In a strange game that involved a lot of turnovers (37 of them in total), the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies by the score of 89-72. For the Magic, it was — easily — their best performance defensively of the regular season. Orlando was led by Dwight Howard, who had 18 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks, setting the tone on defense but he wasn’t alone in his efforts. Vince Carter finished with 19 points on eight shots, performing with excellent efficiency on offense and was only unable to do more damage on that end of the floor due to foul trouble. Jameer Nelson‘s stat-line was a bit underwhelming, with 11 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and three steals, but he was a disruptive force throughout the game and played with a high amount of energy.
For Magic fans, this was not an aesthetically pleasing game to watch.
For example, the first quarter was defined by a high pace and a lot of turnovers. The two teams combined for 20 turnovers in the period.
Entering the game, the Grizzlies ranked fifth in the NBA in pace — averaging 96.7 possessions on a nightly basis. And throughout the evening, Memphis was not afraid to run at almost every opportunity. The problem for the Grizzlies, however, was that they were unable to translate those opportunities into points, and all the credit in the world should go to the Magic’s defense. Orlando played with great energy and effort defensively, making head coach Stan Van Gundy a happy man for once it seems like.
There were a few defensive highlights that should be noted.
As the second quarter got underway, Chris Duhon was defending rookie point guard Greivis Vasquez. As Vasquez tried to organize Memphis’ offense in the backcourt, Duhon picked his pocket and stole the basketball. Duhon was able to ignite a fastbreak that ended in a layup for Marcin Gortat. On the next possession, Duhon was able to draw an offensive foul on Vasquez as the rook tried to create space between the two of them. These are the type of plays that general manager Otis Smith expected from Duhon when he signed him in free agency.
Also, in the middle of the period, Gortat pulled an inner-Dennis Rodman (again) and dove on the floor for a loose ball, getting the steal.
Last but not least, Mickael Pietrus was able to get in on the action. In the fourth quarter, Howard turned the basketball over on the low block. The Grizzlies got out in transition and looked to get an easy bucket, but Pietrus sprinted down the court and was able to poke the ball loose. Pietrus tried to dive to save the basketball from going out-of-bounds, but to not avail. Nevertheless, when Pietrus is diving on the floor, that’s a great sign for Orlando.
How were the Magic able to score?
Well, Orlando was able to get a lot of their points at the free-throw line. On the night, the Magic shot 27-of-34 (79.4 percent) from the charity stripe. Yes, even Howard was able to make his free-throws on this particular night, going 8-of-11.
When Orlando wasn’t busy attacking the basket and drawing fouls on Memphis, Carter stood out the most offensively.
One of the big reasons that Carter has been efficient this year, so far, is because Nelson or whoever else is doing a great job of finding him in catch-and-shoot situations. More and more, Carter is getting the basketball in rhythm and shooting with balance, as opposed to attempting a difficult fadeaway jumper. For example, in the third quarter, Carter was able to make a jumper in a 2/5 pick and roll with Howard and it was an easy shot for him. Straight up-and-down. Or when Nelson executed a 1/5 pick and roll with Howard and was able to find Carter spotting up on the perimeter for a three-pointer, it’s the same story. Straight up-and-down.
Excellent shooting from Carter.
It should be noted that Van Gundy played Gortat and Howard in tandem with each other for a considerable amount of time against the Grizzlies to match their frontline of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The arrangement worked out okay.
Also, with J.J. Redick out for the game with back spasms, Pietrus got a lot of playing time at the shooting guard position to fill that hole in the rotation.
And lastly, it’s clear that Brandon Bass is gaining Van Gundy’s trust because he finished things up with the starters.