These preseason blowouts sure are getting old. I am beginning to worry that Orlando coasting through the preseason will mean the team is not ready for when the games will count.
OK, not really. The Magic kept their preseason win streak alive with another dominating 105-67 win over the Bulls at Amway Center on Saturday. Vince Carter scored all 21 of his points in the first half as Orlando, once again took command in the first quarter and never looked back. This has become a pattern, and yes I realize it is still the preseason.
The Magic shot a blistering 62.3 percent from the floor while giving up 31.1 percent. The Bulls made only 10 field goals in the first half and 13 in the second. Twenty-three field goals in an entire game is not very good, even if it is preseason. Derrick Rose only played 12 minutes and with him out, Chicago’s offense completely bogged down.
Not that it was any good with Rose in there. The All-Star point guard scored seven points and had one assist. I do not want to question Chicago’s effort, but it is no secret that teams tend to pack it in once the lead gets too big and the starters have put their work in. Except, Chicago never really even did that. The Bulls had only one starter play more than 20 minutes and no starter scored more than Rose’s seven points.
The defense was not necessarily keeping guys in front of them all the time, but with Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat manning the inside the entire game. They were in the right position to keep the Bulls from attacking the basket for most of the evening. Chicago’s focus on the 3-pointer and improving its percentage from long range did not quite work. The Bulls were not getting very many open looks from beyond the arc either. But they 2-for-11 performance is not what Tom Thibodeau had in mind.
Again, the raw plus/minus numbers in this game were insane. Rashard Lewis arguably struggled but posted a +39. Every starter was +30 in that column of the box score.
The offense is still a little behind the defense. But not horribly too far behind. Orlando was up 22-10 after the first quarter and won the second quarter 29-13. There is not a whole lot to be upset about. All that seems to be up in the air is exactly what combination of players Stan Van Gundy will use by the time opening day arrives.
Rashard Lewis spent the entire game at the three with Bass and Gortat lining up next to Howard for most of the game. Lewis, for the first time all preseason really, struggled in the post against Luol Deng. He scored 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting. He was definitely trying to work on his offensive game throughout and was not bashful about taking shots. His post game is pretty good, but it has been a while since he has used it. Against a guy with length such as Deng, Lewis needed a different tactic then what he has used throughout this preseason.
The traditional power forward lineup was actually somewhat effective. Howard and Bass both got their post looks and let Lewis get his post looks too (although the spacing was not good in that situation, almost forcing Lewis to take a shot in those situations.
But as good as Gortat is in the pick and roll and as good as Bass could be in the pick and roll, there is still plenty of space for shooters. Defenses are sucked in pretty deep in the paint trying to keep Howard/Gortat from getting a free roll to the basket. That freed up Lewis and Carter and Nelson for easy jumpers.
Surprisingly though, Orlando only took 12 3-pointers, making six. That sure is a low number for a game where the Magic won comfortably. Orlando has found a new way to attack the paint and make things happen at the rim rather than only launching 3-pointers. The second unit still seems to have an issue creating shots on its own though. But that is an issue for another day.
The only thing Van Gundy will surely be upset about is the free throw shooting once again. It did not seem too much of a problem — in the first quarter, Orlando did not commit a team foul until there was 46 seconds left — but looking back at the box score 27 free throws is a lot. And it hid the fact Chicago could not shoot at all.
Overall, Orlando just flat out dominated this game from start to finish. Vince Carter looked like he was ready to go off for 50 if it were not a preseason game and were playing his normal minutes. It was that kind of night. And Dwight Howard was patient after a slow start offensively and displayed a nice arsenal of post moves against Kurt Thomas in the third quarter.
Someone, please tell me when the regular season starts. These preseason games are not teaching us much