Brandon Bass had one of his worst games of the season Monday night in San Antonio. He had four points, shot two for five, grabbed only three rebounds and had four turnovers, including two that started the fourth quarter and brought San Antonio into the game.
That game did not exemplify the strides Bass has made this year. Wednesday’s game did.
Bass scored 16 points in the first half and 18 in the game to help buoy the Magic in a struggling second quarter with the second unit in. He shot nine of 12 and grabbed six rebounds. More importantly, he had only one turnover. What made him so effective was his ability to hit jumpers off of Nelson’s pick and rolls and then his ability to support Dwight Howard on the glass.
Wednesday, he pretty much filled his role. And did it well.
“Brandon carried us in the first half,” Stan Van Gundy said. “That was huge. He only got one shot after halftime, made it, but he was tremendous in the first half. Great bounce back. He had his worst game of the year the other night in San Antonio. It’s good when you can see a guy come off a game like that and bounce back and have the game he had tonight.”
The guy who could barely crack Stan Van Gundy’s rotation last year has become a fixture in the lineup this year. And Van Gundy said it has been his attention to detail.
After Wednesday’s win Van Gundy said he asked Bass what has led to his improvement before a recent game against New Jersey. Bass told him having been with the team for a year has certainly helped, but also said focusing in on his defensive responsibilities and filling his responsibilities on that end. Van Gundy said Bass’ defense has improved greatly and his rebounding is up by 50 percent.
Bass, who is averaging 5.1 rebounds per game, is hauling in nearly two rebounds per game more per 36 minutes than he did last year. His total rebounding percentage is also significantly better than last year. This year he is grabbing 14.6 percent of all rebounds compared to last year’s 11.3. That number is much more in line with his career averages.
Bass seems to have found a comfortable spot in Orlando’s offensive and defensive system. And surely Dwight Howard is appreciative for the help on the glass.
“He was great,” Dwight Howard said. “He came out with a lot of intensity and he just played with no fear. I told him I expect him to do this every night and every time he steps on the floor.”
Everyone knew when the Magic acquired Bass that he was a great scorer. There are not many guys in the league who work as hard as he does to make up for his size but can also show a deft touch from 18-feet in. Bass, because of his size, strength and shooting ability, is really a unique player on this team.
And the beauty about the Magic is that shooters get the opportunity to shoot. JJ Redick said he knows his coaching staff has the confidence in him to just keep shooting even if he is mired in a slump. Bass has the similar go-ahead most likely (although not from 3-point range). And Orlando wants him to be doing what he does offensively while also improving his defense.
Bass is far from a finished product and still has areas he can improve — turnovers would be a big one. But he knows that too. And we may not have yet seen the best in Bass.
“I still consider myself a work in progress,” Bass said.
Makes you wonder what he has in store tonight for the Cavaliers after what he described as one of the best feeling games of the year.