Once their hallmark, 3-pointers vanish for Magic

ORLANDO, FLA. (AP) - The roster shuffling and new offensive schemes the Orlando Magic have experimented with this season have left them without one of their hallmarks.

The 3-pointers are beginning to disappear for the Magic _ at least the ones that go in.

In the last two years, the Magic set NBA records for most 3-pointers made in a game and season. But they’ve struggled to find a rhythm from beyond the arc this season, squeaking out wins against the league’s perennial doormats without much offense.

“We haven’t shown a level of patience, sharpness, ball movement,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We just haven’t played well offensively.”

No where has that been more apparent than beyond the arc.

The Magic made more 3-pointers (841) than any team in league history last season, sinking more than 10 per game on 37.5 percent shooting. They also made 23 in a game against Sacramento in January 2009.

This season Orlando has made 90 3-pointers, ranks 20th in the league in 3-point shooting (34 percent) and 22nd in points per game (97.9). Not exactly the kind of quality for a team hoping to be a championship contender.

“We just have to keep shooting, keep shooting, keeping shooting till it falls,” forward Rashard Lewis said. “Then once it falls, there ain’t no turning back.”

The change in numbers is in large part because of a change in philosophy.

The Magic (7-3) have started to abandon the style of play that helped them reach the NBA finals and Eastern Conference finals the last two seasons. Lewis has spent has spent much of his time at small forward instead of power forward, and Orlando has gone with a more traditional power forward in Brandon Bass.

The idea, of course, is to try as many things as possible with such a deep and talented roster _ something Orlando didn’t do much last season. The problem is that could cost Orlando some wins early, or at the very least make things more difficult during this easier part of their schedule.

It’s a sacrifice the Magic are willing to accept now if it pays off in the long run.

“Take the lumps now, early in the season, while we’re still capable of winning. Then we’ll be looking at this early in the year stuff when you’re in the playoffs, and we’ll know exactly what to do when it really counts,” Lewis said.

No matter what lineup the Magic have sent out, they still haven’t shot the ball well.

Almost across the board, Orlando’s perimeter player are struggling to shoot from beyond the arc: J.J. Redick (12 percent), Quentin Richardson (25 percent) Ryan Anderson (30 percent), Lewis (30 percent) have all seen their output plummet, and only Jameer Nelson (40 percent) and Vince Carter (45 percent) and Mickael Pietrus (52 percent) have remained steady or improved shooting 3-pointers.

It’s a problem players just haven’t figured out how to fix.

“You can’t come in and say you need to change this about your shot, you need to change that. You just got to shoot the ball,” Nelson said. “Everybody in the locker room has confidence in the guy next to him. We just got to play with confidence.”

Van Gundy attributes most of the shooting woes to poor ball movement.

Orlando is averaging only 18 assists per game, good for 27th in the NBA. They’ve used more post-ups, which have diminished ball movement, and often become too stagnant and predictable.

The Magic have gotten away with some of their poor shooting mostly because their defense _ anchored by two-time reigning defensive player of the year Dwight Howard _ hasn’t dropped off. But they’ve also had a relatively soft schedule early, and the two toughest games they’ve played _ against Miami and Utah _ were both losses.

With the season barely a month old, however, the Magic aren’t overly concerned.

“We brought a lot of guys on our team in for a lot of reasons, but one thing they all have in common is that they can shoot the ball,” Van Gundy said. “History tells you that they can shoot the ball and we can’t panic over (10) games. We haven’t shot it well, but these guys have a history of shooting it well and will shoot it well.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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