AP Photo/John Raoux
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Sunday night is how legitimate Andrew Nicholson looked. The kid has all the tools. His footwork is sound, his court vision is above-average, and he is as deliberate as he is patient. The guy flat out executes and he’s not scared.
As is the case with most teams, when Orlando can attack and keep the pace up, they find success. Attacking options are few and far between, but Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick carried much of that load on Sunday. When those two put the ball on the floor and went towards the basket, things happened. The other thing that Nelson and Redick gave to the lineup was a sense of calmness. The Magic, at times, get a little carried away with ball movement and “happy feet.” Those two veterans have the ability to slow things down.
It’s horrifying to think what this Magic team looks like when both Redick and Nelson are on the bench. Not only are they the veteran leaders, but they are the only guys on the court who can slow things down for Orlando and seemingly the only guys who can attack with any confidence. For the most part, Redick and Nelson platooned and things worked out well for them. There were a few moments when E’Twaun Moore became the primary ballhandler. Yikes.
Regardless of who is doing it, however, back-cutting and off-ball movement were the keys to the Magic’s win. Since Orlando lacks star power and big-time post players, they require a five-man effort in moving without the ball, rotating the ball with pace, and running the floor well. When they can do that, they will find some success this year. The back-cutting, high-velocity offense is a lot of fun to watch when it’s clicking, but it appears as if it’s going to require this team to be pretty consistently deep rotation-wise, which is still a concern.
Sunday was a great look at a new breed of Magic basketball, no longer relying on the three-ball as heavily as it once did. The first 28 points were scored inside the three-point line and it wasn’t until the second quarter until Moore opened things up with a triple.
Similarly, Orlando’s defense will remain a key to finding success on the basketball court. They were strong on their rotations and had active hands (especially in the post) against the Spurs. Those situations create transition opportunities and allow guys like Moore, Redick, and Nelson to really push the ball. Luckily for them, they have guys like Gustavo Ayon and Andrew Nicholson, who really run the floor well for big men.
E’Twaun Moore had a strong first half and for a few moments looked like a legitimate perimeter threat, especially as he caught the ball on a kickout started by a Redick or Nelson drive. Moore regressed, though, in the second half.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Andrew Nicholson. The rookie shined once again (18 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the floor). More importantly, the young kid looked like he belonged on the floor at all times. He rebounded well, picked his spots, and executed within the offense.
Glen Davis. Davis is an often unmentioned spark in so many places and it’s often forgotten that he is capable of creating his own shot, finding mismatches, and stepping confidently into open looks.