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Orlando Magic 123, Atlanta Hawks 86

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Complete.

 

That's one of the first words that comes to mind after the Orlando Magic defeated - or annihilated, to put it more bluntly - the Atlanta Hawks (who, granted, were coming off a back-to-back against the Miami Heat) by a score of 123-86 to finish the pre-season with a record of 8-0. It was a complete effort by a team, as Vince Carter put it after the game, that wants to put fear into the opponents that they play night in and night out. With that type of killer instinct, one has to wonder who in his or her right mind would have the gall to pick the Washington Wizards before the Magic in a season preview. The Wizards are a fine team and deserve respect, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to slight an Orlando team looking more impressive with each game. Yes, it's pre-season and the games should be taken with a grain of salt but the Magic aren't just beating teams, they're pummeling them into submission. Something has to be said about Orlando finishing exhibition play with a point differential of +17.8 - a mind-boggling statistic. The second-best point differential? +7.8, courtesy of the Boston Celtics. There are a number of variables that need to be taken into account when looking at the numbers during the pre-season, but those aforementioned stats are hard to ignore. But enough about opinions and previews, it was about the stars for the Magic last night. Vince Carter and Dwight Howard put on a performance that will surely have Orlando fans giddy - 26 points (9-10 FG) (5-5 3PT) for Carter and 25 points (9-10 FG) (7-10 FT),13 rebounds, & 3 blocks for Howard. For the first time in a Magic uniform, Carter had the right to call himself Half-Man/Half-Amazing. He was that good.

 

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Hawks 89 96.6 39.4% 28.8 21.3 15.7
Magic 138.9 67.5% 18.8 29.0 13.6

 

When one talks about Carter, however, one can't forget about Ryan Anderson. You know, the "throw-in". Anderson played magnificently, specifically in the first quarter, where he and his former New Jersey Nets counterpart put on a show in front of the home crowd. 

 

FIRST QUARTER

- [10:50] Anderson, three-point 25' jump shot

- [9:30] Anderson, lay-up

- [9:02] Anderson, three-point 23' jump shot

- [7:20] Carter, 18' fast break jump shot

- [6:39] Anderson, three point 22' jump shot

- [5:08] Anderson, reverse layup

Ryan subs out

- [4:38] Carter, three-point 24' jump shot

- [2:10] Carter, 17' fadeaway jump shot

- [:33.5] Carter, dunk

 

Free-throws notwithstanding in the play-by-play, Anderson had 14 points in almost exactly seven minutes of action. That's two points per minute. Carter had 13 points in the entire quarter and none were better than when he cut into the lane for a monstrous up-and-under dunk off a fantastic pass from J.J. Redick off the dribble that blew the roof off the Amway Arena. For a few seconds, Orlando fans were treated to "vintage" Vince; the one that made his name as Air Canada jumping over seven-footers. The first quarter was a tremendous display of offense and defense for the Magic. For example, Anderson did a great job of exploiting a mismatch against Jamal Crawford for the reverse layup on a play. As head coach Stan Van Gundy noted in the presser, Howard did a great job of passing out of double-teams as he did in one possession in particular, where Carter was a recipient of a pass and nailed the three. Even Carter got into the action passing-wise, dishing a no-look pass to Brandon Bass, who made a reverse layup. 

 

Defensively, the players did a great job of playing help-side defense (Howard, in particular) and rotating to the ball when necessary.

 

In the second quarter, the bench did a good job of keeping the lead steady while the starters were resting. Jason Williams continued his strong play, nailing a three off a 1/5 pick & roll with Marcin Gortat. The aforementioned Poland native got into the thick of things, making a nifty hook shot off the dribble. Brandon Bass nailed a mid-range jumper (what else is new?). These are just a few of the positive plays the reserves made to keep things going for Orlando.

 

When the first unit came back into the game, Jameer Nelson stood out because of his ability to dribble penetrate into the basket, force the Atlanta defense to collapse, and either make the layup (which he did, twice, in the quarter) or pass it off to Carter for another three. Nelson is at his best when he's probing opposing defenses.

 

Even though Howard got off to a slow start, in the third quarter he took over. After the Magic torched the Hawks in the first half as head coach Mike Woodson made the decision to double-team Howard in the post at almost every opportunity, he finally got some one-on-one situations against Al Horford or Zaza Pachulia or Randolph Morris and made the most of them.

 

THIRD QUARTER

- [10:18] Howard, jump hook shot

- [8:12] Howard, jump hook shot

- [5:49] Howard, dunk

- [5:25] Howard, lay-up

- [4:55] Howard, dunk

- [1:42] Howard, lay-up

- [:03.8] Howard, dunk

 

Fairly simply, no? Howard's points came in a variety of ways: 4-out/1-in offensive sets, 1/5 pick & roll with Nelson, and more. Howard played with his back to the basket, faced up his man, it made no difference. Howard scored in bunches (off of spin moves, for example), finishing with 20 points in the quarter after it was all said and done. It was a dominant performance by a dominant player.

 

The "crazy" second unit, as Gortat likes to say, came back in the fourth quarter to finish things off and did relatively well. Bass nailed his lay-ups and jumpers. Williams had TWO signature highlights off fast breaks, where he made a pretty behind-the-back pass to Barnes for the lay-up and sank his own lay-up off his classic fake behind-the-back pass. Even Gortat did his best Howard impression, scoring a bucket off a lefty hook (Gortat's offensive game has improved, by the way). All in all, it was another solid performance from the reserves, who had the benefit of playing lengthy minutes with the sizable lead.

 

When a team shoots 61% and holds their opponent to 38% from the field, this is the type of result you get.

 

For Orlando, it was a great way to end the pre-season on a high note by beating a divisional rival without Rashard Lewis. One has to feel pretty confident that the team will do just fine without its All-Star for the first 10 games of the regular season. Magic fans will find out next Wednesday whether to keep the faith or not, when Orlando opens up its last season opener at the O-Rena against the Philadelphia 76ers. For the two squads, it'll be a rematch of the first round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs. A lot has changed since then, so it'll be interesting to see how the Magic and Sixers match up.

 

Until then.