Orlando got its first look at the new-look Magic on Wednesday night, and it’s safe to say things went pretty well. The Magic lead by as much as 18, finishing with a 90-86 victory over a Miami Heat team that was clearly overmatched. Here are some quick thoughts:
So, uh, Brandon Bass is pretty good. I think that’s pretty clear to any and all Magic fans in attendance Wednesday night. He hit several mid-range jump shots — a huge asset in somebody as strong down low as Bass is — in addition to being active on the boards and the defensive interior. Most people aren’t expecting Bass to start once Rashard Lewis returns from suspension, but it’s going to be really hard to keep this guy off the floor.
It was also a strong showing for Ryan Anderson, who scored 16 points and grabbed five rebounds after not seeing the floor on Monday night. He’s got a real smooth stroke, which is no secret, and he showed more toughness going to the hoop than I expected. Anderson couldn’t have asked for a better debut.
The Orlando Sentinel’s Josh Robbins had a nice line that summed up the two players’ performances: “Anderson, a lanky 6-foot-10 sharpshooter, showed some muscle on the boards. Bass, a muscular 6-foot-8 bruiser, displayed a feathery touch on midrange jumpers.”
Vince Carter struggled from the field and didn’t look particularly outstanding offensively, but he finished with the best +/- for the second consecutive night. Both of Carter’s field goals came when he attacked the hoop, absorbed contact and finished in traffic. He certainly is at his best when he’s driving and slashing, rather than bombing away. I don’t want to make any crass judgements on two preseason games, but I can guarantee you this — at least one time this season, you will throw your hands up at Carter and say “take it to the hole.”
Jameer Nelson went 0-for-5 from the field, but I thought he played well. He penetrated and created plenty of wide-open looks for 3s.
I was also really impressed with Matt Barnes, who provided a little bit of everything with 6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
I could be wrong, but it looked to me like Anthony Johnson was pressing a little bit. It seemed like he had a small case of nerves, knowing that this game was his first turn to impress the Magic coaching staff in his battle with Jason Williams. He didn’t play poorly, but he didn’t seem like the same cool guy we saw last season.
J.J. Redick, Mickael Pietrus, Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat also played well.
Here’s one thing that’s clear, and it’s so obvious that it probably shouldn’t even be said: the Magic are good. It was evident Wednesday night how much talent there is up and down the lineup, and the Heat — a playoff team, last season — were not even close. Not even close. The Magic created open 3-pointers at will, played improved defense (16 blocks!) from Monday, and never threw a bad lineup out there. With this team, there aren’t going to be a lot of times where you’re thinking, “We need to get through these 3 minutes until the good lineup comes back in.”