The Orlando Magic easily dispatched CSKA Moscow last night by a final score of 94-66. Take a look at the boxscore here.
Here's a quick look at the Four Factors:
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
The Magic have yet to out-perform their opponents on the offensive glass this preseason. Not a good sign.
For the rest of this recap, I'm going to crib from a format the guys at Blazer's Edge, SB Nation's Portland Trail Blazers blog, use in their recaps.
Individual observations for the starters:
Dwight Howard lead the way for Orlando, as expected. CSKA Moscow had no answer for the Magic's franchise center, who tallied game-highs in points (28), rebounds (10), and steals (5) in only 28 minutes. He showed improved footwork in the paint, although it's unclear to me if the talent disparity between him and his defenders had something to do with it. After the game, coach Stan Van Gundy praised Howard's intensity and approach. He also said that Dwight has, in general, taken a more serious attitude in practice. John Denton has more on this encouraging-for-us-slash-discouraging-for-every-other-team-in-the-league story here. Because I'm so pleased with this development, I'll go ahead and re-print my favorite quote from the piece:
"I'm trying to be more serious and show everybody that it's about business when we're on the floor," Howard said. "Then, after it's over we can have fun."
- Hedo Turkoglu also got on-track tonight, but only in the offensive sense of the phrase. He scored 16 points on 9 shots, but did not tally a single rebound in 23 minutes. A 6'10" forward playing against a team that couldn't shoot straight (29-of-71 on the night) should manage to grab a few rebounds, right?
- Rashard Lewis simply had an off game. His legs weren't under him, as he shot 5-of-14 from the field overall and 0-for-5 on three-pointers. What I liked, though, was his intensity. He did not appear to take the competition lightly, and could be seen cursing himself after losing the ball out of bounds on one possession. That display of emotion from the usually stoic Lewis indicated (at least to me; I'm not a psychologist) that he was at least engaged in the game. It was not a question of effort tonight for Rashard; he just had a bad night.
- Mickael Pietrus didn't do much, but then again, he hardly touched the ball on offense. His lone field goal came thanks to a gorgeous lob from backup point guard Anthony Johnson. Pietrus noticed his defender was napping, cut along the baseline, elevated, and threw down a reverse dunk with both hands. The play got the languid crowd on its feat and prompted Simon the Music Guy to play the SportsCenter theme over the P.A. Pietrus also blocked 2 shots from the weak-side and played good on-ball defense. Moscow ran the same pick-and-roll play on the right side several times, and each time the screener nearly flattened Pietrus, and each time he busted his butt to get through the screen anyway. Dude plays hard.
- Jameer Nelson had the sort of night that his detractors, of whom there are many, love to point to. Although he grabbed 4 rebounds and handed out 4 assists, he did not select his shots very well and went 1-for-6 from the field as a result. He only turned the ball over once (on a silly, forced fast-break pass to Keith Bogans in the right corner) but that number doesn't tell the whole story. He picked up his dribble too early at times. Coach Stan Van Gundy had several animated discussions with him on the sideline. Not a good night for Jameer.
Observations of the team's reserves, of the team as a whole, and of in-arena happenings after the jump.
Individual observations of the reserves:
- Keith Bogans' performance resembled Jameer's. In 20 minutes, he went scoreless (both of his shots were rushed three-pointers), grabbed 4 rebounds, turned the ball over twice and committed 1 foul. A year ago, he started 35 games for this team. To see this sort of regression, even in a preseason game, worries me. I wish I had something to say about his defense. Fact is, when he was out there, I hardly noticed.
- Brian Cook was alright. He punctuated the Magic's 37-point first quarter with a three-pointer from well beyond the arc and finished the game with 7 points. In 17 minutes, the 6'09" Cook finished with 1 rebound. You hate to see rebounding numbers that low for a power forward playing significant minutes.
- Anthony Johnson was steady, as I expect he will be throughout the season. He didn't make many mistakes and ran the offense as well as he could, considering his teammates seemed to want to stand around for entire possessions. His aforementioned lob to Pietrus, which he threw from well behind the three-point line, impressed everyone. If anything, I worry about his defense. Although the effort and technique are there, the quickness isn't. He had trouble sticking with the 32-year-old Moscow starter J.R. Holden, only 2 years his junior. Imagine what's going to happen when he has to guard the NBA's speedier backups.
- Marcin Gortat might become a fan-favorite player this year if he gets enough burn. He shot just 2-of-5 for 4 points, but only 1 of those looks (a rushed, off-balance layup off a beautiful feed from J.J. Redick; he had the time and space to gather himself and dunk, which is what he should have done instead) was bad. Thing is, he's not here to score points: he's there to rebound and block shots, and he has the skills and instincts to do both those things effectively.
- J.J. Redick had his first poor game of the preseason. He shot just 2-of-8 for 5 points, and his misses came mostly on bad shots. On one late-game possession, he tried to post-up (?) fellow Duke alum Trajan Langdon on the left block, then spun baseline and took a fadeaway jumper... which Langdon swatted out-of-bounds. It was that kind of night for J.J. If anything encouraging came out of this game, it's that he showed he can put the ball on the floor. His lone two-point field goal came on an impressive drive to his right in which he shook his defender by faking a pass to Keith Bogans (once again lurking in the right corner) as he drove, only to bring the ball back to his body, go up with it, lay it in, draw the foul, and earn a trip to the line. He missed the ensuing free-throw. I hope his willingness to drive the lane carries over into the regular season against NBA competition; I also hope I never have to see him post-up again. Gracious, it was bad.
