Flash back to last Sunday after Orlando’s loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. Rashard Lewis had just posted his second consecutive three-point game and his third straight game scoring in single digits.
Vince Carter offered Lewis some advice.
“I just tell him to keep playing,” Carter said. “He’s a proven player that’s done a lot for us and hits big shots so I’m not really worried about him. With him in the game, they still have to cover him because of what he’s done in his career and this year.”
Carter should know what to do in a situation like that. He went through a terrible slump himself. In the month of January, Carter averaged just 8.7 points per game on 28.4% shooting from the field and 22.4% shooting from beyond the arc.
Carter made a concerted effort to get to the basket more, take better shots and find ways to involve his teammates. Carter followed up his poor January with an excellent month of February that saw him average 18.6 points per game on 51.5% shooting from the field and 51.1% shooting from downtown and is having an even better March scoring-wise, averaging 19.7 points per game on 50.4% shooting from the field and 46.2% shooting from three.
Although Lewis may have had reason to grow frustrated – the acquisition of Vince Carter has meant far less shots for Lewis (he averaged 13.8 attempts per game last season and is averaging just 11.7 per game this season (for more on Lewis’ dip in production, reference this post from January)) – Lewis never showed signs of frustration.
“I’m not frustrated at all…This is my 12th year in the league,” Lewis said after the loss to the Bobcats. “There’s been times when I’ve got frustrated over shots and wanted the ball, but I wasn’t on a good team. This time, I’m a veteran. All that matters is winning. I’m on a good a team, a playoff team, a team that’s competing for a championship. Sometimes you’ve got to know how to play your role and sometimes you’ve got to sacrifice.”
Lewis seems to have taken Carter’s advice and now looks to be on the same path as Carter.
Over his last three games, Lewis has averaged 22.7 points per game on 59.0% shooting from the field and 52.4% shooting from beyond the arc.
Although Lewis is still doing the majority of his damage from beyond the arc (he’s11-of-21 from three over the last three games), he’s being much more aggressive.
In Orlando’s loss to Charlotte, Lewis didn’t attack the rim at all, not attempting one shot at the rim and only taking one shot, a miss, from within 10 feet. Lewis’ other six shots were from beyond the arc. He finished the game 1-of-7 from the field with three points and did not even attempt a free throw.
Just three days later against the Spurs, in an attempt to break him out of his slump, Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy called an early play for Lewis, an 18-foot jumper which Lewis hit, which seemed to spark him the rest of the way. Lewis started to put the ball on the floor in attempt to get to the basket. Even though Lewis did not attempt a shot at the rim, he was 2-of-2 from within 10 feet. This opened up the outside shot for Lewis, who went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and finished with 20 points.
The next night against Miami, Lewis did an even better job of getting to the basket. He attempted six shots from within 10 feet of the rim. Although he made just two of these baskets, he was able to draw fouls and went 4-of-4 from the charity stripe. Lewis’ aggressiveness also softened up the defense on him, allowing him to get much better looks from the perimeter. Lewis went 2-of-3 from between 16 and 23 feet and was 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. He finished the game with 24 points.
Lewis continued this type of play against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night. Lewis was again aggressive and this time, he beat his opponents with the two-point shot. Lewis still managed to go 3-of-7 from downtown , but he was a perfect 5-of-5 from inside the three-point line. Lewis also managed to get to the free throw line six times, which is the most free throws he has attempted since February 11th in Cleveland during a loss to the Cavaliers. Lewis hit five of his six attempts from the charity stripe.
Van Gundy had some complaints about Lewis’ energy level but there has been nothing but praise for Lewis over his last three games.
Lewis tied a season-high by grabbing 11 rebounds against the Miami Heat on Thursday night and although Lewis struggled to defend Elton Brand early on Monday, he made a key defensive play, blocking a shot while Orlando was in the midst of their second half run. Lewis also made a great bounce pass to Dwight Howard, who threw down a dunk to give the Magic a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of their victory over the 76ers.
He seems to be running the floor well, is playing more minutes and just looks like he is better shape than he was earlier in the season.
Keeping Lewis’ play at this level will be key for the Magic. Although the Magic added a go-to player in Vince Carter, Lewis has been Orlando’s big-shot maker.
Everyone remembers what Lewis did to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
Lately, he’s been living up to that reputation.
With the Magic leading by three in overtime with just 28.4 seconds to play against the Heat on Thursday night, Lewis hauled in a pass from Vince Carter and drained a three-pointer from the left corner, giving Orlando a six-point lead and ensuring a victory. Lewis scored seven of Orlando’s 13 overtime points.
It was more of the same on Monday night. The Magic continuously threatened to blow the 76ers out, but the 76ers would not let the Magic put them away. Well, until Rashard Lewis put them away that is. With 1:19 to go and the Magic leading by nine, Lewis drained a three-pointer to give the Magic a 12-point lead, ending any hope for a comeback. Lewis scored 10 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter.
The man who has been nicknamed “Ice-O” is still cold-blooded.
Lewis has said all along that he would be just fine and never worried about his shot.
“Just keep shooting the ball,” Lewis said. “I didn’t worry about it at all.”
And keep shooting he will.
After all, that’s just what the Magic need.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks and Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).