In a few months, we may look back at tonight’s 118-81 loss to Miami and think it was just a preseason game, a sign that the team was still working back into shape after a truncated offseason. In a few months, we may look back at this 118-81 loss to Miami and think of it as a sign of deeper issues with the club, a team that is dealing with a massive amount of distraction and a massive amount of uncertainty, a team still reeling from Playoff disappointment and a hard fall from the top.
In a few months, we will know if we should read any more into this game. Right now, it certainly looks bad with the Dwight Howard trade rumors still swirling and his uncertain future dominating every discussion surrounding the Orlando Magic.
Tonight, it was just a preseason game. It can be flushed and forgotten as easily as it was scheduled and played. There is not going to be a lot to take from a preseason game. The team was lethargic, a bit out of shape and out of sync in what turned out to be a 30-plus-point loss. Some of that was to be expected. After all, as Stan Van Gundy has said, the team is trying to squeeze nearly two months of training camp into two weeks. It is hard to figure out whether we should judge this as the second-to-last preseason game or the first.
At points, Orlando looked pretty solid. At most points, it looked like the team needed a lot of work.
The energy was good early, the ball was moving and the defense looked decent. There were very brief flashes. But ultimately that is all they were — flashes. Shots were not falling — even from the usually reliable Dwight Howard — and the Heat eventually began to impose their will.
Orlando did not put up much resistance after this. Glen Davis and Earl Clark were going after offensive rebounds instead of getting back and preventing fast breaks. Add in the typical early-preseason turnovers and the Heat got a lot of fast break opportunities throughout the game. Enough to score 22 fast break points to the Magic’s 0. That is a sign of effort and attention to detail. Neither of those were present.
It is just preseason. But that is not a good sign. Definitely not a good sign.
This was a seven-point game at halftime and that seemed to be about the real difference between these teams — before LeBron James imposed his will and helped the Heat pull away and then the third string simply hit practice jumpers over a disinterested Magic defense. James scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds on 9-for-14 shooting.
So really call it a 13-point game rather than a 33-point game. That is me being an optimist again.
Dwight Howard looked great for the most part on defense. He was active and engaged early on especially swatting away shots. Offensively, he seemed frustrated by the big bodies and double teams Miami threw his way. But he also did not get his post looks or seem that engaged on that end. Orlando was going away from him and that had a little to do with his struggles. Howard was 2 for 9 from the floor and 1 for 4 from the foul line. His five-point, six-rebound effort is not going to make anyone feel good about anything. But you don’t worry about a superstar like him (unless he starts purposefully tanking to force a trade… I don’t think he will do that).
Jameer Nelson though had the really bad night. His legs did not look under him and he, more than anyone else symbolized that these guys are not quite in game shape yet. Nelson had seven assists and seemed to be looking to attack more but his night was highlighted by an 0-for-10 shooting performance. He was not taking bad shots either.
The other bad news was Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu looked decent, if not still a step slower than we are used to. He took a hard fall in the second quarter and left the game with a hip contusion. Clearly the team’s depth is not where you want it to be and so the Magic should hope Turkoglu can get back soon.
The two best players on the floor for Orlando were Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick. Both had 22 points. Redick looked in rhythm on his jumpers. Anderson did too and looked to attack the basket a lot more than he did last year. Finishing is going to be another issue though. Jason Richardson also had some good moments with nine of his 11 points in the first quarter. He was good when he attacked the basket, but settled more in the second half.
And that was the big issue tonight. The lethargy led to the team settling for shots. And that made the team more lethargic. Clearly the key with this team, as Stan Van Gundy will agree, is to draw in defenders to get open shots. The team cannot simply rely on shooting itself out of holes. They have to move the ball and work inside out.
Orlando did not feel like doing that tonight. And you can see the results.
Just keep telling yourself it is just preseason and wait until Wednesday to make any conclusions.