ORLANDO — After a 91-81 loss Monday night in Atlanta, it is pretty clear this Magic team is going to need some time gel. A team that was put together literally Monday night really struggled to get on the same page at both ends of the floor. There surely was a little bit of nerves and a little bit of uncertainty on the part of the players just trying to figure out where each player was supposed to be.
So what to expect for game two?
First, expect the team to be a little small. Stan Van Gundy said Malik Allen will be out for tonight’s game after injuring his ankle Monday night. That will slide Hedo Turkoglu to the four and JJ Redick into the lineup. This is no indictment on Brandon Bass, just an admission that there are not a lot of big guys on this roster and Van Gundy is afraid of what would happen if both Bass and Howard got into foul trouble. Expect Earl Clark to get some minutes too in relief of Howard and Bass.
The team did not have a shootaround this morning but spent some extra time working on the offense during the walkthrough before the game.
Still this team has a lot of work to do and even Van Gundy admits progress may be slow.
“I don’t really have expectations, I just want to be better every night,” Van Gundy said before the game. “I would like to see us get out and play with a little better pace. I would like to see us focus on what we just did gameplan wise. It’s hard. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s hard for the players that are coming in brand new. They’ve had two one-hour walkthroughs and they are going out playing games. It’s not easy right now.”
It certainly is not. Orlando shot 35.2 percent from the floor and was outrebounded 51-38 as Atlanta sped by in the fourth quarter for a comfortable win. And we all know the road for the Magic does not get any easier.
But the Mavericks know not to take a team like this lightly. Dallas went through its own transformation last year when the team acquired Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in a mid-season trade. The Mavericks were energized by the trade and got into the Playoffs as the second seed in the Western Conference (before falling to the Spurs in the first round).
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said the unknown is going to be one of the challenge of playing Orlando tonight and that this team will be good soon.
“They’ll play better tonight for sure,” Carlisle said. “(Hedo) Turkoglu has been here, so he knows their stuff. The other guys are veterans, they’ll pick it up quickly. They’re going to be good. And they’ll be good tonight, I have no doubt about that.”
So expect a little bit of improvement tonight as this team gets together and continues to play together more. Stan Van Gundy and the Magic have a difficult task ahead of them to make the integration complete and get the team back to playing an elite level.
“You’ve got to take these games on the fly,” Van Gundy said. “You’ve got to get some practice days in and you’ve got to start building your foundation. It’s frustrating in some ways because you would like to be at the point in the season where you can sort of expect better play. But that’s not where we are right now. We’ve just got to do it day-by-day and we’ve got to do some extra work. But at the same time they got to go out and play games, so we can’t kill them. We’ve got to do it little by little and day by day.”