Payton's big night
For a rookie in the NBA, point guard might be the toughest position to play. Night in and night out you're going to be face some of the best players in the league. After drawingJrue Holiday and John Wall in his first two games, the Orlando Magic tasked Elfrid Payton with matching up against Kyle Lowry, arguably the Toronto Raptors' best player. Payton did not disappoint, finishing with 16 points and nine assists, both early career highs, while only turning the ball over once, an early season low.
Following the game, coach Jacque Vaughn said he was satisfied with the rookie's play, saying Payton "did a good job of leading his team tonight." Vaughn also talked about how he was pleased with the team only turning the ball over 14 times, improving on something it had struggled with for the first two games.
Payton said his mindset was to attack Toronto's defense early: "I wanted to be a little bit more aggressive so I could open up other things for my teammates. I was aggressive enough that it kind of slowed the pace of the game down. So, that was definitely something I was looking to do today."
Payton's aggressiveness really seemed to open things up for him against Toronto. He was able to get his jump shot going, and his scoring ability seemed to open up more passing lanes for him to find his teammates easier when he would drive.
It's a step in the right direction for the rookie, who had a couple of rough games to start his career. He's going to have ups-and-downs this year, and that's okay; he needs to learn one way or another, and trial by fire can't hurt. He had a good night, and for that, a tip of the cap to the young man.
Chalk this one up to Toronto being very, very aggressive on the offensive end and drawing contact. They shot 48 free throws, and drew 37 fouls on the Magic, compared to 24 free throws and 21 drawn fouls for the Magic. In the third quarter alone, Toronto drew 15 fouls, while only committing three. The 15 fouls drawn allowed them to shoot 19 free throws, which ended up leading to 14 of their 38 points in the quarter.
After the game, Vaughn said that his team needs to continue to "focus on playing defense without fouling, but also having a balance of playing aggressive." When asked about it, Magic forward Channing Frye just laughed and said "Next question." Tobias Harris attributed the foul disparity to Toronto "drawing a lot of contact" and "attacking the basket a lot."
There are nights where this happens. Teams will attack, attack, attack and draw a lot of fouls. When it's happening, the players and coaches need to make an adjustment to allow their defense to be as aggressive, while not fouling as much. The fouls were a big issues, but the Magic's defense overall was not bad on the night.
Maurice Harkless' season debut
After sitting out Orlando's first two contests, third-year forward MaurMoeice Harkless was finally able to find his way onto the floor. After Aaron Gordon picked up three fouls in just under a minute and a half of first-quarter action, Vaughn called on Harkless, who was ready. While his final line of seven points, five rebounds, and two assists might not jump off the page, Harkless was active for much of his time on the floor.
Vaughn praised Harkless for "being a professional" and "being ready on a nightly basis." Vaughn also said that he felt as though the St. John's product did a good job on both ends of the floor. Willie Green might ordinarily see the minutes Harkless got Saturday, but Vaughn said Harkless was a better matchup against James Johnson.
It was good to see Harkless get out on the floor and get some positive minutes under his belt. With the depth that the team has at the forwards and shooting guard positions, it could be challenging for Harkless to find consistent playing time. That being said, as the season wears on, I'd imagine we see much more of the young small forward, and even if his playing time is limited, he'll be ready to come out and produce when called upon.