In what was a sloppy outing for both teams, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Indiana Pacers by the score of 93-86 to win their 16th consecutive pre-season game dating back to the 2008-2009 NBA season. The Magic were led by a vintage performance from Vince Carter, who had 25 points on 11 shots (6-of-8 from three-point range) in less than 20 minutes of playing time. Dwight Howard was unable to build off of his dominating performance against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, finishing with a pedestrian 10 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks for a rather bland double-double. Ryan Anderson chipped in with 10 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
The major storyline to take away from this victory for Orlando was the fact that head coach Stan Van Gundy placed Rashard Lewis at small forward and Brandon Bass at power forward in the starting lineup for the first time ever. Van Gundy vowed that he would experiment with different lineups during the pre-season, and he has stayed true to his word.
Anyone thinking that Bass will actually start at power forward once the regular season begins will be in for a reality check. Lewis is the starter at the power forward position. The sole purpose of playing Lewis and Bass was to see how they would perform on the court together.
That being said, how did the alignment work out?
Not bad, actually.
One of the main tests for Lewis was to see if he was able to defend Danny Granger, one of the better small forwards in the league. It’d be too much to say that Lewis passed his test with flying colors but nevertheless, he was one of the main reasons that Granger shot 4-of-14 from the field.
There were times when Lewis defended Mike Dunleavy Jr. in a cross-matchup, and Carter inherited the duties of trying to slow down Granger on offense (successfully, I might add).
Even Quentin Richardson saw minutes defending Granger.
There was one sequence, in particular, in the first quarter which displayed the size and strength that Richardson has to defend post-ups against perimeter players. Granger tried to post up on the low block but Richardson did an excellent job of holding his ground. As such, Granger was forced to put up a tough shot and missed it badly. The point is, when looking at the box score, it needs to be understood that it took a team effort to contain Granger. It wasn’t just Lewis doing the dirty work.
As for Bass, he impressed and on defense no less. It should be noted that the spacing on offense when Lewis and Bass were both on the floor wasn’t up-to-par as it normally is. Still, Bass had one of his better outings defensively in a Magic uniform.
It’s no secret that Bass is a lightning rod for criticism, given that his struggles on defense last year were well-documented. Some Magic fans may feel as if Bass gets criticized too much but there’s no conspiracy involved when Van Gundy readily admitted that Bass’ team defense needs to improve.
To which Bass agrees.
But you know what? Bass is getting better on that end of the floor.
Granted, the Pacers didn’t have any personnel that tested Bass’ individual defense but when it came to rotations and coverages, there were no glaring mistakes by Bass that were commonplace in the past. The best praise that can be given to Bass was that he was active defensively and made a positive impact. It’s becoming clear that the extra film study is paying off for Bass.
It’d be remiss not to mention Carter’s performance on offense because he was white hot. Credit should be given mainly to Jameer Nelson for doing an excellent job of setting Carter up in catch-and-shoot situations that allowed him to develop a rhythm in the game.
And boy, did Carter get into a rhythm. It helps when Indiana kept losing track of Carter in transition when he put up his three-point shooting barrage in the third quarter (it seemed inexplicable that he was being left wide open sometimes). Had Carter played his normal amount of minutes, he would have flirted with his 48-point onslaught against the New Orleans Hornets from last season.
Carter was that good yesterday.