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Orlando Magic 118, New York Knicks 104

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Wearing the classic black pinstriped jerseys in celebration of its past, as part of NBA Hardwood Classics Night at the O-Rena, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the New York Knicks - a squad playing on a back-to-back - by the score of 118-104 in a game that showcased an elite team's depth more than anything else. Nate Robinson, for whatever reason, was a DNP - Coach's Decision for the Knicks. Six Magic players scored in double-figures, highlighted by efficient performances from Matt Barnes (12 points, 5-8 FG), Brandon Bass (17 points, 7-12 FG), Dwight Howard (19 points, 6-7 FG, 7-10 FT), Rashard Lewis (20 points, 6-8 FG, 5-7 3PT), and Mickael Pietrus (17 points, 6-10 FG, 5-8 3PT). Every Magic player who suited up saw minutes last night and pitched in whenever possible. 

 

A team win, in the truest sense of the term.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Knicks 94 110.3 52.4% 19.0 27.7 19.1
Magic 94 125.2 61.5% 28.2 34.3 20.2
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

In the first quarter, as has been a recurring theme for the Magic lately, Howard touched the basketball early and often in the post on 4-out/1-in offensive sets. Knowing that David Lee couldn't guard him, Dwight got deep positioning against him a couple of instances - drawing a foul and making a layup. The times that Howard wasn't defended by Lee, he was being guarded by Wilson Chandler. Yes, Chandler, a 6'8'' forward. A few times, Wilson was caught guarding Dwight after switching on a pick and roll, for example. Needless to say, it was no contest for Howard (though Chandler did draw an offensive foul on one possession), who ended up seeing double-teams the remainder of the night once Mike D'Antoni saw that his interior D was being shredded. 

 

New York's defense in the period was terrible, at times, to be frank. On one possession, Jason Williams executed a 1/5 pick & roll with Dwight and got a ridiculously easy layup off of it. Instead of switching or trapping or showing/hedging or going under the pick, the defenders for the Knicks did none of the above during the play sequence.

 

If one remembers a few days ago, I stated that if Stan Van Gundy wishes to explore the possibility, it wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea for Bass to play at the five when the matchups are favorable. 

 

Last night, the matchups were favorable and it's no coincidence that Stan elected to play Brandon at the center position the majority of the time while he was on the floor (for roughly 18 minutes). In the second quarter, Bass got things going very quickly on the offensive side of the ball once he checked into the game, posting up in 4-out/1-in offensive sets and getting easy layups on back-to-back possessions. When Brandon wasn't posting up, he was hitting his mid-range jumper or getting garbage points off of an offensive rebound. To put it simply, Bass was the playmaker in the second unit and a workhorse on offense.

 

However, once the third quarter rolled around, it was the Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus show from long distance. 

 

After back-to-back threes from Larry Hughes of Hey Larry Hughes, Please Stop Taking So Many Bad Shots fame - sorry, couldn't resist - and Chris Duhon forced Van Gundy to call a timeout early in the period, something must of happened in the Orlando huddle because Lewis and Pietrus went bonkers following the stoppage of play. Perhaps each channeling their inner-Dennis Scott.

 

THIRD QUARTER

- [9:31] Lewis, three-point 24' jump shot (Carter assist)

- [8:54] Pietrus, three-point 23' jump shot (Williams assist)

- [8:00] Pietrus, three-point 27' jump shot

- [7:23] Pietrus, three-point 24' jump shot (Lewis assist)

- [6:04] Lewis, three-point 23' fast break jump shot (Carter assist)

- [4:20] Lewis, three-point 27' jump shot (Carter assist)

- [3:28] Lewis, three-point 26' jump shot (Williams assist)

- [2:38] Pietrus, three-point 26' fast break jump shot (Williams assist)

 

Mickael and Rashard accounted for eight of the 11 field goals in the quarter (they combined to make 10 threes in 15 attempts; the remainder of the team went 0-15 from beyond the arc). The Magic, after scoring 20 points in the second quarter, scored 41 points in the subsequent period. Perhaps Orlando was motivated to put a dent in the scoreboard and prove a point after the Atlanta Hawks (42 points in the second quarter) and the Dallas Mavericks (49 points in the second quarter) went on offensive sprees in their respective games during the evening. I'm being facetious, of course. Nevertheless, the Magic (as has been the case before) showed how explosive its offense can be when the squad is hitting on all cylinders for an extended amount of time. 

 

By the end of the third quarter, Orlando built up a comfortable lead of 22 points. It's no surprise, then, that the Magic coasted the remainder of the contest.

 

Before I wrap things up, there's a few things that are worth noting from the game.

 

The pick & roll defense for Orlando was excellent, given that Duhon and Lee didn't do as much damage as they did when these two teams met this past Sunday. The Magic, as Van Gundy alluded to in the presser, did a much better job of being more active and rotating quicker in the pick & roll, denying the pass, and forcing the Knicks to score baskets in other ways. In essence, Orlando did to New York what it's been doing to other squads in the NBA for a while - force the team to shoot contested jumpshots. That, when getting down to the nuts and bolts of it, is how the Magic's defense excels. The team defense for Orlando, however, started out good but slowly waned in the second half.

 

Vince Carter had a rather pedestrian performance for the Magic but what was most impressive about him, though, was that he didn't make a bad situation worse. As the game progressed and the shots weren't falling for Carter, he scaled back his offense and looked to contribute in other ways for Orlando. Look no further than above in the play-by-play data, where Vince assisted on some threes from Rashard. Carter deserves some credit for cutting his losses, so to speak, and getting his teammates involved offensively.

 

Lastly, it's one game and it may or may not be a trend but it's becoming increasingly obvious that Bass should see more minutes at center - again - when the matchups are favorable. The issue with Brandon, and this has been brought up before by myself and others, has been his defense and the fact that the offense suffers when he's on the court. But the catch is that this occurs when Bass plays power forward. When Brandon plays center, things are different, especially on the offensive side of the ball. With Bass at the five, the Magic are still able to execute its 4-out/1-in offensive sets, which is important because the roster is built around that philosophy. Although Brandon isn't a better passer than Dwight in the post, his skills on offense are much more diverse (having the mid-range jumper in his arsenal being the main difference). As such, Orlando is still efficient and potent on offense. It's a perfect marriage, of sorts, because it allows Bass to play his game with effectiveness but it still allows the Magic to maintain a stretch four on the court with Anderson or Lewis. Of course, Brandon's defense is still a work in progress, but it's been better. And all of this effects Marcin Gortat, a player that might see his minutes cut a bit thanks to Bass. 

 

Ah, the ebb and flow of NBA rotations. 

 

With the win, the Orlando Magic will now trek to the West Coast for the team's first lengthy road trip of the regular season. For Ryan Anderson, a Cal alum, it'll be a homecoming for him. For Matt Barnes, a UCLA alum, it'll not only be a homecoming for him but also a reunion tour, of sorts, as he'll face off against three former teams - the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Phoenix Suns.

 

Fun.

 

As for the competition, it should be a good test for the team.