Victor Oladipo scored a career-high 45 points and continued his run of stellar play. Once again, Oladipo is confident and showing his full potential.
Victor Oladipo has never been short on confidence. That is probably his most defining characteristic in his short NBA career. In his short basketball career, even.
He has shortcomings and has continued to work on them. The end of last season seemed to have him heading toward an All-Star future. The beginning of this season seemed to send him away from that future. Then Friday night seemed to bring it all back together.
All that hope for Oladipo came rushing back. For an evening there was no doubt of what Oladipo can be.
The funny thing is Oladipo certainly had no doubts himself. Never. Even through cold shooting nights, frustrations about not getting to the foul line or finishing at the rim, Oladipo kept his confidence up.
And the funny thing about confidence is that eventually it pays off. As it did Friday night when Oladipo scored a career-high 45 points on a stellar 16-for-22 shooting and 6-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc.
Oladipo was the Magic’s everything in their 109-103 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers — a fact that still disappointed Oladipo despite his “lifetime-high” game — scoring and making shots seemingly at will.
“It just feels like every time that I shoot it, it is going in,” Oladipo said. “That is what I have been feeling like the last couple of games. Every time I shoot, I feel like it is going in. That is my mentality. I have acquired it in over the months.”
It certainly felt that way.
Oladipo was draining every jumper he could find. He was knifing through the lane and hitting tough layups over outstretched hands. The Cavaliers had to put three guys on him at one point, which Oladipo split and finished against anyway.
It was that kind of day for Oladipo. The kind of day where the Magic just had to give the ball to Oladipo on every trip down the floor.
“If it was up to me I would have called every single play for Victor and a lot of the plays were for him,” Aaron Gordon said. “When a player is like that and you’ve got him rolling, tonight was his night and you roll with that. That’s how it goes.”
Oladipo has begun turning his scoring around in a major way of late. He is averaging 23.9 points per game while shooting a 56.5 percent effective field goal percentage in his last nine games. Those are incredibly efficient numbers, especially considering his season averages are 15.9 points per game and a 48.9 percent effective field goal percentage.
At long last, Oladipo is beginning to play like the star everyone hoped he might be on the offensive end.
His defense certainly rose to that level. Oladipo has been one of the Magic’s top individual defenders throughout the season. In Friday’s game he spent time guarding Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. He started the game shooting the gap to deflect the ball away from J.R. Smith and then successfully getting it for a runout and the game’s first points.
“He was great,” Evan Fournier said. “He was amazing tonight. More than his points, his playmaking, he was aggressive. He carried us basically.
“Guarding Kyrie, guarding LeBron and be efficient on the offensive end, I can tell you, you get tired doing both. That was impressive.”
Oladipo had to do everything for the Magic. The box score, as Scott Skiles put it afterward, was very strange. The Magic had Oladipo with 45 and Fournier with 18. Orlando needed every bit of Oladipo’s shot making.
It was simply his night.
“The ball was just going in,” Oladipo said. “My shot felt great today. It felt like I could mix it up — mid range and getting to the rim. I just have to continue shooting with confidence. I’m still upset about the fourth quarter. Can’t let them really deny me like that and not let me get the ball. I have to demand the ball much more. It’s something I need to learn and get better at and continue to keep growing.”
More than any aspect of Oladipo it is the hunger to keep getting better that drives him. This the kid who went virtually unrecruited before arriving at Indiana to little fanfare. The kid who rose to the No.2 overall pick and now the face of the Orlando Magic for all intents and purposes.
It has been and remains a long road for Oladipo. He continually says he knows he will be great. That confidence within him has never wavered.
He has worked hard on his shortcomings with his shot and found some improvement, all while continuing to develop and dominate as a defender.
Nights like Friday show what he can still be. That the work is paying off and that he can reach those dreams and goals he has for himself as much as Magic fans hope for him.
Ultimately the win is what drives him forward. That was left on the table Friday night against the Cavaliers. But once again, Oladipo’s individual star is shining.
And he knows it will shine again soon.