Now that we've had some time to sleep on it, let's recap some of the major takeaways from Wednesday night's season-opener against the Heat...
First off, the opening memorial was great. We tend to joke around a lot in these blogs, and things in the "comments" section often get heated, but we can all agree that the Magic did a great thing by honoring the Pulse victims before the start of the game. It's been some time since the shooting, but for many of us, the pain and shock is still there. The Magic's memorial doesn't take it away, but it's a great reminder that Orlandoans are part of a strong community. Thanks, Magic. Well done.
So much for defense, eh Frank? As our own Zach points out in his game story, the Magic's defense just wasn't there last night. They played well on both ends in the first half, but things collapsed quickly, and the Magic never quite recovered. Things should change with Bismack Biyombo's return, but last night's defense was not the stalwart defensive front we've been hearing about this offseason.
Speaking of Biz...was anyone else oddly pleased with the fact that Biz was suspended last night because he accumulated too many flagrant foulsin the playoffs last year? Did you see that elbow he landed on Kevin Love's face? That took guts. We need guts.
Evan's finally got a haircut that works. I couldn't watch Evan Fournier play with his comb-over mid-game for another season. You know it affects his play. You can't hit threes with consistency when you're worrying about whether or not your dome is showing too much. Truthfully, I was hoping he'd just go full Derek Fisher, but this is even better. Hey, maybe that's what $85 million buys you these days. Then again, if that was the case, LeBron wouldn't have the problems he does. Maybe Evan's just got a very, very creative barber.
But seriously, let's talk about Evan. How do we feel? I mean, 20/4/4 is a great box score showing, but his 36% shooting and 33% from three-point land leave a lot to be desired. Missed buckets and big turnovers down the stretch weren't great either. It's obviously much, much too early to have any "Was he worth $85 million?" talks (PS - yes, he was), but it's natural for Magic fans to question whether or not Evan can be "The guy."
Is Nikola Vucevic still our best player? Vooch looked great last night. Mr. Double-Double tallied 17 and 14 on 50 percent shooting. He's still got the soft mid-range jumper, and he was the only Magician (yea, I say "Magician", not "Magic player") to play poised the whole way through. Unfortunately, he's not supposed to be our best player anymore. That torch is supposed to belong to Evan now. I suppose it doesn't quite matter - Vogel has repeatedly talked about this being a "go-with-the-hot-hand" team, but it's worth noting that this might still be a Magic squad that looks to Vooch to carry a heavy load, and that might not be a good thing.
AG hit two threes! Sure, he also did that thing where he dribbles really quickly, gets disheveled, and coughs it up, but if Aaron Gordon can get us 12/8/4 every night with a couple threes, that could be the difference between Playoffs and Draft Lottery.
Elfrid Payton still can't shoot, but at least he's hitting free throws. Payton teased us this offseason with videos of him knocking down jumpers, but it looks like the practice isn't directly translating to the game quite yet. He shot 4 of 12 from the floor, and it was clear that the Heat weren't honoring his jumper on pick and rolls. Still, if he can hit upwards of 85% from the FT line --he was 8 for 8 last night-- that might be good enough to keep him from being an offensive liability. Go ahead and drive it, Elfrid. We'll take our chances if you can hit it from the charity stripe consistently.
Serge was Serge, but is that enough? We've seen some great games from Serge Ibaka this preseason, but last night's showing was pretty Oklahoma City-ish. He hit a couple threes, got some nice rebounds, and protected the rim OK. But on this Magic team, Serge needs to be much more. We need him to lead the team by example, and middle-of-the-road stats won't quite get it done. Again, it's obviously much too early to draw any major conclusions, but we can at least say that Serge needs to be better than he was against the Heat.
I'm worried about Mario. Again, patience, patience -- it's still early...but Mario Hezonja didn't look so hot. I was hoping the new jersey number (he switched from 23 to 8) would conjure up some Croatia-mojo, but he looked just as lost and confused as he did during many games last year. He'll get better -- there's no way he averages 3/3 -- but the Magic need him to shake the rust off quick.
Let's all shake this loss off, Magic fans. We'll be okay...right?
Around the NBA
So glad for Joel Embiid. The rookie has been sidelined for two years with nagging injuries, and he's amassed more and more doubters with every leaked Shirley Temple story. But last night he shut them all up with an impressive 20/7/2 night, which featured some emphatic blocks and at least one Dream Shake. Good for him.
Sooo glad for Philly fans. Sure, they lost, but did you all see the energy in the building? 76ers fans went nuts every time a shot went up -- especially when it was Joel or Dario Saric shooting. Their Sixers played great considering how injury-riddled their lineup is right now. I can only imagine how exciting their games will be when Ben Simmons gets back. After all the misery they've been through in Philadelphia, 76ers fans deserve a reason to cheer.
Sooooooooooo glad we got rid of Victor. As I said, Serge Ibaka wasn't stellar for us last night, but Victor Oladipo looked terrible. He shot 4 of 16, tallied only 10/5/1, and got blocked several times throughout the game -- including twice on one play. Sound familiar Magic fans? Thank goodness he's out.
The Pacers will be a force in the East. This isn't news -- we've all seen how well their offseason has been -- but did we think they'd get three starters scoring at least 20 points? Furthermore, did we expect that their leading scorer (with 30 points, 16 rebounds, and 2 blocks) would be Myles Turner?? (Ed note: I WAS SO WRONG ON MYLES TURNER) Things will surely stabilize with Paul George leading the team in scoring, but wow -- what a start for the Pacers.
Anthony Davis is BACK...and it doesn't matter. If Myles Turner's 30/16 night is impressive, AD's 50/16 night is mind-boggling. What's more, the Pelicans still couldn't bring it home. New Orleans is one of those squads you love to watch on League Pass, but whose roster you wouldn't want. Obviously, you could say that you'd take their roster and dump everyone but Davis, and you'd still have more promise than half the teams in the league, but as incredible as AD is, the Pel's just don't have the right mix to make it work. Unless they make some trades, I don't see them making the Playoffs this year, no matter how well The Brow plays.
The Rockets got 34/17/8 from James Harden, and still lost. Their problem? It rhymes with Shmike Shmanshmoni.