The opening scrimmage for the Orlando Magic in the NBA’s restart didn’t go their way, but still produced some welcoming signs.
Despite falling 99-90 to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Magic showed some signs of being prepared on both ends, but also had moments where they looked rusty. It wasn’t always the prettiest basketball, but it was a step in the right direction in giving the Magic an idea of what they need to work on practices, as well as their upcoming scrimmages against the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets.
The Magic did not have the services of Markelle Fultz or Jonathan Isaac on Wednesday afternoon, and coach Steve Clifford kept all his other players on a minutes cap. Mo Bamba, who the team has been very cautious with in his second season, played just six minutes in the second half.
Here are three takeaways from the Magic’s first game at the NBA bubble at Disney World.
Finding their legs
In their first competitive action in some four months, it was expected to take some time for players to begin to find their legs. For the Magic, it never really came all afternoon.
Terrence Ross had moments where he looked fine, and knocked down a pair from beyond the arc, and also drew two fouls on three pointers, something he’s excelled at in the last two seasons. Nikola Vucevic knocked down a pair of three’s as well, but that was really it for the Magic, who made just five of their 27 attempts from beyond the arc.
It’s not much of a surprise that they struggled, but for a team that has historically struggled shooting the ball the last few seasons, it’s still something to monitor. It’s going to take time to get back into game speed, and have those game legs under them. Will the three scrimmages the Magic play be enough, or will their shooting woes pour over into their important eight seeding games?
Aaron Gordon’s health
It’s no secret that Aaron Gordon has been bothered by injuries throughout his career, and this season wasn’t different. He dealt with multiple lower body injuries, and never seemed to get fully healthy until the later portions of the regular season in March.
Now, after four months off, Gordon looks fully healthy and ready to go. He was efficient with the ball in his hands, and looked spry overall. Gordon capped off his 13 point, seven rebound and three assist performance with a block on a Paul George three pointer.
Having Gordon fully healthy is huge for the Magic. With a question mark still surrounding Jonathan Isaac’s availability, Gordon is going to play a huge role for the Magic once the games begin to count. He’s going to be asked to be a ball handler and a creator for his teammates, as well as likely drawing the oppositions best offensive player.
Gordon has been inconsistent throughout his career, but this restart could be a chance for the former Arizona Wildcat to show he’s taking the steps forward that so many people have been waiting for in his sixth season.
Not missing a beat
Two players looked like they were in mid-season form on Wednesday afternoon: Nikola Vucevic and Michael Carter-Williams.
Vucevic led the Magic with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and looked comfortable on both ends of the floor. He picked his spots offensively, and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat since playing in March.
Carter-Williams was once again a spark plug off the Magic bench. He was relentless attacking the basket, and wasn’t afraid to take the open shot when given it. He finished the afternoon with 16 points and three assists. He gave the second unit some much needed energy, especially in the third quarter when they narrowed the Clippers lead down to four heading into the fourth.
Players appearing ready for games already isn’t necessarily a huge surprise. Some players are able to get a few practices under their belts and be ready to go. Others take some time, but having multiple players who looked as good as Vucevic and Carter-Williams did is a welcoming sign for the Magic.