The Orlando Magic may have won the basketball matchup in the box score against the Miami Heat last night and at times the action wasn't pretty to watch, but there's no denying that the team showed flashes of its potential with the new group of players continuing to jell as a collective. There were plenty of moments in which the Magic were clicking on the floor, within the madness of poor shooting (39.7% from the field) and sloppy play (22 turnovers). Head coach Stan Van Gundy, after the game, readily admitted that Orlando is nowhere where it needs to be as a team, but the progress is certainly there. With each pre-season game, the squad looks to mold itself into a cohesive unit, bit by bit. It's a process, but it's one that's occurring.
First, the players - I was able to chat with Ryan Anderson one-on-one after the game, as well as speak with Vince Carter and Dwight Howard amongst the media.
Here's what they had to say:
How would you rate your performance tonight?
I think there a lot of things I need to work on, there's a lot of things I'm adjusting to still and it's my first game back so I think, defensively, there's a lot of things I need to work on, offensively, I need to work on getting in the flow of the game. I just need to focus on more screen & rolls, just finding my open shots. I think later on in the game, I kind of found my rhythm, found open gaps, and that's what's going to be there really with Vince and Dwight obviously down low.
Offensively, do you feel like you let the game come to you during the second half, once you were getting into a groove like you said?
Yeah, I mean, that's what really happens when you get through past those first few minutes of the game, you do feel the nerves, but once those first plays go through basically, you start feeling comfortable, you find your role, you just focus more on your game so it comes easier as the game goes on.
If you don't start, do you believe you can help the team pack a punch off the bench?
Oh yeah, I mean, I think this team compliments my style of play. Dwight on the inside, four shooters on the outside. It's tough to guard, it's really tough to guard and because so many guys are going to be sagging down on Dwight, it's going to create open shots for everybody along the perimeter so I mean, I think that for myself, I think I'll definitely be competing in the rotation. Whether or not ... Brandon is a heck of a player, too, whether or not he's a three-point shooter, it doesn't really matter. The guy busts his butt and he does what he needs to do. He's a strong player, like I said before, so I mean, we have so many weapons, so many options so yeah, I'm obviously going to compete for my minutes, I'm not going to be handed anything so I'm going to fight and when I get in the game, just do what I do, just shoot the ball and rebound.
Offensively, it really seemed like you made a concerted effort to drive into the lane, initiate some contact, and get some free-throws out of it. Is that something that most people don't know about? Because it seems when they see you, they see you strictly as a perimeter shooter.
I think ... a lot of people think I'm just a shooter, that's not really my game. I'm a physical player, I have a knack for the ball, I try to get offensive rebounds. I may not be the greatest finisher. I really need to work on my full jumper but besides that, I think that my driving game is something that people don't really know a ton about because I don't do it a ton but I'm getting more and more comfortable as I'm playing, with driving the ball, and I think I might surprise some people and they think I'm just going to spot up and shoot it a ton
More after the jump.
It seemed like, tonight, you were making a more concerted effort to attack the basket. Was that by design?
Yeah, just couldn't make a darn layup but that's just what he [Stan Van Gundy] keeps telling me, be aggressive, be aggressive, be aggressive, so that's been my mentality. He doesn't want me to back down from a shot so if anything, just play my game, and my game is just trying to get to the basket for years and years and I'll continue to do it.
Ryan finally had his first game. How do you think he played?
I think he played well. Being around Ryan, you can see in his face that he was excited. I was happy for him, I was happy for him to come out and play like he did tonight and do a lot of good things so he's really helping himself in the process.
I know that he always seems to get overlooked in the trade that brought yourself and him over.
He's definitely an asset to this team, especially with the first 10 games with Rashard out. He brings ... he can really stretch the floor, you have to respect him, he rebounds the ball, he's just relentless and I'm happy for him. He's in a great situation. I think he brings a different look to our team, outside of what Brandon does, so we have a lot of weapons.
I know there was an example where you went up for a shot, but then you gave it to Gortat in the paint.
Yeah, March was open, he was kind of looking, but he wasn't looking and expecting me to shoot it and that's just the mentality where a guy pulling up is pretty much going to shoot it but he'll understand that so I just have to find a happy medium. If here's a shot that he wants me to take it, then I should take it, and I felt that he was open so that's the beauty of pre-season so maybe in a game situation, when we need that shot, I'll take that shot.
So basically, it's a matter of chemistry and getting a feel for each other?
Yeah, yeah, definitely.
As a team, you had 16 block shots tonight. Was it just one of those nights where everybody seemed to get a hand on the ball?
I think that everybody is really trying to concentrate on defense. That's the great thing about the team and we got to have it going into the season. If we can get 16 blocks from everybody, I think that'll be great, and so is the level of concentration that we have on the defensive end.
Is that just a matter of you leading the way, bringing that defensive intensity, and everybody following suit?
I think it's both. When they see the leader playing defense and being aggressive, everybody falls in line.
What are your thoughts on Ryan Anderson's performance tonight?
I think he did well. That's what we got him for, to shoot threes, be a hard-nosed defender, and he did a great job tonight so I hope he can keep it up. It's only pre-season and he got his feet wet, I think he did a good job.
Do you see a little similarities between his game and Rashard Lewis' game?
Oh, I really think ... I call him the new Pat Garrity. He plays just like him, he shoots just like him, he's hard-nosed, he battles in the paint, and he can drive and pitch so I say he's the new-school Pat Garrity.
Odds and Ends:
While the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat were playing, I decided to jot some notes down each quarter and keep track of some of the good (and bad) things I saw from courtside from the men in blue.
FIRST QUARTER -
- Dwight Howard stood out defensively, blocking two shots and playing good help-side defense when the opportunity presented itself.
- Vince Carter got in foul trouble early so J.J. Redick had to come into the game a little bit earlier than expected, but he had a positive impact on the court - had a few nice passes to Howard and Marcin Gortat, as well as nail a three off a pass from Jameer Nelson.
- Ryan Anderson checked in for Brandon Bass and the first thing that stood out to me was his willingness to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket. Two separate instances, Anderson did just that.
SECOND QUARTER -
- Carter played well in this frame, driving it to the basket, pushing the ball up the court, and making some nice passes to Matt Barnes (for a three) and Bass. Carter has been getting open looks from beyond the arc and hasn't been making them, but I expect that to change as the pre-season progresses and he gets into a better rhythm during games.
- Mickael Pietrus was feeling it from the perimeter, quickly. The corner three is his favorite spot on the court and he made two of them from that spot.
- Jameer Nelson did a good job of breaking down his defender off the dribble, penetrating into the lane, and dishing it off to his teammates (two separate occasions, to Howard and Bass). Nelson does his most damage when he's wreaking havoc in the lane and forcing the defense to collapse, thus allowing Magic players to get easy buckets around the paint or open looks around the perimeter.
THIRD QUARTER -
- Howard, again, dominated on the defensive end, blocking shots, and playing good help-side defense. Sometimes, I wonder why opposing players (Quentin Richardson, in this instance) bother penetrating into the lane after Howard has already blocked a few attempts in emphatic fashion earlier in the game.
- Barnes had a good quarter, making a pretty pass to Bass, who proceeded to dunk it ... made a corner three after doing a good job of trapping a Heat (with Nelson) ball handler crossing half-court ... played power forward briefly.
FOURTH QUARTER -
- Redick played well, making jumpers off the dribble or on the catch; he had an excellent ball fake to throw off two Miami players which prompted ooh's and aah's from the Orlando crowd, but couldn't make the three.