Dante Cunningham and Andrew Nicholson - Jesse Johnson - US Presswire
Orlando struggled on offense all game long and simply had no answer for anything the Timberwolves did offensively.
The Magic were sloppy from the start, tallying more turnovers (13) than field goals (12) in the first half. Yet they trailed by just four points, 38-34, at halftime due to their 24-17 advantage on the glass, as well as Minnesota's own struggles. The host Timberwolves shot just 15-of-35 from the field in the opening 24 minutes.
The difference in the game is that Minnesota fixed its offensive woes, while Orlando did not. Luke Ridnour led an efficient attack in the third period, scoring eight points and dishing two assists as Minnesota outscored Orlando, 30-21. Ridnour led all scorers on the night with 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
Minnesota shut down the Magic everywhere: Orlando finished with just 26 points in the paint, five second-chance points, and 12 fast-break points.
Orlando had drawn to within five points with 2:02 to play in the third when J.J. Redick bagged a three-pointer, but Minny closed the period on a 10-2 run. First, the 'Wolves got a four-point possession, and then followed it with six consecutive points from garbageman center Greg Stiemsma. The second-year man had arguably the finest game of his career, finishing with 12 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks in 21 minutes.
The Timberwolves extended their lead throughout the fourth quarter as the Magic's offense continued to sputter. Their lead reached 27 points in the final frame, prompting Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn to use a summer-league lineup of Ish Smith, E'Twaun Moore, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, and Kyle O'Quinn to close the game.
Harkless, in his NBA début, showed great potential. The St. John's product finished with seven points, five rebounds, two assists, three steals, and four blocks. He punctuated his first professional game with a one-handed, alley-oop jam, finishing a lob pass from Smith. The dunk provided the game's final points.
Nicholson also made the most of his extended opportunity to produce: he tallied 11 points, five rebounds, and two blocked shots in his 27 minutes. Though his 3-of-8 shooting and five fouls are two areas of concern, his 5-of-5 showing at the foul line is a positive sign.