The Orlando Magic continue to play like a well-oiled machine, deconstructing the philosophically revamped Atlanta Hawks little by little tonight, earning a 102-73 victory thanks to top-notch work on both ends of the court. Off the bench, Brandon Bass once again led the Magic in scoring, with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting in just 20 minutes, while four other players joined him in double-figures, and with two more scoring 9 apiece. Atlanta's in the infant stages of implementing new systems on both sides of the ball under new head coach Larry Drew, and it showed, as the Hawks' core group of players struggled despite three-plus years of experience together. Orlando limited Atlanta to 86.6 points per 100 possessions, yet the Hawks committed just 6 turnovers, which underscores how difficult the Magic made their shots.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's 2009/10 average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's 2009/10 average.
Orlando was unable to give Vince Carter, Dwight Howard, and Jameer Nelson extended minutes tonight due to the lopsided margin, which must disappoint coach Stan Van Gundy, who wants them to play their typical minutes level in at least one preseason contest. So far they haven't reached it, largely because their strong play together puts the game out of reach early. Carter continued his aggressive driving, and didn't settle for more than maybe one bad shot the whole game; he shot 5-of-8 for 13 points. Howard, too, shot 5-of-8, but he managed 14 points, and would have had more were it not for a forgettable 4-of-11 performance from the foul line. He made one of his two jump-bank shots, and while he still tends to fade away too much, both looked like they stood a reasonable chance of dropping. The Hawks still don't have anyone who can push Howard away from the paint area without fouling. Zaza Pachulia and Jason Collins, though strong and skilled as defenders in the post, can't legally uproot him in the same way Boston's Kendrick Perkins can. As a result, Howard had his way inside.
And Nelson had, I thought, his finest preseason game. Because the Hawks have abandoned the hide-Mike-Bibby-on-defense-at-all-costs strategy former coach Mike Woodson installed, Nelson often found himself isolated against the slow-footed veteran point guard, and exploited him to great effect. 5-of-9 shooting tonight for Nelson, including several layups, which is good to see in a preseason in which he's mostly looked to pass, and not to score, on his drives.
Bass continues to be exceptionally hard for opponents to handle. Though he used 16 possessions to get his 17 points, his effort on both ends of the court was tremendous. He's not making the same silly mistakes that he made last season, his first with the team, which is going to make it hard for Van Gundy to keep him off the floor. He also displayed his usual effort of sticktoitiveness in loose-ball situations. When Josh Smith picked off a pass intended for Bass, he streaked upcourt, looking for a highlight-reel dunk. But Howard recovered the ball, Bass dove to the rim, and got an easy jam out of the play. And on one shot of his Josh Powell sent back, Bass grabbed the board and somehow flipped it back in, with one hand, from directly under the goal, and with defenders swiping for the steal.
He was hardly the only power forward to excel for Orlando, however. Ryan Anderson, a veritable Hawks-killer, made back-to-back treys in the third period to give the Magic a 23-point lead and essentially close the door on an Atlanta comeback. He shot 3-o-4 from the floor--all from long range--and made both his free throws for 11 points in just 16 minutes. However, he grabbed but 2 rebounds on the night.
We've described the offense in good detail here, but defense may have proven more key to Orlando's victory, and the Magic did it while running a few experiments. Again, to be fair to the Hawks, they're trying out a whole new playbook with a new head coach, and have had only four games against NBA competition--that is, outside of their own scrimmages--with which to do it; this wasn't the Magic shutting down the L.A. Lakers' Triangle, for instance. But Orlando tried a few new double-team looks tonight. Under Van Gundy, the Magic have tended not to double-team unless it's in the last few minutes of a close game and they want to force the opponent's superstar to give up the ball. A notable exception is Shaquille O'Neal, whom the Magic sometimes double-team away from the ball in order to discourage an entry pass. In any case, the Magic sent double-teams at Joe Johnson and Smith on several occasions tonight, and succeeded more often than not. Even when the Hawks managed to find the open man on the far weak side, they were seldom able to get a good look out of it.
The Magic also continued their work on blitzing the pass recipient coming out of staggered screens, another way to bottle up Johnson.
Orlando also dominated on the glass; Bass, Howard, and Marcin Gortat grabbed 29 rebounds themselves, just four boards shy of Atlanta's team total. The overall margin on the glass was 50-33.
The positives don't end there. 11 of the 12 Magic players to check in tonight scored, and Chris Duhon, the lone exception, tallied a game-high 10 assists to compensate. Though he's still committing far too many turnovers (4 tonight) due to his tendency to try threading bounce-passes through traffic, on the move, he does appear to be gaining confidence in the Magic's offense.
Rookie Stanley Robinson tallied 2 points, 1 rebound, and 1 steal tonight. He also went for a highlight-reel block, but committed a goaltend instead by swatting the shot after it had already hit glass. You have to like his activity level.
Carter and Rashard Lewis both got several chances to score in the post, and they converted most of them. Lewis bullied his way inside against the far shorter Mo Evans and the slenderer Marvin Williams, and sank some difficult shots in traffic. Carter? He's tended to face and fade on his post-ups, and he did that tonight against the bigger Joe Johnson, beating the 24-second clock with a rainbow fadeaway in front of Atlanta's bench. Carte wore a shooting sleeve with elbow padding on his right arm, the same one he appeared to hurt in Saturday's win. But if his elbow is banged up, it's not reflected in his shot, Save for one horridly short jumper attempt, all his tries were on-line tonight.
The only Hawk to distinguish himself tonight was reserve power forward Josh Powell, who led the team with 13 points in 16 minutes, and even then most of those came in garbage time. And I guess it's cool, for him, that the offensive zero Collins scored 7 points and attempted 5 free throws.