Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
One of the main reasons why the Orlando Magic have overachieved up to this point in the season is because their youth have been able to contribute. Guys like Nikola Vucevic, E’Twaun Moore, Maurice Harkless, and Andrew Nicholson have each played a role in the Magic’s surprising success.
The Magic’s 99-85 win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday was the latest example of youth being served for Orlando.
The Warriors, who had been perfect in their East Coast road trip and riding a five-game road winning streak (which included an impressive 97-95 win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday) heading into Friday’s game, looked a step slow and lethargic against the Magic. Perhaps South Beach had something to do with that.
In any case, Orlando took advantage, thanks in large part due do their efforts on defense and the collective performance of their youngsters.
Defensively, the Magic were able to hold Golden State to 85 points on 91 possessions. A big reason for that early on was Orlando’s imposing interior defense. The Warriors tried in vain to score at the rim, as Nicholson, Harkless, and Gustavo Ayon collectively channeled their inner-Dikembe Mutombos and combined to block seven shots in the first quarter alone. For the game, Nicholson and Harkless finished with four blocks apiece (both career-highs), while Ayon had two blocks.
For the Magic, that block party set the tone defensively and Golden State drifted further away from the basket as the game wore on.
Overall, Redick, Nicholson, Moore, and Vucevic led the way for Orlando.
Redick riddled the Warriors with his three-point marksmanship and off-ball movement, making four three-pointers and finishing with 16 points, four rebounds, and four assists.
Nicholson was a smooth operator offensively, once again showcasing his excellent footwork and touch in the paint as well as his midrange jumper. As a result, Nicholson had another efficient outing, putting up 15 points (6-for-9 shooting) and tying a career-high with nine rebounds to go along with his career-high four blocks.
Like Redick, Moore did much of his damage behind the three-point line. Moore did nail a few long twos off the dribble, but it was his three three-pointers (all from the corners) that helped fuel his standout performance coming off the bench. Moore finished with 15 points and five assists.
As for Vucevic, he was a terror on the glass, pulling down a career-high 17 rebounds to go along with his 12 points.
When the Magic can get contributions like this from their youngsters to augment the core group of veterans, they’ll continue to be competitive against any team in the NBA. And when the youth plays like this, it shows the future is bright for Orlando.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Despite playing just 25 minutes against Golden State, there was little doubt that Nicholson was the Magic’s best player when he was on the floor. With each passing game, Nicholson is growing more comfortable and it’s being reflected in his numbers.
Yes, Orlando played really well offensively throughout the game but it was their defense that fueled the victory. Who would have thought that the Magic would be one of the best defensive teams in the league this season?