In another dreadful offensive performance, the Orlando Magic went through the motions Friday night against the New Orleans Hornets, falling by a 93-67 final score and being outscored in every quarter. Dwight Howard was the only Magic player to score in double figures, with 28 points. J.J. Redick, with nine, was the only one of 12 Magic players to score more than six. The Hornets got 17 points from Carl Landry off their bench, while Marco Belinelli rifled in four three-pointers. Floor-spacing forward Jason Smith shot 7-of-9 from the field, and 6-of-7 on mid-range jumpers, en route to scoring 14 points of his own.
On some level, it's difficult to assess this game, as it is Orlando's fourth in five nights in four different cities. But that excuse can only carry so far; the Magic are hardly the only team with a travel-heavy schedule in this lockout-shortened season. Given the long layoff, nobody ought to expect them to be the 1986 Boston Celtics in late January. But they shouldn't be the 2005 Orlando Magic either.
Within the game's opening moments it became clear Orlando had very little energy. Its offense stagnated to a frightening degree: Howard would post up, a wing player would make a post-entry pass and stand in place, while three other players stood still on the weak side. That comes straight out of the Brian Hill playbook: no creativity, no movement, no flow. Would it kill someone on this team to cut? To set a back pick? To move without the ball in any way?
|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.
New Orleans played with pride and lots of heart, and clearly earned this win. Take nothing away from that team. But even ignoring the fact that the Hornets had lost nine straight games; the fact that they were without their best player, Eric Gordon, due to injury; and the fact that they were without an All-Star big man, Chris Kaman, due to wanting to unload his salary, one might get the impression that they were the better team.
The blowout did afford coach Stan Van Gundy the opportunity to allow Daniel Orton to make his first NBA appearance. In three minutes of toxic-waste time, Orton scored two points on 2-of-2 from the foul line. In addition, he recorded a goaltend on his first defensive possession at the professional level. Scoring two points for the other team is bad, obviously, but it was at least encouraging to see Orton, who has battled knee injuries extensively over the last several years, get impressive elevation on the block attempt.
Orton made his pro debut at center alongside fellow rookie Justin Harper at power forward. The Richmond product made his fifth career appearance and missed his only shot attempt, bringing his career scoring numbers to 0 points on 0-of-3 shooting in 14 minutes.
Orlando needs to find answers, and quickly, because the schedule does not relent. After an off day Saturday, the Magic will play five times in the next seven nights, with two back-to-back sets. Also, starting point guard Jameer Nelson and starting power forward Ryan Anderson are nursing injuries to their jaw and calf, respectively.
For the Magic, things might get worse before they get better.