The Magic put together a brilliant offensive stretch Wednesday night, scoring a franchise-record 50 points in the first quarter of their game against the Atlanta Hawks (one point shy of the all-time first quarter record set by Golden State in 2019).
The team shot 64% from the field, 60% from three, 92% from the free throw and it all started with their defense.
On the opening Hawks’ possession, Atlanta ran a staple of their playbook: a high screen-and-roll with Trae Young and Clint Capela. But watch how hard Moe Wagner hedges following the pick and how it results in a turnover for Young.
It can be disadvantageous to blitz a Young pick-and-roll, as him splitting the double team would have Orlando playing 4-on-3. But when you have three players 6-foot-10 or taller loading up to help, that is a sacrifice Orlando’s coaching staff is willing to make.
Orlando’s first bucket in the half-court was a Paolo Banchero and-one layup against fellow Blue Devil Jalen Johnson. What I love about this play is that Banchero is not reading Wagner’s screen but rather how Johnson is defending it.
Wagner is set up more on the left side of Capela and Johnson is in position to defend the pick-and-roll that way. So Banchero simply takes what Johnson is conceding: the paint. The rookie puts his head down and beats Johnson to the rim for the hoop and the harm.
After a Bol Bol putback layup, the Magic drained their first three of the game following another defensive miscommunication. Young, who is initially responsible for Bol, calls for a switch with rookie AJ Griffin after Wagner pops out to the perimeter. What should have happened was a switch between Young and Capela.
But this was a great example of why Orlando’s jumbo-size lineups are so difficult to defend: one switch can cause mass confusion and a plethora of size mismatches.
Speaking of mismatches, following a layup from Fultz, watch what happened the next time Bol was defended by Young on the perimeter:
A 7-foot-2 player collapsing the defense is always fun, and then Bol kicks it out to Wagner who is shooting 41.3% from three over his last nine games.
Back to how Orlando defended Young’s pick-and-roll, Johnson slipping the screen gets him open for a brief moment, but the active hands of Bol and Fultz deny the pass from Young. It culminates with a jump pass turnover from Young and a transition three for Wagner (bonus points for Jalen Suggs’ Griddy on the sideline).
Atlanta at this point moved to a zone defense, but even that did not slow down Orlando’s offense. Orlando goes with a variation of a play (Spain pick-and-roll minus the roll?) they ran in their win against the Clippers a few nights ago and it led to Bol getting fouled on a three-pointer.
And with the Hawks still in a zone defense, watch how easily Banchero gets into the heart of the paint and converts a hook shot following a beautiful bounce pass from Fultz.
Speaking of Fultz, an aspect of his game I wrote about back in July was how effective he is pushing the ball in transition. He did plenty of that during the first quarter of Wednesday’s game, like on this play following a Jarrett Culver turnover. Orlando’s transition offense yields 1.12 points per possession this season, which ranks eighth in the NBA.
Orlando was back in transition a few possessions later, only this time Cole Anthony was leading the break. Even though Bogdan Bogdanovic looks at Young and points at Anthony suggesting he should stop the ball, neither player does and Anthony gets to the rim and lays down a pass to Bamba for an easy score.
And lastly, in what was maybe my favorite play of the whole quarter, following on offensive rebound and kick-out from Terrence Ross, he relocates to the left corner.
But as he does that, Wagner realizes that Atlanta’s Justin Holiday and Onyeka Okongwu are both accounting for Bamba. You can see Wagner point at Bamba to space to the corner to shift the defense even more which allows a wide open three-pointer for Ross.
Orlando would go on to win this game 135-124, setting a new season-high in total points in the process. And while their nine-game losing streak felt more demoralizing with every loss, the Magic responding with four straight wins must spark plenty of optimism within the organization.