Orlando Magic 126, Philadelphia 76ers 105

In their most efficient offensive performance of the season, the Orlando Magic blitzed the Philadelphia 76ers, 126-105, with 58.4% shooting from the field, 7 players scoring in double-figures, and with each player making at least 2 field goals. Jameer Nelson orchestrated the show with 22 points, 10 assists, and just 1 turnover in 27 minutes. Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter scored 19 apiece, each hitting 3 treys, and an opportunistic Matt Barnes added 16, including an emphatic, two-handed slam down the lane in the first quarter which set the tone for the game. Orlando's gaudy numbers help obscure its performance on defense, one of its worst of the season: Philadelphia, led by rookie point guard Jrue Holiday's career-best 23 points and 5 three-pointers, scored 1.17 points per possession (Orlando's 9th-highest allowed this season) and posted 53.5% effective field goal shooting (Orlando's 11th-best allowed). The 76ers didn't bomb away from the outside or make many trips to the foul line, but rather converted their leak-out transition opportunities and had a bit more success than normal at the rim thanks in large part to Magic center Dwight Howard's inability to stay on the floor. Howard picked up 4 fouls in 24 minutes and wasn't especially effective on D end when he did play. His lack of energy manifested itself most obviously on one play in which he never arrived to help Lewis at the rim against Thaddeus Young, who threw down a vicious dunk. Howard managed just 3 rebounds, his lowest total since December 11th, 2006. Additionally, he hasn't played more than 24 minutes without grabbing at least 3 boards since his rookie season.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 89 141.1 68.2% 27.3 20.7 12.3
76ers 89 117.4 53.5% 15.1 27.5 13.4
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

As I wrote on Twitter as the game was in progress, it was quite fun to watch if you're a fan of offense, and the basketball fan in me hoped both sides would keep up the torrid pace until the very end, producing a 135-133 shootout. But as potent as Philadelphia was throughout--just look at that efficiency in the chart!--it couldn't match Orlando blow-for-blow in the third quarter, when the Magic took control of the game for good. Orlando scored on 12 of its final 15 possessions of the period, for 27 points. Carter scored 11 points during this burst and assisted on 3 more of those baskets, effectively deciding the game with his playmaking. Carter and Nelson implemented the pick-and-roll between them which has become so effective, or Carter would exploit mismatches created in transition by taking the smaller Holiday into the post. It was, frankly, the best Orlando's offense has ever looked, and not just because the shots went in. I think of it this way: if you run your offense and get a quality shot where you wanted it, you've done your job, regardless of whether the shot drops or not. Without reviewing the game film, I'd wager that Orlando got what it wanted 4 times out of 5 tonight. The 76ers simply defended about as badly as a team can defend.

Orlando wasn't much better in that regard, to be honest. Holiday caught fire from the outside by sinking 5 of his 6 three-point attempts, and thee Magic mostly defended him well. The real trouble was with Philadelphia's draw-and-kick game: Orlando closed out poorly and conceded far too many open jumpers. On other occasions, the Magic would close out too aggressively and wind up creating a driving lane for the 76er with the ball, a problem which their slow help-side rotations compounded. Call it a lack of energy due to playing for the second consecutive night if you like, but that excuse can only go so far.

The takeaway here is that Orlando's supporting cast again carried it with Howard struggling, and that it continues to get mileage out of the new 1/2 pick-and-roll. And Brandon Bass appears to have nabbed Ryan Anderson's spot in the rotation, backing up Lewis at power forward, which bears noting. If this team defends at the level at which it's capable, and if it continues to execute its offense, it's going to be a tough out the rest of the way.

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