The Orlando Magic toppled the San Antonio Spurs, 123-101, behind a dynamite offensive attack which saw Orlando set season-highs in fastbreak points (30), assists (31), and field goals (50). Dwight Howard led seven Magic players in double-figures with 29 points on a white-hot 11-of-13 shooting mark from the floor. Brandon Bass and J.J. Redick added 17 points apiece, with Redick sinking all five of his three-point attempts. Gilbert Arenas played an outstanding all-around game, helping Orlando take control for good against the league's top team late in the first quarter with two quick jumpers. His brilliance carried into the second period as he helped Orlando push its lead to 9 points at haltime against a clearly gassed Spurs team ill-equipped to keep up with Orlando.
The Magic bore no resemblance, neither in personnel nor in style, to the team President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith dismantled last Saturday with big trades. Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jason Richardson aggressively looked to push the ball in transition instead of dishing to a point guard to walk it up. Coach Stan Van Gundy's increased emphasis on playing a high-energy, fast-paced style clearly paid off. At halftime, the Magic had already tallied 18 fast-break points, one shy of their previous season-high.
San Antonio shared the scoring load, with eight players scoring in double-figures but none topping the 16 Tony Parker and Gary Neal posted, yet it shot only 42.2 percent from the floor. Though the Spurs got some great three-point chances that barely missed, they struggled to generate any other easy look, shooting 21-of-43 in the painted area. Luckily for them, they pulled in 31.4 percent of their available misses, helping them get 16 second-chance points. Apart from the rebounding, the Spurs, who have the league's most efficient offense, looked rather ordinary.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
But the Magic want to be clear that they're far from a finished product. "Tonight's game shows what's possible with this group of guys," Van Gundy said, "[but] we still have to get a lot better on the defensive end of the floor. We still have to get a lot better at our halfcourt execution." Redick estimated the team ran only five plays tonight, which underscores how vital fastbreak chances will be to Orlando until it can expand its offense.
It was pretty clear Orlando enjoyed the hurting it handed the Spurs. Turkoglu and Ryan Anderson got in a few fist-bumps after made baskets, Howard exhorted the crowd to get louder on more than one occasion... there was plenty for Magic fans to cheer tonight at Amway Center.
Though Arenas' final scoring numbers--14 points on 6-of-14 shooting, no free-throw attempts--don't impress, he was nonetheless key to Orlando's victory. With Orlando trailing, 24-18, at the 2:24 mark of the first, he checked in for Jameer Nelson and accounted for 8 of Orlando's 10 points the rest of the period. In the second quarter, which he played in its entirety, he scored 7 points and assisted on 9 others. At halftime, the Magic held a 9-point lead; recall they trailed by 6 when he checked in. That's the sort of difference-making play Smith was hoping to see from Arenas when he acquired him over the weekend. Arenas said the coaching staff told him, "Just go out there and push the ball," before the game. He heeded that advice, which helped his new team pull off a surprising, emphatic win.
Arenas shot 1-of-6 for 2 points in the second half, but it hardly mattered. He continued to get his teammates involved, with 4 more assists, and he had already swung the balance of the game. "He hit two or three buckets in a row and he made a big difference," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Arenas' first-half showing. San Antonio center Tim Duncan, who played only 20 minutes in defeat, agreed with his longtime head coach: "Gilbert was a huge difference. I thought he probably made the biggest difference."
The potentially scary thought for the rest of the league is that the Magic have yet to reach their offensive ceiling. With more variety in their playbook and several offensive options, they'll be among the league's more difficult covers. But let's not get carried away with ourselves, either: adding that variety, and becoming comfortable with it, will take a lot of time. Further, and as Van Gundy said, "we're not going to be able to run up and down like that every night," so their games could get ugly without improved halfcourt offense. All that considered, tonight's game demonstrates the frightening, ruthless efficiency with which the Magic can steamroll an opponent with their new roster, when given enough opportunities to push the pace.
Concerns for Orlando? Rebounding, for one. The Spurs held a 46-39 edge on the glass. Apart from Howard, only Arenas (6 rebounds in 28 minutes, from a guard) boarded acceptably given their position and minutes played. For now, Van Gundy said, he'll use Bass as both the starting power forward and Howard's backup at center, with Ryan Anderson getting backup power forward minutes. It remains to be seen if that rotation is tenable, given the defensive limitations of Bass and Anderson, but Van Gundy said size up front isn't "a pressing problem right now."