In a surprisingly competitive, intense game, the Orlando Magic rallied to dispatch the Dallas Mavericks, 110-105, in the first game of both team's 2009 preseasons. Vince Carter, who did not wear a headband, led 6 Magic players in double-figures with 21 points, incuding 15 in the third period, while Dwight Howard posted 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks before fouling out in 23 minutes of play. Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki shot just 3-of-12 from the field, but converted 17 of his 19 well-earned free throw attempts to finish with a game-high 23 points.
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With a combined 64 personal fouls and 92 free throw attempts, the game wasn't pretty, especially early as both teams committed plenty of turnovers. The game became easier to watch as it progressed, with teams looking a bit sharper offensively--thanks to poor defense on both sides--and the players willing to let it all out on the floor. The Orlando Sentinel posted this photo to illustrate the teams' hustle tonight, while the double-technical foul assessed to Orlando's Matt Barnes and Dallas' Matt Carroll for jawing at each other in the third period attests to the teams' intensity. You'd think the game counted for something, the way these teams played.
But it doesn't count for anything, which is why it's more important for us to, at this stage, evaluate how some of the Magic's new players fared, and what coach Stan Van Gundy's tendencies were.
For one thing, Carter's performance came across as pedestrian to me; he assessed it as "OK." Five of his 6 first-half shot attempts came from beyond the arc, and it wasn't until the third quarter when he began to assert himself more often. Sure, he still teed-off from downtown plenty, but he also drove to the basket more aggressively. In one sequence which demonstrated his new attitude, Carter drove hard right off a hard pick at the top of the key, attempted to drive the ball to the basket, but could not get all the way there. His off-balance layup clanked off the side of the backboard. Clearly perturbed, Carter got back on defense. When Orlando regained possession, Carter launched a trey from the left wing, which caught nothing but the bottom. In short, it took some time for him to get going, but once he did... well, he looked decent. I hate to see him take three-pointers at such a rate, as they accounted for two-thirds of his shot attempts. But hey, 21 points on 18 shots, just 1 turnover. We can live with that.
More on the rest of the Magic after the jump.
Oddly, it was Barnes and former Maverick Brandon Bass who overshadowed Carter as far as new additions are concerned. The pair combined for 29 points on 13 shots. Barnes impressed me with his heady plays, with 3 of his 4 rebounds coming at the offensive end. Orlando hasn't had a quality rebounder at small forward in a while, and Barnes certainly is an upgrade over Hedo Turkoglu in that respect. Meanwhile, Bass scored 7 of his 13 points in the final two minutes, drawing fouls and converting at the charity stripe. He was as advertised. And earlier in the game, he caught the ball at the top of the key, got into a triple-threat position, and Dallas played him for the drive; apparently, the Mavs were wary of his ability to create off the dribble. He wound up taking the jumper and missing, but it was nonetheless good to know that Bass will frustrate defenses more in the high post than Tony Battie ever did.
Jason Williams? Yeah, not bad, either. Early in the game, Van Gundy elected to assign Williams to cover the speedy Jason Terry, and Williams--coming off a one-year retirement, and not especially quick to begin with--acquitted himself nicely. He posted 6 assists--a team high--and 3 turnovers, but none of his turnovers came after halftime. And he, not Anthony Johnson, was the first point guard off the bench. Of course, it's only one game, so we can't read too deeply into Van Gundy's rotations just yet. But if Williams continues to get the nod over Johnson, well, the writing will pretty much be on the wall, won't it?
Jameer Nelson looks to be okay. 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting--all on three-pointers-- to go with 4 assists and 2 turnovers. All 3 treys were assisted, so we have yet to see his off-the-dribble game. Then again, he only played 24 minutes, so there's plenty of time left for him to show it off.
All in all, it was nice to see the Magic's bench get it done, as Van Gundy and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle elected to let their reserves do battle with the game on the line. Orlando came up victorious... not that it means a heckuva lot.
A few assorted rotation notes:
Williams was the first man off the bench, coming in for Nelson. The next subs were, in order: Barnes for Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat for Howard, Bass for Rashard Lewis, and J.J. Redick for Carter.
That was the entire 10-man rotation. Ryan Anderson and Anthony Johnson were the only available players on guaranteed deals who did not play; Adonal Foyle is still out with a sore knee.
Unsurprisingly, Morris Almond and Linton Johnson III, the Magic's non-roster invitees, also earned DNP-CDs.
Down the stretch, the Magic played Bass, and not Gortat, at center. Gortat struggled, with 0 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 block in 16 minutes.
Redick, by the way, didn't make any of his 4 shot attempts--all of them were three-pointers, and they included one airball--but shot 7-of-10 at the foul line to compensate.
And Barnes? 16 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, and no turnovers in only 20 minutes. That's efficient production. He, and not Pietrus, started the second half at small forward. Dude's just active, and plays within himself more than Pietrus does.
As always, share your thoughts from the game in the comments section.