The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Washington Wizards by the score of 103-85, spoiling the first game that Rashard Lewis played at Amway Center as an opposing player (he was injured last season). The Magic jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, overwhelming the Wizards from the get-go. Orlando was led by a balanced attack, as four players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard had a 20-20 game, the 34th of his career and the second this season, finishing with a game-high 28 points, 20 rebounds, and three blocks. Ryan Anderson was a per-minute monster, contributing with 23 points (7-of-16 from the field, 3-of-5 from three-point range, and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line) and 15 rebounds in roughly 28 minutes of playing time. Hedo Turkoglu had 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, eight assists, and five rebounds. J.J. Redick finished with 14 points. The aforementioned Lewis had six points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field and four rebounds. This one was over when head coach Flip Saunders was forced to take a timeout less than four minutes into the first quarter, as Orlando scored the first nine points of the ballgame. The Magic played with a tremendous amount of energy and effort, almost playing hyper at times. For Washington, there was nothing they could do to stop Orlando from dominating on both ends of the floor.
The Magic, as they’ve been accustomed to doing at the start of games, got Jason Richardson involved right away in the opening period. Richardson posted up Nick Young on the left block and made a layup on the very first possession of the game. A few possessions later, Richardson made a three-pointer in the right corner in transition. And that was it. More on Richardson’s involvement in a bit.
After Richardson started things off on offense for Orlando, that’s when the floodgates really started to open up. The Magic picked apart the Wizards’ porous defense and one could only imagine what was going through Saunders’ head as he saw Howard getting dunk after dunk. It wasn’t just Howard getting easy baskets, either. Anderson had a dunk near the tail-end of the first quarter and Redick had a ridiculously easy layup off an inbounds play shortly thereafter. When it was all said and done, Orlando was up by 17 points after 12 minutes.
For the remainder of the evening, the Magic went through the motions offensively and got whatever look they wanted. A 1/5 pick-and-roll with Nelson and Howard for a Glen Davis jumper? Done. A staggered 3/5 pick-and-roll with Turkoglu, Davis, and Howard for a Turkoglu fallaway jumper? Yes please. A 4-out/1-in offensive set for a Howard righty hook? Sure. Three-pointers in transition? Yes. At this point, a pattern is setting in as it’s becoming abundantly clear Orlando did anything and everything on offense.
It’s not like Washington made things interesting either. Yeah, the Wizards slowly chipped into the lead after halftime but a quick Van Gundy timeout and order was restored on the court. It’s a shame, too, because it’s not like Washington doesn’t have talented players. The problem is that there’s very little discipline from the Wizards. It’s hard to think of another team in the NBA, right now, that has numerous players with low basketball IQs. Andray Blatche goaltended a free-throw. These are things that you can’t make up if you tried.
There were times when you wished a mercy rule was enacted because of how disproportionate the skill levels were for both teams. It was that bad, and the final score would have been a lot worse if the Magic had more skilled players coming off the bench. Put it this way. If the 2010 roster was playing against Washington this season, the margin of victory would have been more than 30 points.
By the way, here’s the problem with Orlando. Yes, the Magic defeated the Wizards by 18 points. But aside from Howard, Anderson, Turkoglu, and Redick, no one else played particularly well for Orlando. Jameer Nelson shot 3-of-8 from the field, had nine assists, and that was it. As for Richardson, after he made his first two baskets to start the game, he finished with eight points, five assists, and four rebounds. This is an issue.
In other words, the Magic are an extremely top-heavy team right now and even though that’s good enough against teams like the Houston Rockets, New Jersey Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Toronto Raptors, and Wizards, that’s not going to be good enough against teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s not. To beat the elite teams in the NBA, depth is needed. It’s not asking a lot of Howard to produce at a high level because that’s expected of him as an elite player. But it’s asking an awful lot from Anderson, Turkoglu, and Redick. Each of them are good players but it’s hard to expect excellence from them every game. It’s not going to happen and that’s a problem for Orlando because if it doesn’t happen, losses are going to start piling up unless Nelson and Richardson get their act together.
So even though the Magic are 5-2 to start the season, take heed, because there’s a big red flag on the roster and it’s planted in the starting backcourt.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.