Posted by John Schuhmann
The Orlando Magic are not a high-assist team. They ranked 25th in the league this season with 19.7 assists per game and 24th by assisting on 53.7 percent of their field goals.
Orlando’s two leading scorers in the regular season were Dwight Howard and Vince Carter. And according to 82games.com, just 50 percent of Howard’s field goals and just 38 percent of Carter’s field goals were assisted on. Think of Howard working slowly in the low post and Carter coming off of a high screen and those numbers make sense.
So a low assist number for the Magic in any particular game isn’t that shocking. But you can’t help but do a double-take when you check out Orlando’s assist numbers against Boston.
In Sunday’s Game 1 loss, the Magic registered just 10 assists on 32 field goals. That was their fourth lowest assist total of the season, and two of the three times they had less than 10 were against the Celtics as well. On Christmas, in an 86-77 loss, the Magic had just seven assists on 26 field goals. And on Jan. 28, in a 96-94 victory, the Magic had just eight assists on 32 field goals.
What is it that the Celtics do defensively to keep Orlando’s assists low? It’s a combination of things…
1. Rajon Rondo pressures the ball, making it difficult for Jameer Nelson to make a pass that penetrates the defense. With ball pressure, if Nelson does make a pass to initiate the offense, it’s likely going to the wing, a step or two beyond the 3-point line.
2. When Nelson or Carter run a screen-and-roll, the Celtics don’t double-team. Instead, the guy defending the screener helps until the guard can recover. So there’s never much of an opening for Nelson or Carter to make an effective pass.
3. They don’t double-team Dwight Howard, staying at home on the perimeter.
Combine these three factors and passing lanes have been tough to find for the Magic. With limited ball movement, most of their scores come off the dribble.
Going forward, Carter and Nelson will have to be more aggressive coming off the high screen, and Howard will have to be more effective in the low post. Either could force the Celtics to make an adjustment defensively.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Follow him on twitter.