David Manning/USA TODAY
Victor Oladipo can change a game in a blur, it seems.
One moment he seems to be cruising along, racking up a fair amount of assists but otherwise having little impact, the next he is stealing the ball near the mid-court line and racing for a one-handed jam. The next moment he is doing it again, outracing the chasing defender for another monster jam.
Or he is playing in his 50th minute of the game and driving the baseline to throw down a vicious game-clinching two-handed stuff. Maybe he hung on the rim a little bit longer than he should have to soak in that extra energy. It was an emphatic way to capitalize a 129-121 double overtime win over the Knicks at Amway Center.
Victor Oladipo had arrived -- if he had not already.
"He gave us a lot of energy tonight," Nikola Vucevic said. "The way he played tonight was big time. He did everything we could ask him to do -- he played defense, offensively he carried us. When he goes to the rim aggressively and he scores, he pumps everybody up -- the corwd, us. We get that fire going. He carried us tonight. It was great to see him play like that."
Oladipo finished with a near-triple double of 30 points, a career-high 14 assists and nine rebounds. He scored 25 points, recorded 10 assists and grabbed seven rebounds in the second half and overtime. It was as if a switch turned on and Oladipo was rushing through the broken dam with his energy and effort.
Orlando shot 49.5 percent from the floor and 56.3 percent from beyond the arc. Oladipo's outburst, along with an incredible offensive performance from Arron Afflalo, helped the team erase a 14-point deficit in the third quarter. At that point, it looked like New York would win this shootout with Carmelo Anthony scoring 30 of his 44 points through three quarters.
Something changed on the defensive end though for Orlando and it helped erase the deficit.
"He was special," Jacque Vaughn said of Oladipo. "It was fun to be a part of, I told those guys that. He played a lot of the first and the beginning of the second a little bit, and I didn't put him back in before the half hoping that he would have a lot of juice for us in the second half. And, boy, did he have a lot of juice, just getting to the rim and just making big plays defensively."
It started with Oladipo making some defensive plays and with Maurice Harkless making Carmelo Anthony work harder to get the ball in his spots. It continued with Orlando finding ways to make big shot after big shot, whether it be in transtiion or the half court.
Afflalo was the go-to guy when the shot clock wound down and made shots that seemed to match Anthony throughout the night. There were times when Anthony would hit a shot and Afflalo would come back down and make one of his own. He finished with 32 points on 11-for-18 shooting, making all four of his 3-pointers.
Afflalo's night ended poorly with 2:23 left in the second overtime when he turned his ankle coming down on a pass to Oladipo. He fell to the floor and stayed down for quite a while. He hobbled to midcourt, stopped to gather himself again and then hobbled off the court, refusing help from teammates on the way to the locker room. Magic officials said he was day to day.
The Magic did not crumble as one might expect. They pushed through behind Oladipo and did what they had to do to win the game, getting stops and making free throws before Anthony made one final assault offensively.
"I'm just going out there and play hard for my teammates, not let my teammates down, play at a high level and defnintely make defense an emphasis," Oladipo said. "Just try to make sure my man doesn't get off or have a good game because that benefits our team."
With all the talk on Oladipo, it is easy to forget the games Afflalo put in and the games Tobias Harris (22 points, eight rebounds), Nikola Vucevic (14 points, 15 rebounds) and Maurice Harkless (10 points, five rebounds) put in.
This game was all about Oladipo and his ability to squeeze his way into the paint and create havoc, particularly in the second half. He was the catalyst to scoring 4 points in teh paint ot the Knicks' 28. He was the catalyst to a second-half comeback and a double overtime victory.
Some exuberance certainly should be allowed.