For the second time in three games, the Orlando Magic never trailed against their opponent, blowing out the Chicago Bulls by a 105-67 margin. Without regular small forwards Quentin Richardson and Mickael Pietrus, the Magic rotated between Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter at the position for most of the game. Carter continued his brilliant preseason by scoring a game-high 21 points in 26 minutes, shooting 6-of-9 from the floor and earning 6 free-throw attempts. Five other Magic players joined him in double-figure scoring. But the real story tonight for Orlando is defense: it limited Chicago to 31.1 percent shooting, and only the Bulls' scoring on seven of their last eight possessions made the final tally look even this respectable. Ryan Anderson also had the night off, leaving Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat as the team's only power forwards before coach Stan Van Gundy emptied his bench by playing Malik Allen for the game's final 9 minutes. It was a night of experimentation, of sorts, for Orlando. And one has to be impressed with the results.
|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.
Carter got the Magic off to a great start by scoring 7 of their first 9 points, and in a variety of ways. He drew a shooting foul with an aggressive drive on the team's first possession, followed that up with a spot-up three created when Keith Bogans left him to rotate to Rashard Lewis in the corner, and then hit a pull-up jumper off the dribble when the defense sagged into the paint to cover Brandon Bass on the pick-and-roll. "I just tried to make the initiative to come out and make my mark on the game," Carter said afterward, "and make it easier for all the other guys [if] I can." Carter scored all 21 of his points in the first half, on 6-of-8 shooting, including a driving layup in traffic at the buzzer which should have been an and-one situation. As a team, the Bulls shot 10-of-39 for 23 points. "When he's playing like that," J.J. Redick, Carter's backup, said, "we're very dangerous." Redick wasn't too bad himself, scoring 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
But the Magic clearly don't expect to keep winning by these wide margins once the games start to count. "The biggest thing is we don't want to tease everybody into thinking every game's going to be like this," Magic center Dwight Howard said. Indeed, the competition will stiffen after the exhibition schedule concludes. Note tonight, for instance, that Chicago franchise point guard Derrick Rose played only 12 minutes. Joakim Noah only played 18. Frankly, the Magic ought to have won by 48 points tonight, given the vast talent disparity between the two teams. The Bulls played immobile big men Kurt Thomas and Brian Scalabrine a combined 61 minutes tonight. And while those two are useful in their own unique ways--Thomas for his effective low-post defense and charge-taking, Scalabrine for his solid understanding of the game--neither should play more than 8 minutes per game unless it's an absolute emergency; one can argue that Scalabrine should no longer draw an NBA paycheck. Thus, it should be no surprise that the Magic dominated the glass, 43-28. Or that the Bulls took 52 of their 74 field goals outside the paint area.
Van Gundy couldn't fault the Magic's effort tonight--and how could he?--saying, "I think we're playing really hard defensively." Howard, agrees. "For the most part, our defensive intensity has been there from everybody. We're closing out hard, we're talking, we're doing all the right things," he said, after recording his customary 15-point, 11-rebound, 3-block preseason line.
The Magic conducted two lineup experiments tonight: playing Carter and Lewis at small forward is one. Playing without a stretch power forward is another, as Ryan Anderson had a routine night off. As a result of the latter fact, the Magic only shot 12 three-pointers, and just 2 after intermission.
"I thought [Carter and Lewis] were fine [at small forward]," Van Gundy said, though he did mention "Rashard didn't have a real good shooting night." That much is true, as Lewis missed 10 of his 15 shots, and all three of his three-pointers. The Magic looked to post him up more, with mixed results. One benefit of posting him up that I hadn't noticed prior to tonight is it puts him in great position to come to the elbow area to set a down-screen if he kicks the ball back out.
With 14 points and 10 rebounds, Bass recorded his second straight double-double after not notching any last season. He shot 7-of-9 from the floor, grabbed 9 of his rebounds at the defensive end, and even dished two assists. Though it's unclear if he's part of the Magic's long-term plans, he's showing he's a solid rotation player in this league. He showed his versatility tonight, mixing it up inside as well as stepping out to shoot from mid-range. "[Bass'] mid-range shot is great," Howard said, "[because] when teams want to double-team [me] with another big man, we got someone like Brandon who can step out and shoot that shot. We got a lot of great weapons and we got to use them all."
Gortat tallied 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks tonight, moving between playing power forward and center. "I think I did pretty well [at power forward]" Gortat said. "The most important thing is the team won." I didn't notice any major issues when Gortat tried playing with Howard, apart from one poor post-entry pass he tried to make from the elbow area that led Howard right into the Bulls' help-defender. "There are still a lot of things I can learn from [Howard]," he continued. "I'm just trying to play opposite of what he does."
Despite all the good things they've got going--a suffocating defense; a confident group of stars, including Carter; a 19-game preseason winning streak--there are still issues that concern the team. Turnovers are foremost among them. "We're just not passing the ball well, and handling the ball well, and the turnovers are going to have to come down," Van Gundy said. Indeed, the Magic committed 19 turnovers tonight, including 10 from the reserve backcourt of Chris Duhon and Redick.
We'll get a chance to see if Orlando can improve in those areas the day after tomorrow when they visit the Atlanta Hawks.