan Van Gundy stressed in several huddles last night), the Celtics must do a better job next time around of knowing where the most dangerous shooters are at all times. If they don't, the green is likely to suffer even more damage from deep.