Energy and enthusiasm.
Those were some of the reasons why the Orlando Magic were able to come away with a win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Head coach Stan Van Gundy was quick to point out in the pressure that he felt the team played with the aforementioned attributes from the opening tip. They were the keys that led to the victory and Van Gundy hopes that the players can build off the performance heading into a marquee matchup against the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
I was able to ask a few questions to Van Gundy amongst the media, as well as speak with Ryan Anderson, Rashard Lewis, Jason Williams, Marcin Gortat one-on-one, Vince Carter, and Dwight Howard. Here's what they had to say:
Stan Van Gundy:
You talked about Mickael Pietrus earlier [in the presser], could you talk about, specifically, what he did defensively against Kevin Durant and what he was able to do on offense?
Well, I think the biggest thing with M.P. defensively is he's playing much more disciplined than he had, say, a year ago. He's not leaving his feet on shot-fakes as much, he's not going for steals and reaching and giving guys lanes to the basket, he's staying in front of people and he's staying down, and he's making people make tough shots. He's working very, very hard so, which he's always worked hard defensively, he's just been a lot more disciplined this year and I thought the first half, really the whole game, but he really set a good tone on Durant early and gave him nothing easy. Then he ran up and down the floor really well, he's an outstanding open three-point shooter, particularly from the corner, we don't think he shoots enough of them, quite honestly. There's times he passes it up so we're really happy with the way he played.
You're facing Boston on Friday, what's going to be the key to that game in terms of what that matchup presents to you?
Well, there's going to be a lot of keys in that game. I mean, they're very, very good and so you have to find ways to score against what's the best defense in the league. It makes it real tough on you so you got to find a way to score and then you got difficult matchups in a lot of places, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, what do you do with them in the post and in isolation. You got to be with Ray Allen all the time, you got to keep [Rajon] Rondo out of the paint, you got to try to rebound with them, I mean, we could do a whole another hour with challenges. They're a great team. My focus right now on our team, though, isn't ... tomorrow, it will be, we'll start preparing but my focus right now isn't on other teams like it normally is, to be quite honest. I want to get our team playing at a consistent energy level, playing with energy and enthusiasm, from there I'll know that we have the talent and we can build so I just want to keep building on what we did tonight, regardless of who we play. I want to go into the Boston game and play with great energy and enthusiasm and everything else and we have to try to find some ways to help our team.
More after the jump.
Stan talked a lot about the energy after the game. What was the main mindset for you and some of the other guys coming off the bench?
We know that we have a lot of talent off the bench so we just needed to maintain the lead and extend it as much as we could. The starters did a great job of getting us a great lead in the beginning of the game. I think it's just as important for the guys on the bench to come out and bring energy. Today was ... not that we didn't have energy the other game, but today I think we, really everybody, put in 100% effort and contributed.
Coming into Friday, you guys will be playing Boston. What exactly are you guys looking for in that game?
Basically, just to show what we can do. We've been making strides each game, I think. Boston is going to be a great challenge for us and it's really going to show us what type of team we are, and it's just weird, because we have so many ... we just have different weapons every night, every game. Tonight was a great collaborative win, and I think if we bring that kind of effort against Boston, I think we're going to do a great job against them.
What was the difference between the game in Oklahoma City and the game tonight?
Of course, you could blame it on some people being out on injuries but I think we weren't a collaborative unit like we were tonight. They're a great offensive team, make runs, like you saw in the second half, they made a great run in the second half, and they can do that. They have so many talented guys, a lot of scorers, so it's just really important for us to get out and play defense like we did tonight. We just had a great effort tonight.
With Jameer Nelson out, are you guys hoping that this is it with injuries? I know you guys have been through a lot and it's been frustrating with the lack of continuity and such.
You know what, it's kind of different because we know that we have so much talent, to where guys can really make up for other guys getting hurt. You saw it when we basically had seven guys out on the court a few games ago, they made a great effort, they played their hearts out. I mean, we have so many talented guys that can do that so we try not to think about it much, just trying to focus on the team that we have now and what we can do with it.
Stan talks about building off games like this when you guys are playing with great energy and enthusiasm, what's the key to continue to be able to do that?
I think on the defensive end, we're getting stops, we're running out and getting easy layups, moving the ball around, but it all starts with defense. He [Stan Van Gundy] wants us to be a better defensive team, we got a lot of guys that can score on this team, so it all starts on the defensive end.
What was J-Will able to do tonight, in terms of getting the offense running?
He pushed the pace of the game, he pushed the tempo. When he got the ball, he was running the floor and seeing the open man. When we're playing fast as well as getting stops, I think we're a better team.
Do you think the tempo changes a bit with him?
It does, most definitely. He looks to push the ball, even on made baskets. He's getting out the net and he's running, really pushing it up the court, and trying to get the easy basket first before we set up the play.
What was the key tonight, in terms of the ball movement and what you guys were trying to do on offense?
