Going into Wednesday night, the Orlando Magic were facing the biggest expectations the team has seen since the mid-90s. It’s overstated and over simplistic, but it’s true: this team’s mindset is truly championship or bust.
One game in, the Magic lived up to the hype.
All of the newcomers contributed — including Ryan Anderson with 16 points, Vince Carter 15 points and Jason Williams 15 points and 5 assists — as the Magic streamrolled the 76ers 120-106 on Wednesday night. The Magic were propelled by an overriding second quarter where they outscored the 76ers 41-20 behind particularly electrifying play from Jason Williams, who had nine points and three assists in the period. The Magic connected on six 3-pointers in the period, turning a closely played contest into a blowout.
Here’s the breakdown.
1. The Magic were all business tonight. There wasn’t as much smiling and goofing off as we’ve seen in the past from this team. The team looked loose, sure, but it was different than it’s been in the past. This team looked like a bunch of guys on a mission. They meticulously went about their actions, making smart decision on offense and buckling down on defense (for the first three quarters). Their cohesion and communication on defense — again, for the first three quarters, before allowing 37 points in the fourth — was probably better than we saw most of last year.
2. The second unit was as good as advertised. All of the talk about the Magic’s depth proved worthy — the Magic lost little firepower when the key starters went to the bench, and the stars remained well-rested throughout. The Magic’s second-quarter surge was sparked by the lineup of Williams-Redick-Gortat-Bass-Barnes; that lineup outscored the Sixers 13-6 over a 4-minute stretch. Then Dwight Howard entered the game, and the Magic outscored the Sixers 26-13 the rest of the way and the game got out of hand. The Magic’s starters are good, obviously, and if the bench continues to outscore the other team’s bench, this Magic team will be really, really hard to beat.
3. Jason Williams opened some eyes. Maybe Tim Povtak wasn’t so crazy when he said that Jason Williams could challenge Jameer Nelson for the starting point-guard position. OK, settle down, obviously the starting job is Jameer’s. But Williams played awesome tonight — he looked like a player that can start in the NBA. 15 points and five assists on 4-of-5 shooting is about the best you can ask for from a reserve point guard. He did seem to lose his focus in the second half, turning the ball over a few times, but that was when the game was out of hand.