The Orlando Magic shot 59.5 percent, scored 30 fastbreak points, and blew out the San Antonio Spurs, 123-101, in a nationally televised game Thursday night that had the Amway Center crowd cheering loudly and proudly throughout; Orlando didn't trail in the final three periods, placed seven players in double-figure scoring, and produced an assortment of highlight plays. Magic basketball was, for the first time in quite a while, fun to watch again. Coach Stan Van Gundy said "I think everyone enjoyed playing tonight," and based on the assessments J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson provided, he's spot-on. They addressed this topic, among otherrs, in the locker room following the victory.
Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu, in just their third game with the Magic since Orlando traded for them on Saturday, keyed the up-and-down style at which the Magic played. "One of the reasons we made the trade," Redick said, "was to get some new life." While the Magic can't reasonably expect to host a track meet every night, their success in pushing the tempo this game should encourage them going forward. It also underscores the importance of playing with energy, one of Van Gundy's favorite words, and one Redick deployed three times in his brief post-game meeting with the media. "It came down to playing with a lot more energy than them," Redick said to sum up the game over San Antonio, which played a home game the previous night against the Denver Nuggets.
For his part, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich refused to use the back-to-back as an excuse for his team's poor performance: "That's got nothing to do with it," he said. "They played really well and they kicked our ass."
The energetic win was even more important for Anderson, who had missed Orlando's last 11 games with a combination of a stomach illness and a sprained right mid-foot. He's healthy now, though he did say the foot gives him problems with "some lateral movements," and excited for the chance to play rotation minutes at power forward behind Brandon Bass. Of course, a major reason he has this opportunity is because Orlando traded Rashard Lewis, the former starter at power forward, to the Washington Wizards for Arenas. "It's kind of bittersweet, in a sense," Anderson said of the trade, "because, yeah, it does open up an opportunity for me."
Without prompting, Anderson said "it's been a little while since we've had this much energy and played together." Here's how he assessed the team's chemistry through the season:
"Through training camp we were incredibly close, like family, and we worked really hard together through training camp. In preseason games we played really well together and we were jelling and having fun then. And the beginning of the season, for the most part, we were having fun, but every team is gonna go through a stretch where things aren't really going their way. And of course we had a bunch of guys who were sick, so it's hard to base a fun game when you don't have the whole team together."
After a frustrating month, things are starting to look up for Anderson, and he's clearly thrilled with the chance. He could hardly hide his smile when addressing the media last night--except for when discussing, twice, how close he was with the players Orlando traded on Saturday.
Anderson also pointed out how the game appeared to energize Dwight Howard. "It's been a while since I've seen him get the crowd involved," he said. No one can fault Howard for being a bit excited. Arenas and Turkoglu appear to have learned quickly how to find Howard in useful positions; they assisted on 6 of his 11 field goals last night. Given that newfound--or, in Turkoglu's case, rediscovered--synergy, is it any wonder Howard's fired up?
If Orlando could bottle what drove it to victory tonight for later use, it would, without question. "We're getting out and running. I like the pace of the game," Van Gundy said. "That's the way I want us to play."
Based on the early returns, It's hard to argue against Van Gundy in this instance. "It's really important we get out in transition and play," he said, because "we don't want to be facing anybody's set defense" until the halfcourt offense improves.