OR­LANDO MAGIC cen­ter Mar­reese Speights re­flects on the ad­vice he got from Golden State War­riors coach Steve Kerr.

Misses, poor shot se­lec­tion hurt Magic

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Josh Robbins Staff Writer

OAK­LAND, Calif. — Dur­ing the first month of their sea­son, the Or­lando Magic fol­lowed a sim­ple for­mula on of­fense and had suc­cess with it. Push the pace. Move the ball. Find the open man.

On Mon­day night, the Magic aban­doned their modus operandi against the most un­for­giv­ing of op­po­nents, the Golden State War­riors.

Tied at half­time, the Magic un­rav­eled dur­ing the third quar­ter, at­tempt­ing too many con­tested shots early in the shot clock. The War­riors took ad­van­tage and dom­i­nated the pe­riod. The Magic never re­cov­ered and lost 110-100 at Or­a­cle Arena.

Or­lando made only five of its 18 shot at­tempts and com­mit­ted four turnovers in the third quar­ter. An ex­am­ple of the Magic’s im­pa­tience oc­curred mid­way through the pe­riod. Al­ready trail­ing 76-63, Aaron

step back” — were more pro­found than per­haps Kerr or Speights re­al­ized at the time. In­spired by the War­riors’ suc­cess and sup­ported by ad­vanced statis­tics, the NBA has em­braced 3-point shoot­ing like never be­fore. Teams have be­gun to aban­don the long 2-point jumpers that al­ways had been the cen­tral part of Speights’ reper­toire on of­fense. Kerr’s ad­vice en­hanced, and per­haps ex­tended, Speights’ ca­reer.

“It’s very im­por­tant, be­cause you barely see peo­ple shoot­ing mid-range jumpers,” Speights said Mon­day. “The 3-point­ers and layups are all peo­ple are re­ally shoot­ing now. Some­times you look at games and you see peo­ple about to shoot a 2, and they’ll just throw it out [to the perime­ter] or throw it [in­side] for a layup. The 3-pointer is a big key to this league right now.”

The im­pact of Kerr’s ad­vice was es­pe­cially poignant Mon­day night, when Speights’ Magic faced Kerr’s War­riors at Or­a­cle Arena.

At 6-foot-10 and slow afoot, Speights doesn’t fit into the small-ball mold. He needed to di­ver­sify his game to re­main rel­e­vant in the new NBA, and Kerr’s en­cour­age­ment gave him the free­dom to im­prove.

“It’s the way the league is go­ing, and a guy like Mo al­most has to be a 3-point shooter the way he plays,” Kerr said Mon­day.

“From the mo­ment he stepped into this league he was a great shooter, but it was more like the 20-foot range,” Kerr added. “And when I took the job and I was watch­ing tape, it seemed like he was mak­ing a mil­lion 22-foot­ers and [the 3-point line] was just one step back. I had been with Chan­ning Frye in Phoenix when I was GM, and Chan­ning had made that tran­si­tion. Chan­ning, be­fore he got to Phoenix was a long 2-point shooter — a great shooter but not re­ally a 3-point shooter — and he made that tran­si­tion in Phoenix beau­ti­fully and be­came one of the best-shoot­ing bigs in the league.”

Speights didn’t take Kerr’s ad­vice dur­ing the 2014-15 sea­son, which was Kerr’s first sea­son as the War­riors’ coach.

But Speights started to change dur­ing the 2015-16 sea­son.

“I was just so scared to shoot 3s that if I shoot and miss I’m go­ing to come out of the game,” Speights said. “But he gave me con­fi­dence. [He said,] ‘Take one step back and shoot it.’ ”

Speights, 30, has rushed head­first into the 3-point trend ever since.

Last sea­son with the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers, he at­tempted 3.4 treys a game and made 37.2 per­cent of them.

Speights has pro­vided in­stant of­fense off the bench for Or­lando, too. Through Sun­day, he had launched 4.1 treys a game in lim­ited minutes for the Magic and made 43.2 per­cent of his at­tempts. His long-range ac­cu­racy has stretched op­pos­ing de­fenses and cre­ated op­por­tu­ni­ties for his team­mates.

On Oct. 30, Speights of­fered a glimpse of his value. He lifted the Magic to a road win over the New Or­leans Pel­i­cans be­cause of his out­side shoot­ing. Speights scored 18 points off the bench, mak­ing six of his 10 at­tempts from 3-point range.

Speights’ un­canny abil­ity to score im­me­di­ately af­ter he comes in off the bench doesn’t sur­prise Kerr.

“I love Mo Speights,” Kerr said. “[He’s] one of my fa­vor- ites. [He has] just a huge heart. [He’s a] won­der­ful team­mate — a guy who just stayed ready ev­ery game. We played him like once ev­ery three games, and the two games that he didn’t play, he never com­plained. He just smiled and worked. The third game that we would play him, he’d usu­ally make four or five buck­ets. I would say over the course of two years when I was coach­ing, he prob­a­bly per­son­ally won us eight or 10 games with his shoot­ing.”

Kerr helped make that pos­si­ble.

Speights and the Magic are thank­ful.

BEN MARGOT/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Or­lando’s Jonathon Sim­mons (17) scores over Golden State’s Omri Casspi in Mon­day night’s game.

TONY DEJAK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

While Magic coach Frank Vogel calls Mar­reese Speights (5) a great passer, it’s his lon­grange ac­cu­racy that stretches de­fenses and cre­ates op­por­tu­ni­ties for his team­mates.

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