The Magic trailed by as many as 17 points, but battled back in the late third and early fourth quarters to make the game interesting again, finally forcing Oklahoma City to take difficult shots. Coach Stan Van Gundy found an unlikely spark off the bench in Von Wafer, who scored nine points on 2-of-2 shooting (5-of-5 from the foul line) in his nine fourth-quarter minutes. Wafer put the ball on the floor, attacked the basket, and got ahead of the ball in fast-break situations, giving Orlando some much-needed offensive dynamism.
And, now, players say they still need some more time to jell after the lockout-induced layoff and an abbreviated preseason.
“It’s going to take a while because we’ve been off for a long time,” Howard said.
“For people who really don’t understand the game, it takes a while to get back into the swing of playing. No matter what you’ve done all summer, it’s just a different feeling when you’re out there playing against other people.”
Oklahoma City took firm control of the game in the second quarter when Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard went to the bench for their normal rest. Chris Duhon and the Glen Davis/Ryan Anderson duo could not create the same type of offense that sustained the Magic through the early part of the first quarter. Nelson was attacking and probing throughout the game, trying to create offense. And the lull lasted for a long time in this game. It was no wonder Nelson had 18 points and six assists, hitting on seven of his 13 shots. He did a very nice job and might have been the best player offensively.
On the flipside, the Magic did not have anyone that could do the same things as Durant. This is nothing new. Orlando’s glaring weakness is their lack of a dynamic shot creator on the perimeter. The Magic were able to put points on the board when they ran their offensive sets. When Nelson was aggressive in the pick-and-roll, Orlando usually came away with points. When Nelson wasn’t aggressive or not in the game, points were hard to come by for the Magic.
Anderson poured in 25 points, hitting 6-of-12 three-pointers.
We know Anderson can score, but he also collected 10 rebounds. Four of them were offensive boards — a luxury for a player who often sets up near the 3-point line.
Anderson gave coach Stan Van Gundy one less worry — for now.
Every time Hedo Turkoglu shot, I got excited. It felt like the first pass of a fast break.
The Magic started the game shooting 8 for 9 from the field and led 18-11, but finished the first quarter shooting 1 for 15. Orlando shot just 37.0 percent (30 for 81) from the floor on the night and 28.6 percent (8 for 28) from 3-point range.
“I didn’t think we were good at all in the first half, but we got much better in the second half,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Offensively, we were just not good all night.”
“Perk was really good,” said Brooks. “He made him work for everything he had. He was really good staying between Dwight and the basket.”
Perkins credited the Thunder team defense and said of Howard, “I don’t think he’s had too many nights like that.”
How did the Magic mount a comeback in the fourth quarter? Well, the Thunder’s offense stalled out again. Yep, the same problem that plagued us during last year’s playoffs has re-surfaced. It’s not like the Magic were much better, because at that point they were relying on silly Von Wafer drives and Ryan Anderson threes. Still, they did get to within five before the Thunder woke up and shut the game down. Considering the Magic still have the talent to be a playoff team, I’m not too concerned about the offensive lapse….yet.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN Florida’s Magic Insider (http://ESPNFlorida.com) and is the co-host of the ESPNFlorida.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him onTwitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here)
Topics: Dwight Howard, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, James Harden, Jason Richardson, JJ Redick, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Russell Westbrook, Ryan Anderson, Scott Brooks, Serge Ibaka, Stan Van Gundy, Thabo Sefolosha