The Orlando Magic continue to show that through a little hard work and some precise passing that this team can continue to put up points. Orlando in this early preseason is playing free and loose. The ball is moving up and down the court and around the perimeter quickly and inside the paint. The Magic are working together to get points.
Is this how it is going to be all the time? This is just two preseason games in and Philadelphia was without Andrew Bynum. What is clear is that right now, the Magic are working together and showing what kind of team they are going to be. Or, at least, what they hope it will look like.
The Magic played with energy once again. The ball was pushed up the court with pace. The team attacked the offensive glass and worked through the post with Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic. Those two had double doubles in their limited minutes after three quarters. And Orlando continued to do the things it was successful with offensively from Sunday's game.
Orlando struggled to get back in transition and did not play a strong defensive game. Something Jacque Vaughn surely was not happy about it. Perhaps, it is still the learning curve of a new defensive and offensive scheme.
As the end-of-the-bench players closed the game, turnovers caught up with them and a still strong 76ers side pulled away for a 102-95 win at Amway Center on Thursday. Nick Young hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Sixers a five-point lead and the Magic could not get a shot to go down late in the game.
The result may not quite matter yet. It will soon and the Magic's bench players are competing but not executing.
That is probably not so important. What was important was another strong offensive performance from Orlando's starters.
The Magic's five starters shot 50 percent from the floor, led by Glen Davis' 16 points and 12 rebounds, getting another strong parade to the line in making 6 of 7 free throws. Hedo Turkoglu got his work in mostly with the first half with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Nikola Vucevic had 12 points and 10 rebounds on 6-for-8 shooting.
Davis and Vucevic formed a strong game in the paint for Orlando too. In addition to their double doubles, Gustavo Ayon added eight points, six rebounds and five assists. Ayon again showed his ability to roll and move without the ball and also his surprisingly nifty passing ability.
Getting the ball in the post was certainly a goal throughout the game. Davis got his work done in the post with 12 field goal attempts. Vucevic had eight. Ayon had seven. And even Andrew Nicholson had 15, making seven and scoring 15 points. Nicholson looked solid with his footwork, but seemed to be pressing in his first game in the Magic whites.
In addition to the offensive output, Orlando grabbed 14 offensive rebounds including four each from Davis and Vucevic. This is a very good sign of the work the Magic were doing in the post against the undermanned 76ers.
What it also meant is that the team was not necessarily getting back on defense. For the longest time, Stan Van Gundy did not stress offensive rebounding to make sure his team got back in transition. This will be an adjustment for Orlando as offensive rebounds might be an important part of the team's offensive attack and relentlessness.
It also did not help that Jrue Holiday shot the lights out. He scored 27 points on 12-for-14 shooting. It did not really matter what the Magic did. But Holiday and former Magic summer leaguer Maalik Wayns really pushed the pace and ran it back on the Magic in the same way E'Twaun Moore and Jameer Nelson looked to push the pace the other way.
The defensive struggles certainly seem to be preseason over-thinking at this point. Orlando had a good defensive game against New Orleans and so maybe we should not read too much into it at this point.
The offense, on the other hand, seems to be ready to get going. The Magic have not suffered the turnover bug that usually befalls teams early in the preseason. They had just six turnovers at halftime and did not really turn the ball over much until the end of the game when the reserves took over.
There remain a lot of positive signs about this team in the early preseason. There is lots to build off of. There are still lots of things to fix and sort out. Moore continues to play as the back up point guard and impresses with his passing ability, but still some work to do. Defensively, Orlando still has to learn the new defensive schemes and where teammates will be.
More importantly, we are still waiting on a win and still waiting for this team to close a victory. That may not matter quite yet. But it will soon.