Monday, June 8

Rashard Lewis: Magic From Mid-Range

There’s been quite a bit of talk about the Magic’ poor offensive showing in Game 1, and whether it was due more to just cold shooting on their part, the Lakers’ defense, or both. As Kevin Pelton points out at BasketballProspectus:

What killed Orlando was a complete and total inability to finish inside the arc; the Magic made 15 two-pointers all game (fewer than Bryant, with 16, had all by himself) and shot 27.8 percent on those attempts, which is appallingly poor.
I had noticed this trend myself, and it made me really nervous that this could turn into a four-game coronation for Kobe Bryant. Thankfully, the Magic improved their numbers dramatically in this regard in Game 2, and while the sample size is quite small, it is encouraging for the rest of the series.

For example, take one Rashard Lewis. In Game 1, Lewis only made two shots all night, both of them from behind the 3-point line. In Game 2, as you no doubt are already aware, Lewis made six shots – in the second quarter alone. In total, he finished with 12 FGM and 34 points (including, sadly, the only jump shot the Magic sank out of six attempts in overtime). On the night, he was 2-2 on mid-range jump shots.

Just for curiosity’s sake, let’s take a look at the shot charts (courtesy of of Lewis matched up against Los Angeles during the past five seasons:

First, 2009, when he finished 0-2 on mid-range shots:
Lewis vs Lakers, 2009

2008, 0/0:
Lewis v Lakers, 2008

2007, (during Lewis’ Seattle days), 2/8:
Lewis v Lakers, 2007

2006, 7/12:
Lewis v Lakers, 2006

2005, 2/5:
Lewis v Lakers, 2005

As you can see, with the exception of the 2006 season, Lewis has been a non-factor on those mid-range jumpers. That’s not to say he hasn’t been an effective offensive weapon, but just that his offense has come from far out or very close in.

Contrast that with last night, when Lewis made as many mid-range shots (two) as he had in four of the last five seasons. Rashard receives a lot of criticism for his lack of aggression on both ends of the court, and it is often deserved.

Last night, though, he seemed to change his style a bit and silenced those criticisms. Will this change carry over when the series relocates to the Sunshine State? With Rashard Lewis, expecting a continued aggressive performance is a fools’ errand, so I won’t go that far. If I’m a Magic fan, though, it at least gives me some encouragement as the franchise continues a quest for its first NBA Finals victory in seven tries.