- Dwayne Jones made his Magic debut and played about as advertised. Like Gortat, his only duties are to rebound and block shots. Yes, he sometimes looked out-of-sorts in the offense, but that's to be expected of a guy who only joined the team in training camp. He sets good picks and doesn't take plays off. I really think the Magic could count on Jones to play solidly in spot-minutes this season, which is why it's a shame they'll almost certainly cut him to stay below the luxury tax.
- Jeremy Richardson, also in his Magic debut, ran the floor well and played with confidence. He took 5 shots, making 3 (a dunk, a reverse layup, and a long jumper), in the final 8 minutes of the game. In this way, he reminded my father of Jason Richardson, the Charlotte Bobcats guard to whom he is not related. He's athletic and almost certainly belongs at the end of some NBA team's bench, but probably not Orlando's. The presence of Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, and Mickael Pietrus on the Magic's roster means it's going to be an uphill battle for him to make the team. Is it wrong for me to pre-emptively wish him well?
- Mike Wilks joined Richardson in playing the game's final 8 minutes, and didn't make a great impression. The team, with him at the point-guard command, committed a shot-clock violation on its first possession after he checked in. And it really was his fault: he got the ball at the top of the key with two seconds left and couldn't get a shot off in time. There are two possible reasons for this: one is that he simply didn't know how many ticks the clock had left; the other is that he knew, but he couldn't shoot over the defense; after all, he stands only 5'10". However, he acquitted himself on the Magic's last significant position by splitting the defense on a pick-and-roll with Jones, then converting a tough lefty layup around the weak-side help defender at the rim.
Team observations, of which there are few:
- The defense could have been better. Don't let CSKA's low offensive efficiency and eFG% fool you: it got plenty of open looks, but simply did not convert them. Their forwards (I'm sorry I can't identify them here; their dark blue uniform numbers blended into the bright red uniforms, I was wearing my backup pair of glasses, and I sat in the upper bowl.) connected on several wide-open, mid-range jumpers. The Magic tightened the screws in the second half and forced several shot-clock violations. Howard's presence in the paint certainly made some of Moscow's players think twice before driving.
- In his post-game remarks to the media, Van Gundy said that he was pleased with his team's effort, for the most part. He attributed a lot of the team's struggling to tired legs after playing 3 games, holding 11 practices (some of those in two-a-day format), and having 3 walkthroughs in a very short span of time. He did not play rookie guard Courtney Lee, whom he said has "hit the wall" because of fatigue, for this reason. He praised his team's approach, saying it focused early and did not take the game for granted.
- I have footage of some pre-game stuff that I hope to post later, but here's a taste of what some of it is : CSKA came out of the locker room and did calisthenics on the floor for what must have been 15 minutes; don't worry, the video isn't nearly that long. Call it a cultural barrier or something, because no NBA team I've ever seen has done anything but beeline for the ball rack and start a layup line after taking the floor for pre-game warmups.
- One of the songs Simon the Music Guy played during pre-game warmups was the theme from Friends. Hilarious coincidence time: the man leading CSKA's calisthenics/stretching session indicated it was time to switch positions by clapping his hands, and at least once his hand-clapping aligned perfectly with that of the song.
- No Russian national anthem tonight, which is odd. I thought it was customary for teams to play their opponent's national anthem if it's from another country. At the conclusion of the United States' anthem, the teams met at midcourt and shook hands. That's always nice to see.
- Plenty of fans wearing new Magic replica jerseys. Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis were the most popular styles.
- This news will certainly sadden The Blowtorch: Outside the arena before tip-off, I saw an elderly woman wearing a blue Hedo Turkoglu jersey-shirt (new style) under a fuschia knit sweater. After the game, I saw a different elderly woman wearing a Turkoglu jersey-shirt (old style). Hedo Turkoglu is a hit with the coveted septuagenarian demographic.
- More jersey-shirt madness: one man I saw on the concourse had a custom Mark Acres #42 jersey-shirt. This man was not Mark Acres. I cannot explain these things.
- Okay, I promise, this is the last sartorial note: I spotted someone with a custom Magic jersey that said "Vazquez" on the back. Either his surname is Vazquez or he has a wicked sense of humor.
- One of the time-out filler/entertainment bits featured four Magic Dancers doing the party trick in which people sit on chairs in a certain configuration, lie down on each other, then remain upright when the chairs are removed from under them. In the likely event that description made no sense to you, here's video of some guys doing that trick. After Stuff removed the chairs, emcee Scotty B. shouted, "Alright, Magic fans! Everyone say 'ho!'" It seems to me that encouraging an arena mostly filled with men to shout "ho!" at a group of scantily clad women lying on their backs is, uh, not a good idea. Not that I think Scotty B. was being sexist; after all, "ho!" is a pretty common exclamation. But yeah, the word-choice struck me as odd.
- At halftime, two local youth basketball teams played a six-minute, full-court game. The players could not have been more than 10 years old, which made the sight of their running the length of an NBA floor comical. But the best part came when one errant shot got wedged between the backboard and the rim. Marcin Gortat, sitting on the sideline and awaiting the chance to warm-up, dutifully trotted out to retrieve the ball. Several times, he feigned not being able to reach it, much to the crowd's delight. Of course, he then pulled it down and handed it to the kids. After the game ended, the Magic players who were waiting to warm up high-fived the players. It seemed impromptu and unscripted, which is nice. I really enjoy rooting for this team.