Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
For the Orlando Magic, Saturday night was a prime example of what is good, what can go wrong, and how to preserve the latter when faced with adversity.
Early on, the offense was clicking, the ball was moving, and life was sublime. This included your usual suspects such as Jameer Nelson breaking the Bobcat defense off the dribble, Nikola Vucevic setting up shop in the post and finding open cutters, and just general good effort from J.J. Redick.
That being said, there really was a team-wide commitment to finding the open man. It got Baby (20 points, 7-for-11 shooting) and Afflalo (20 as well, 8-for-14) good looks off the move, it got Redick countless open threes (though he only went 3-for-9), and it got Vuce and Nicholson wide open under the basket.
Perhaps the best part, though, was that we finally caught a glimpse of New Orleans Gustavo Ayon. Ayon is clearly a player who thrives when the ball is crisply going from man to man — he’s an excellent passer from the high post and is at his best as a scorer when he gets the ball moving towards the basket. All of these were on display late in the first and early in the second, when Ayon found Redick off a gorgeous backdoor cut, Nicholson down low with a touch pass, and got a nice layup in semi-transition off a good look from E’Twaun Moore.
All in all, the offense was a joy to watch. The Magic scored 119 points in 90 possessions and that figure could have easily been higher if the Magic shot a bit better from three. Orlando went 5-for-17 on the night, including missing 7 straight at one point — a lot of which were good looks for Redick.
And yet, the Magic almost gave this game away because they couldn’t contain dribble penetration. Give or take a few post-ups for Byron Mullens and Bismack Biyombo, most of which went badly, Charlotte’s entire offense was based on the ability of guys like Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions, and Gerald Henderson to get to the rim. The Bobcats constantly did so, both in transition, where they scored 23 points off 14 Orlando turnovers, and in the half-court. Walker was the main catalyst here, torching both Nelson and Moore en route to a career-high 32 points. The Bobcats also used this to get to the line 29 times, even getting Nelson into a rare bout of foul trouble that forced Orlando to go to Moore as their only ball handler early in the fourth quarter.
Eventually, though, the Magic persevered.
Charlotte, now losers of 11 straight, isn’t a very talented team, but every win counts both in the standings and for the psyche of a young team such as Orlando. Games such as these, where everybody contributed to a good team effort (even Harkless, who was mostly non-existent on offense, pulled his weight defensively, including an insane block of a mid-air Michael Kidd-Gilchrist jumper), are important going forward.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Walker was scorching from inside, outside, and all around. He got his teammates involved early, with 7 assists through the first three quarters, and went to work on his own when it was needed, scoring 12 in the fourth. All in all, 32 and 7 for the second-year guard.
After five quick points by Walker put the Bobcats up 93-92 with 4:07 left, the Magic didn’t allow another point until Biyombo’s dunk with 1:15 remaining in the game. In those three minutes, the Magic scored eight points of their own to seal the deal.
That Was … Scary
As he was defending a Gerald Henderson drive, Arron Afflalo fell to the floor and didn’t get up for a few minutes. The replays looked horrible but after what looked like a serious injury, Arron eventually got up, walked back to the bench on his own, and eventually re-entered the game.