The Orlando Magic won their home opener against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night, 110-90, thanks to offense from two unlikely sources. Second-year forward Maurice Harkless scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, helping propel Orlando to a big lead that it never relinquished, while Arron Afflalo shot 10-of-14 from the floor for 30 points, just two shy of his career high.
Rookie guard Victor Oladipo contributed 10 points, six rebounds, six assists, four steals, and two blocks for Orlando, including a three-pointer, two steals, and a layup in the final two minutes of the second quarter. It's clear that he has the raw tools and instincts to become an immediate difference-marker, and as he learns the NBA game, he'll be even more impactful.
The Magic approached Friday's game with enthusiasm, aggressiveness, and a willingness to move the ball. Point guard Jameer Nelson helped set the tone in the first period; though he finished with only two assists in the frame, his willingness to challenge the Pelicans' defense off the dribble and make quick passes influenced Orlando to ping the ball around on every possession, helping the hosts to find good shots against a New Orleans defense which kept having to scramble to account for ball and player movement.
The Magic's offense wasn't supposed to be this potent, but with precise movement and crisp passing, a team need not always have a dominant one-on-one scorer in order to be effective.
With Harkless taking over to end the half and the Pelicans struggling to generate good offense, Orlando had the game well in hand throughout the second half. Afflalo made sure of as much when he scored 15 points on 5-of-5 shooting in the third quarter. He played with greater confidence than usual--and Afflalo is never wanting for confidence--and he fed off every successive made basket.
Playing Afflalo alongside Oladipo frees the former to play off the ball more often, and relieves him of the playmaking duties which compromised his efficiency in his first year in pinstripes.
Orlando limited the visitors to 34.8 percent shooting, including 32.5 percent inside the three-point arc. Though word Anthony Davis' raw line of 26 points and 17 rebounds looks impressive, one must consider that he shot just 9-of-23 from the floor. The entire Pelicans team struggled from the floor, a credit to the Magic's ability to defend physically without fouling.
Pelicans offseason acquisitions Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Greg Stiemsma combined to shoot 7-of-28 from the floor for 18 points.