It was the most puzzling individual performance the Orlando Magic have had all season: Why did Arron Afflalo, the team’s leading scorer and perhaps its grittiest player, not attempt a shot during Tuesday’s loss to the Detroit Pistons until late in the third quarter? Why did he try just four shots overall?
Did it have to do with Glen Davis shooting 15 times in the first half? Did it have to do with Jacque Vaughn’s decision to start J.J. Redick at shooting guard and shift Afflalo to small forward? Was it because Redick made all seven of the shots he attempted in the game’s first three quarters?
Or was it just a rare off night for Afflalo?
“It was just a combination [of factors],” Afflalo said today after the Magic completed their shootaround to prepare for their game tonight against the Toronto Raptors.
“Every game’s going to be different. I do try to model myself on being a consistent player, being somebody that, one, you can count on from a production standpoint. It’s about adjusting my mindset but also communicating with my teammates to make sure that we’re helping each other be consistent in what we do.”
“But J.J. came out and played very well. Glen’s going to be aggressive. But I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.”
In almost 38 minutes, Afflalo finished the night 0-for-4 from the field and didn’t score a point.
But he did make a contribution. He collected nine rebounds and distributed five assists — two to Nik Vucevic and one apiece to Davis, Redick and Gustavo Ayón.
Still, Afflalo entered the game averaging 14.5 shot attempts per game.
He didn’t put up his first shot until 2 minutes, 33 seconds remained in the third quarter.
He didn’t look like himself.
Asked again about it this morning, Vaughn downplayed it, saying he never enters a game saying that one of his players needs a certain number of shots.
“The offense will produce the shots,” Vaughn said. “At that juncture of the game [in the first half], it produced a good start for us. I’m not sure numbers-wise, but I know we had a double-digit lead. So I don’t see anything more to it.”
Some observers hypothesized that Afflalo didn’t like being moved to the small forward spot to begin the game.
Afflalo is listed as 6 feet 5, and when he plays at small forward, the biggest change he faces is that he has to guard, and be guarded by, taller opponents. On Tuesday, that meant he began the game against 6-foot-9 Tayshaun Prince instead of 6-foot-8 rookie Kyle Singler, and Prince is a better defender.
But the notion that a position change would’ve been jarring to Afflalo wouldn’t seem to hold much weight.
Before Tuesday, the quintet of Jameer Nelson, Redick, Afflalo, Davis and Vucevic had spent more time on the floor than any other grouping for the Magic, totaling 184 minutes overall, according to the NBA's statistical database. It also has been the group Vaughn prefers down the stretches of games.
After the game ended, Davis said Afflalo needs to take more than four shots in a game.
Davis is correct.
What the Magic need offensively is some level of balance. The team lacks a go-to scorer, which is a primary reason the team struggles to close-out games.
If anything, it was amazing that the Magic managed 52 points in the first half, even as Davis went 4-for-15 from the field.
But Afflalo didn’t suddenly start taking shots when Davis was sent to the bench after Davis committed a technical foul with 7 minutes, 23 seconds left in the third quarter.
Exactly five minutes passed until Afflalo took his first shot of the game.
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at email@example.com and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times