Badly needing a win, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the San Antonio Spurs by the score of 123-101 in front of a nationally televised audience and sellout crowd at the Amway Center. The Spurs entered the game with the best record in the NBA at 25-3 and even though they were playing on a back-to-back, there was no question they were going to provide the Magic with a difficult test. Needless to say, with their reconstructed roster, Orlando passed with flying colors and were able to blowout an elite team. The Magic didn’t just win, they ran the Spurs into the ground — literally — and left no doubt on the scoreboard.
30 fast break points for Orlando.
That’s the number that tells the story.
The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as seven players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard continued to play like an MVP, finishing with 29 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks. Gilbert Arenas provided a spark off the bench as the sixth man, chipping in with 14 points, nine assists, and six rebounds. Brandon Bass and J.J. Redick each had 17 points, buoyed by efficient marksmanship from the perimeter. Jason Richardson had 15 points. Hedo Turkoglu had a simple but effective game with 11 points and six assists. And making his return from a sprained right foot, Ryan Anderson contributed with 10 points.
It’s been a while but Orlando has a performance they can be proud of.
Execution, energy, effort — it was all there for the Magic. Granted, Orlando took advantage of a tired San Antonio roster but they still had to go out there and win the game. The Magic did that and in the process, revealed the potential of what Arenas, Richardson, and Turkoglu can bring to the table.
In the first quarter, Orlando mixed it up offensively.
Richardson got things going early, starting the first possession of the game with a jumper off a 2/4 pick and roll with Bass. Shortly thereafter, Richardson was able to get out in transition and find himself in a mismatch with Tony Parker. The Magic were quick to recognize the advantage and Richardson was able to get himself an easy layup. Although Richardson was quiet the remainder of the evening, aside from a dunk in the second half, the way he was able to score with the basketball without much resistance was a sign of things to come.
Also in the period, Howard was able to get off to a quick start by plowing through Tim Duncan on the low block in 3-out/2-in offensive sets. Duncan doesn’t have the strength to combat Howard in the low post. Howard knew that and for the rest of the night, there was nothing he couldn’t do offensively. Howard played with a bounce in his step and none of the big men for the Spurs could match his intensity.
The only thing that stopped Howard, momentarily, was foul trouble. With 4:30 left in the quarter, Howard picked up his second foul and was forced to sit on the bench. As Howard left the court, Orlando’s interior defense left with him and Parker was able to take advantage by attacking the rim, knowing there was little Bass — the back-up center for the night — could do to stop him.
That was a small problem for the Magic but something they were able to overcome.
But the difference in the game occurred when Arenas came onto the court with 2:24 left in the first quarter. Almost immediately, Arenas was able to make a positive impact for Orlando and ignited a spree offensively that hasn’t been seen for weeks it seems like, if not longer. Arenas made his presence felt, first, by making a pass to Redick in transition for a three-pointer. On the next possession, Arenas was able to make a jumper in a staggered 1/5 pick and roll with Anderson and Bass setting the screens for him. On the next possession after that, Arenas was able to make a three-point shot in a 1/5 pick and roll with Bass.
For Arenas, that was only the beginning.
To start the second quarter, head coach Stan Van Gundy elected to go with Arenas, Redick, Turkoglu, Anderson, and Howard.
This lineup did damage.
Early in the period, a variety of players for the Magic scored. On one possession, Turkoglu was able to navigate into the lane for a finger roll. On another possession, Redick went backdoor and got a layup after Arenas made a fantastic pass to him to seal the deal on that play. Shortly thereafter, after the Spurs called a timeout to stop the flurry of scoring, Arenas made an excellent entry pass to Howard in the paint for a dunk. Everyone knows that Arenas can score but his passing was tremendous on those possessions. But that’s not all.
It’s easy to tell that the newcomers for Orlando are beginning to jell with their new teammates. One possession exemplified this, in particular.
Nearly midway in the quarter, Turkoglu and Howard ran a 3/5 pick and roll to kick things off. After a few seconds, Turkoglu kicked the ball out to Redick on the perimeter. From there, Redick swung the basketball to Richardson in the corner and Howard was able to receive an entry pass close to the basket. Howard got fouled on the play but the execution was crisp and the Magic looked like a cohesive unit. As the game continued to progress, that latter point became more prevalent.
There’s more that can be stated about Orlando’s performance in the second quarter but the story is this. Arenas changed the game.
Arenas pushed the pace at every opportunity and did a great job of being a playmaker. That’s why general manager Otis Smith acquired him. To make plays.
Once the second half started, the rout was on.
[11:38] Nelson makes 25-foot three-point shot
[10:36] Arenas makes jumper
[9:44] Turkoglu makes two-point shot
[9:11] Richardson makes layup (Turkoglu assist)
[8:21] Richardson dunk (Howard assist)
[7:43] Howard makes free throw 2 of 2
[7:16] Richardson makes 23-foot three-point shot (Turkoglu assist)
[6:33] Howard makes two-point shot
[6:09] Turkoglu makes layup (Arenas assist)
[5:45] Howard makes layup (Turkoglu assist)
After Howard linked up with Turkoglu on a backdoor alley-oop, the score was 83-64 in the Magic’s favor and that was that.
It’s one game. It’s one opponent. It’s one win.
That being said, Orlando has every right to be encouraged by their performance because they exerted their will against San Antonio. The Spurs stayed in striking distance by executing a near-flawless drive-and-kick offense but the Magic were able to wear them down eventually by leaking out in transition and running.
All in all, Orlando realized possibilities.
Possibilities that could save the season.
Arenas, Richardson, and Turkoglu are providing the Magic a much-needed boost with their controlled aggression offensively. Van Gundy has figured it out, too.
Van Gundy is encouraging Orlando to run at every opportunity because he has multiple playmakers in Arenas, Nelson, and Turkoglu. It’s clear that the Magic will be at their most dangerous and potent when Arenas or Nelson or Turkoglu make a concerted effort to score in transition. With Redick’s and Richardson’s enthusiasm to leak out on the wings and run, in conjunction with agile big men like Bass and Howard trailing the play, Orlando is discovering a dynamic formula.
It worked against San Antonio.
For the Magic, let’s see if it works against the Boston Celtics.
Now about that defense.