While giving starters Vince Carter, Dwight Howard, and Rashard Lewis a routine night off, the Orlando Magic cruised to an ugly 86-73 win over the Charlotte Bobcats to win their 18th straight preseason contest. The usual second unit of Chris Duhon, J.J. Redick, Mickael Pietrus, Ryan Anderson, and Marcin Gortat started, with typical starters Jameer Nelson and Quentin Richardson coming off the bench. But the Magic's finest player tonight was Brandon Bass, not one of the seven players named above, as recorded team-bests with 16 points and 9 rebounds, the first time he's led the team in either category since joining the Magic in 2009. He scored 9 straight Magic points early in the fourth quarter to pull away, and did so in a variety of ways: with a catch-and-shoot jumper from the short corner, two driving dunks from the high post, and a jump-hook and-one after driving from the left side. He energized the crowd and at-times lethargic Magic tonight. The Bobcats managed to drain 7 of their 14 three-pointers--D.J. Augustin shot 4-of-5 from long distance--but did themselves in by committing 21 turnovers for 25 Magic points, including 8 offensive fouls. Coach Stan Van Gundy emphasized that point in his post-game press conference, saying, "We were standing in there [to take charges] and that was tremendous."
|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.
The game got off to a strange start. Not only did the Magic start their second-stringers, but a lighting malfunction delayed tipoff for approximately 20 minutes. The lights dimmed for pre-game introductions, and simply did not come up afterward, which led to the odd sight of both teams warming up in partial darkness. Van Gundy said he suggested to the referees that the team play the first quarter on the Magic's practice court while broadcasting the proceedings on the overhead scoreboard. He noted that Bobcats coach Larry Brown lobbied to play the game with a running clock to make up for lost time. The prolonged darkness forced the in-arena operations folks to use the Kiss Cam to excess.
The Magic's starters tonight didn't shoot well at all--a combined 15-of-42--but acquitted themselves with good ball movement and hard work at the defensive end. As ugly as the Magic's offense looked at times, particularly in the second half, Charlotte's was quite often worse.
Orlando was even more three-point-happy than usual in this game, taking 35 of their 77 shots from long range, and just 21 shots in the painted area. Van Gundy attributed some of the volume three-point shooting to Howard's absence, but also pointed out that Charlotte's defense simply gives that shot up: "What Charlotte is used to playing against every day in practice--and we saw it tonight--drive, drive, drive, drive, drive, drive, drive, drive. Everything goes to the basket. And they don't have a lot of three-point shooting ... and so they're so constantly in the paint. So we were just wide-open at the three-point line." Later, he said, "They were wide-open shots, and shots that we're going to take."
Though Pietrus shot just 5-of-14 for 12 points, he got the Magic perhaps their most badly needed bucket of the game. With Charlotte charging hard in the third quarter, scoring on eight straight possessions, Pietrus recovered a loose ball in the left corner on a badly broken Magic play and drained a three. It boosted Orlando's lead to 67-60 and re-energized the crowd.
Bass, as I said, was the star tonight. Van Gundy said "his energy and effort were great," and I tend to agree. 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks in only 31 minutes. He hustled at both ends of the floor, but he did his fourth-quarter damage as the focal point of Orlando's offense, with his teammates looking to set him up along the baselines or in the high post on every possession. No one ought to doubt his offensive ability at this point, but tonight's game served as a solid reminder that his foremost skill is scoring. "I think my role is gonna be, whenever I get my opportunity, is to defend, rebound, and bring a lot of energy," Bass said, notably omitting any words alluding to offense. But when pressed to talk about his fourth-quarter spree, he said, "Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I'm going to try to get us a basket." This is the sort of attitude which will endear him to the coaching staff.
The only difficulty Bass faced--and he and Van Gundy mentioned it, separately--came when he played alongside Anderson as the center. "He was giving away a lot of size to Nazr Mohammed, who's a good offensive player, and that got him in some foul trouble," Van Gundy said. Mohammed had no trouble establishing deep post position against Bass, and finished inside with routine jump-hooks.
But Van Gundy faces a bit of a problem, given how well Bass and Anderson have played in preseason. "It's great for the depth, but it's going to make decisions on playing rotations difficult," he said. It's a problem plenty of coaches would love to have, but still a problem, and that's not even accounting for the fact that they both play behind Rashard Lewis.
Richardson played a strong all-around game, even finishing with 4 assists, a total he achieved just twice last year. He shot 4-of-9 from long range for 15 points and played excellent defense on Bobcats All-Star Gerald Wallace. "I always have confidence in my shot," Richardson said, and it showed. He is not bashful when it comes to letting loose from deep.
The mood in the locker-room was fairly light afterward, but Gortat was unhappy. "I wasn't happy at al. I mean, in 32 minutes, I should have a double-double and I'm way better than that," he said. Gortat had a prime opportunity tonight to continue establishing himself at center, especially given how badly he wants to be more involved offensively. Instead, he shot 1-of-3 and committed 3 turnovers, though his 7-rebound total is fair. One of those misses was a tomahawk dunk that Tyrus Thomas sized-up and rejected beautifully.
Orlando has tomorrow off and will get back at it again Saturday night when they host the Chicago Bulls. Stay tuned for the Locker Room Report from tonight's game a bit later.