Slinging the ball around the court all night, the Orlando Magic looked like a team that had played with each other for years, seemingly knowing where each and every member of the team was going to be, even on busted plays. The ball movement helped the Magic to their best offensive showing of the season, racking up 113 points -- just one off their season high for a game that finished in regulation -- a 55.8 percent field goal percentage and a 58.3 three-point field goal percentage, good enough for their highest marks of the season.
Their performance on Wednesday night was indicative of how the team needs to play if they want to continue to be successful. Without a true "star" in the fold -- someone they can ask to go and score 25-to-30 points on a given night -- they need to beat teams with their balance, crisp ball movement and free flowing offense.
On the night where they put it all together offensively, they had seven players finish in double figures, led by Channing Frye's 17 on seven field goal attempts. Only one player who played double digit minutes show below 50 percent -- Tobias Harris finished the night 5-of-11 from the field for 13 points -- and all but two players scored, with those two being Shabazz Napier and Dewayne Dedmon, who only got in the game once the team was up by over 20 points.
Adding in Monday night's blow out victory over the Brooklyn Nets -- a game in which six Magic men finished in double figures, and the team shot, then, their highest percentage from the field -- the Magic appear to be finding some rhythm, which is only helping their ever growing balance.
Following the game, coach Scott Skiles said that his team knows that one of their keys to success is winning with balance. "We like this type of balance," said the first-year Magic head man. "Fortunately, we didn't have to overplay anybody, which is always good. We were able to get a big lead and leave the starters out to rest, which is good. But, yeah, we need balance. We need four, five, six, seven guys playing well to win."
Skiles was also pleased with the way his team moved the ball, saying it was very good. "We talked about having some carry over with the way we moved the ball in Brooklyn. Clearly, we had that. We came out, we were seeing each other again and stepping into our open shots."
One of the catalysts to the Magic's strong play, starting point guard Elfrid Payton, who at one point seemed poised to see a new career-high in assists, said he believes the team can win without the balance, but they play better with it. "I don't think it's the way that we have to play, but I think this is when we play our best," said the second-year point guard. "This is what we have to do night-in and night-out."
The man who picked apart Charlotte's defense all night to the tune of 12 points and nine assists, shared the same sentiment that coach Skiles did about the teams ball movement. "Everybody was attacking the paint and just making that extra pass and then guys were just making shots. That was a good job by us."
Since his insertion into the starting lineup 11 games ago, Channing Frye has seen some inconsistent play, with shots going down some nights, and not others. Wednesday night the ball went down for the stretch-four, who's 17 points and five three-pointers were both season highs.
The veteran said that the way the team has played recently is the way he would like them to play moving forward. "I want to play like this even if we do have an All-Star," said Frye. "I think this is where the league is going now. It's a guard-dominated league with a log of college-style players. Everybody is running a lot of motion offense and running a lot of plays.
"This is how we have to learn to play and this is how we're going to win. I think we can get better defensively. We can still get tighter as a team, but I think you're starting to see that guys are really starting to understand who's going to get open and dribbling with their head up."
Frye also talked about how the teams ball movement is improving, thanks to getting more rhythm within the offense. "I think it's just a rhythm thing. I think this is what we've been practicing. Not only that, I think we're starting to figure out this is who we are. I think we found our identity defensively and how we're going to play...
"Offensively I think we're starting to find our rhythm, our identity, and that's moving the ball around. I think the less the ball touches the ground on certain plays, it's better for us. Every night different guys are stepping up for us."
While it's only two games, there are welcoming signs for the Magic based on their performances the last two games. As Channing Frye pointed out, the team is beginning to find their identity on the offensive end, which is opening up things that they previously were searching for.
It's unlikely that seven players will score in double figures every night, but if the Magic are able to have four, five or even six guys finish with efficient, decent scoring nights, the sky is the limit for this team moving forward.