I think we played pretty good team defense and we rebounded the ball pretty good and got out on the break.
You guys are playing Boston on Friday, what's the key in that game to come away with a victory?
We just got to come out with some energy, just play hard, play aggressive, play good D, and rebound the ball.
You got a considerable amount of minutes tonight, with Dwight Howard being in foul trouble again. What were you trying to bring to the table tonight?
I mean, first of all, just bring energy, every game that's what I'm supposed to do. Rebounds, block shots, energy, a couple of stops, and obviously finish under the basket. Right now, I think up to being sick and coming back after a couple of days off, it was not bad. It was a solid game and the most important thing is the team won.
With Jameer out, it's another injury. How frustrating has that been, to not have the team at full-strength?
Well, that's why the team was built like that. We got a lot of point guards, we got a lot of guys who can play many positions, and we're ready if one guys is out. If two guys are out, if the other guy is out, we got enough talent, we got enough experience, and we all know that to do so it's not like we're playing four against five, but that's why everybody has to realize that we got to put a lot of energy into the game and we still can win.
I know it's a different team this year, but how helpful is it for the guys that have been through the experience of not playing with Nelson last year? To know that you can win games without him?
Yeah, that's good. I mean, we know from last year that Jameer was out and we were still playing, and we still had this confidence in winning. The best thing is you always believe that we're winning and if Jameer is going to come back, we're still going to be winning, and it's going to be another guy who's going to help us to go to another level, so right now we just got to try to win without him.
On Friday, you're going to be playing Boston for the first time on the road since the playoffs last year. What's the key to that game?
Well, playing against Boston isn't easy, that's why you got to play every possession, you got to really pick up every little detail in the game, and you got to really focus. If you're not ready to play, then the opponent is going to destroy you. I know they're going to be pumped up for us, we're going to be pumped up, and we just got to win it. We just got to do everything to do win the game.
After losing to the Cavaliers, is this a game against the Celtics that you guys want to win to say it's a statement game and proves that you're still amongst the elite?
Well, it's hard to say. First, right now, last year we won against Boston and against Cleveland, those teams are really waiting for us, and they really want to win. It's not like we don't want to win but it's hard to play if you have this thing in the back of your head that we already beat this team, so we're just going to show up and we're going to do our thing. We got to play like we're humble and we still want to win, and being honest, we still didn't win anything [last year] so it's cool to be in the Finals, but still, we don't have the rings so we just got to play hard and make sure we're going to do what coach is going to tell us to do.
Stan talked about the energy and the enthusiasm, saying it was at the level he liked, what was that attributed to?
We were ready to come out, ready to play, our approach is to attack early, it's one of the things that Stan talked about, he asked me to have a more of an attack mentality from the beginning, and I think that's what helped us and that's what sparked us.
With Jameer out, do you expect the ball to be in your hands more in the pick and roll?
I think so, that's probably the reason why he wanted me to be more in attack mode. He expects Jameer and I to do it together, so with him out, he expects me to kind of carry the load in that aspect so I said, that's fine, I've been there before. That's my game so just wanted to assert myself in that way.
Boston is the next game on Friday, what's going to be the key to that game?
Same thing, our defense first and foremost. They have a lot of weapons, we have to be efficient on the offensive end as well. They defend very well, they're very precise, and having Rasheed [Wallace] helps them and takes them to another level on both ends of the court, so it's important for us to be efficient on both ends, and take care of the ball.
I know it's not good to lose Jameer, but is it comforting to know that you guys have been through the experience before and can win without him?
No, it's not comforting but it happens in basketball. As a team, we have to understand that and move forward. I hate to see Jameer, after he's worked so hard to get back healthy, to have another injury but we all have to pick up the slack for him for these six weeks but we just got to get stronger and get better until he gets back.
Rashard's performance, he was one assist away from a triple-double, what was he able to do for you guys?
Well, he was just able to play his game, spread the floor, post up, run, feed his guys off the dribble. He's just a terrific one-on-one player, a passer, a good offensive rebounder, so we missed that, and now having him and Ryan back, it's going to be great.
Is that an example of how versatile Lewis can be with the team?
Well, that's what we got him for. He knew coming in that being the first option and the second option wasn't for him and he just wanted to come in and just play ball. This year's team, we're just all about winning. It doesn't matter who's going to be the leading scorer or the leading rebounder, we just want to do whatever it takes for us to win. That's what Rashard brings, he's willing to give up a lot of things for the team and there's going to be nights like tonight where he's all over the place. That's the way it has be all season.
Is that coming to be one of the keys to the game against Boston? Energy, etc?
That's going to be the key to every game, we just have to come out and play with energy and effort, and we should have good games after that when we come out and just play ball, not worry about missing or making shots, and just having fun and not over-thinking about the game. We tend to play better. It showed tonight, each night that we play that way, we tend to win and win big.