All summer long (and really the last two years) all Magic fans have heard is how amazing the Amway Center would be. How technologically advanced it would be. How much every price levels would be available to fans of every price level. How, excuse the use of the team’s motto for the new building, legendary it would be.
Sure, Sunday night’s game was just a preseason game. It means nothing in the long run. But don’t believe Orlando did not want to come out and put on a show for what was a sell out crowd coming out to see the team’s first game in its new digs. The Magic did not disappoint.
One hundred points in three quarters. Over 70 percent shooting through the first three quarters. Giving up less than 40 percent shooting through three quarters. Orlando put on a clinic Sunday night to open up its new digs against New Orleans, easily romping to a 135-81 win.
For the record, Quentin Richardson recorded the first points in the new building, calmly draining a 3-pointer off a Rashard Lewis post up. Dwight Howard recorded the building’s first rebound and block.
Everything else was elementary. The Magic looked like a team ready to play in the regular season, while the Hornets were a team very much playing its second preseason game. And unlike games against Houston and Indiana, there really was no let down in the team’s focus throughout the game. Orlando kept its foot on the gas pedal and made things worse and worse for New Orleans.
Even though this was a preseason game, this has to be an embarrassing effort for the Hornets. They trailed by 30 for most of the night, 40 for a good portion and saw the rare 50-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
So the final stats: Dwight Howard had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in 22.5 minutes. Jameer Nelson scored 10 to go with six assists. Vince Carter had 10 as well, as one of the few players not shooting better than 50 percent. Rashard Lewis poured in a game-high 23 points on nine of 11 shooting, hitting all five of his 3-pointers.
Rashard Lewis got his fair share of looks in the post and took advantage of minutes at the 3. Dwight Howard showed off his jumper a little and looked efficient in the post, if not still hampered by fouls. He had five in the middle of the third quarter. Jameer Nelson was looking to pass and knifed his way through the defense and found open players around the perimeter. Vince Carter was aggressive going to the basket and only settled for bad shots in the third quarter.
There is never an excuse for losing by 50 points and it seemed like New Orleans was going through the motions. The only problem was, the Magic were not. Or, if they were, they looked pretty good doing it.
Orlando had no players with a negative plus-minus rating and New Orleans had no players with a positive plus-minus rating. Trevor Ariza — we can all agree he is a decent player — had a -35! Wow.
The numbers are simply astounding from this game. Even the guys who did not score that much contributed. Chris Duhon had only four points, but dished out seven assists in a little more than 20 minutes of play.
Orlando’s offense was extremely crisp and moved the ball well around the perimeter and inside-out. Howard displayed his new found patience and even hit a couple jumpers — even one from the right side! — to keep New Orleans honest.
Even when Howard and Marcin Gortat shared the floor in the second quarter, everything worked. That is not an alignment Orlando will use often. But it seemed like it could work better than in times past. Gortat displayed some nice post moves and finished as well around the basket. He finished with 15 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting, even hitting a jumper. The two did a really good job protecting the rim and keeping New Orleans on the perimeter. Obviously, it is a lineup worth experimenting more with.
Overall, the Magic’s defense was just as suffocating as their offense was crisp. The Hornets shot a frigid 32.9 percent from the floor and committed 17 turnovers. Really only Peja Stojakovic (20 points) could get anything going offensively.
Everything worked well tonight, but it is still preseason and there are still points of concern.
Howard had five fouls before being pulled in the third quarter. He had two fairly quickly in the first quarter too. Obviously it was a preseason game, so keeping Howard in had more benefits than taking him out. But this has become a trend. In all three preseason games this year, Howard has gotten into quick foul trouble. It is still early in the preseason, but that has to be cleaned up sooner rather than later.
Fouls are still an issue too. Orlando committed 26 fouls and giving up 22 free throws. The defense was moving well and rotating, but obviously still dealing with preseason timing. It slowly needs to get better.
But overall, you cannot be too upset with a 50-plus point victory. And it surely made the sell-out crowd at the Amway Center was impressed with more than just the building.