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December 4, 2012, 02:24 AM ET
Orlando’s Five Closers

by Kevin Pelton

Demonstrating that Sunday night’s win at the Staples Center was no fluke, the Orlando Magic followed it up Monday by going to Golden State and beating the Warriors in the second half of a back-to-back set. The two wins followed a similar script. After hanging around for three and a half quarters, Orlando blew the game open with efficient scoring down the stretch.

It turns out this has quietly been going on for a while. The Magic’s finishing lineup–starters Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic and sixth man J.J. Redick–has been one of the league’s most efficient fivesomes this season. Entering Monday night’s game, this lineup had played 67 minutes together, per NBA.com/Stats, outscoring opponents by 41 points. Their 121.2 Offensive Rating ranks fourth among lineups with at least 50 minutes. Both figures went up Monday night, when Orlando finished the game on a 23-15 run after Nelson returned to the game, scoring at a rate of 153.3 points per 100 possessions.

This would all be less surprising if they did not play for a 7-10 team with the NBA’s 28th-best offense. NBA.com/Stats shows two other Magic lineups that have outscored opponents by even 10 points on the season, and both are nothing more than Small Sample Size Theatre. For comparison’s sake, Orlando’s starting lineup–with rookie Maurice Harkless in place of Redick–is -12 in 62 minutes.  The team’s other two most common lineups have been outscored by at least 20 points.

The perimeter trio of Afflalo, Nelson and Redick makes this lineup click. All three players are dangerous outside shooters and can handle the basketball, keeping defenses off balance. Davis and Vucevic have enough range that opposing defenses must respect them, and the Magic doesn’t give up much size at the other end of the court, making the lineup viable for extended minutes. Still, I wouldn’t expect to see it starting games. Orlando also needs Redick as the anchor of a second unit otherwise lacking in shot creators, though a healthy Al Harrington might offer more scoring punch off the bench at some point. For now, the Magic’s finishing lineup remains the NBA equivalent of a closer, to be deployed sparingly but to great effect.

You can contact Kevin at kpelton@basketballprospectus.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

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