The Orlando Magic opened the Amway Center, their new building, in spectacular fashion this evening, dealing the helpless New Orleans Hornets a 135-81 defeat on the strength of its top-notch work on both sides of the ball. "We played extremely well at both ends of the floor for the entire game," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "The things that we wanted to work on and get better at, I thought we did," specifically mentioning ball movement, ball control, and defending without fouling as those areas of improvement. Mission accomplished for Orlando, which shot 64.8 percent from the field, made 15 three-pointers, and got double-figure scoring performances from seven players. Rashard Lewis, J.J. Redick, and Ryan Anderson led the way with 23 points apiece, with Lewis doing his damage at both forward positions. Van Gundy said it was important to him not to simply play Lewis at both positions, but to get him involved at both positions as well. To that end, Lewis took 11 shots in 25 minutes. Peja Stojakovic bombed away from distance on his way to a team-high 20 points off the Hornets' bench. Discounting his 7-of-10 night, New Orleans shot 21-of-75 from the floor.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's 2009/10 average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's 2009/10 average.
Note: I've adjusted the possession counts in the above table to reflect my individual hand count, not the formula-generated one. As such, the offensive ratings and turnover rates for both teams have changed.
Van Gundy said he tried to impress upon his players the importance of "honoring" the people who helped make the Amway Center dream a reality, and his players seemed to respond in kind. "It's a preseason game, yeah, we want a win," Redick said, "but [we talked about] the importance of putting on a good effort... everybody [who worked on the building] did such an amazing job, and hopefully this will be a place we'll do an amazing job in too."
The game scarcely could have gone better for Orlando, which doubled-up the Hornets by a 34-17 score in the first period and did not relent from there, adding at least 10 points to its lead in every subsequent period. Orlando shot 11-of-12 on two-point shots in the opening frame, with the lone miss being a Dwight Howard jump shot; he canned two more, though, which more than compensates for that miss. What's remarkable is that the Magic managed to sustain this level of productivity throughout the game.
Van Gundy said New Orleans was coming into a rough situation, as it had played last night and was missing starting power forward David West, a two-time All-Star who scored 40 on the Magic in one game last season. Point guard Chris Paul, though, doesn't agree with Van Gundy, apparently. "The one thing about our team this year is 'no excuses,'" said the Hornets' franchise player. Joe Alexander, West's replacement in the starting lineup, shot 1-of-7 for two points. Point guard Chris Paul didn't have any reliable weapons apart from Stojakovic; wing players Marcus Thornton and Trevor Ariza combined to shoot 4-of-25 for 10 points, while Howard and Marcin Gortat managed to successfully blanket Emeka Okafor on his dives to the basket off the pick-and-roll with Paul.
The Magic's tweaked offense, which features more post-ups for perimeter players and more pick-and-roll creativity, dominated. On the first play of the game, Lewis established position against Alexander on the left block, thus drawing attention from Trevor Ariza at the top. Lewis backed Alexander down, recognized Quentin Richardson was open from beyond the arc, and kicked the ball out. Richardson drained the trey, which set the tone for the entire night.
Another new look for Lewis? In the second quarter, backup point guard Chris Duhon lobbed a pass to Lewis in the right corner, recognizing the mismatch Lewis had with slow-footed Aaron Gray checking him. Lewis jab-stepped, drove baseline, and threw down an emphatic, one-handed reverse jam. "That's something that we've been working on," Duhon said of the play. "His guy had to come and jump out on our pick-and-roll, and Rashard was able to fade [to the corner]. I just led him because I knew his guy went over the top of him because he was knocking down shots and [Lewis] read it perfectly." Duhon's reads weren't too bad themselves; he finished with a team-best 7 assists to just 2 turnovers.
But the biggest cheers from the night were reserved for Howard, specifically after each of his three made jumpers. There's a sense among the fans here that Howard's expanding his offense is the key to a championship. "That is something I believe everyone would agree on that he was lackingwas a face-up game or something other than brute strength," said Ariza, a former teammate of Howard's in Orlando. "He is improving and getting better."
No kidding. Howard's final numbers--12 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks--don't look all too impressive until one considers he only managed to play 23 minutes. Granted, he also added 5 fouls and 5 turnovers, so it wasn't a flawless game for him. But he indeed seems more patient in the post.
Gortat, too, showcased his inside game. He finished with 15 points on a flawless 7-of-7 from the floor, doing some of that damage at power forward alongside Howard for the first time this preseason. Van Gundy was pleased he was able to pair his two centers for six minutes tonight, but also said he would have liked to play them together for another six minutes. However, the score was too lopsided for him to feel comfortable playing Howard. "We'd all rather be in very competitive games," he said.
Chances are the Magic's next game, this Tuesday against Charlotte, will be far more competitive; it could hardly be any less so, come to think of it. Now, though, is a time for the Magic to feel good about a job well done, and for the city of Orlando to feel good about finally getting to see its team play in this new facility.
I'll have more reaction and observations from this game, including quotes from some players, a bit later.