There was a ton of frustration in the first four preseason games. The Magic looked good, perhaps better than expected. But they were not putting it together and bringing in results. Not in the win-loss column, for what that is worth in the preseason. That little bit may not matter, but the Orlando as a franchise is not trying to forsake wins or a winning mentality.
Still, it is not all about wins and losses and many of the Magic's losses so far this preseason came when the starters went to the bench for the evening. No doubt, that makes the result mean a bit less.
Going up against a quality opponent like San Antonio, however, Orlando did get a chance to measure itself somewhat. There remains plenty for the Magic to work on. Plenty to improve upon. But a 104-100 win over San Antonio at Amway Center on Sunday.
Still, Jacque Vaughn and a television viewing audience in Orlando for the first time, got a good look at the potnetial within this team. A team that will run up and down the floor, play hard and share the ball. Exactly what you want from a young team like this one. There is still a lot to learn, but the Magic had to like what they saw for the second straight game.
Orlando used a strong second quarter with J.J. Redick, E'Twaun Moore and Andrew Nicholson helping bolster the offense. The ball was moving quickly to cutters and within the perimeter. Orlando was sharing the ball easily and doing a good job crowding shooters and keeping the San Antonio from the paint.
Was it perfect? No. Will it matter in the long run? Probably not.
But Vaughn certainly can point to lots of positives from this game.
Redick had 14 points and five assists. Jameer Nelson had 12 points and five assists. E'Twaun Moore came off the bench for 14 points and eight assists, doing some very nice work at the point guard position once again. Glen Davis took over offensively in the third quarter to score 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Andrew Nicholson also displayed his strong post game and work around the basket with a team-high 18 points.
Those stats certainly will please. But so too how Orlando got them.
The Magic recorded 24 assists on 40 field goals. The ball was moving beautifully inside-out, outside-in and within the paint. This unselfishness on offense is very apparent when you watch this team. They always seem to be looking to make that next pass or that next dish to set someone else up. The increase in off-ball movement has helped open these lanes. That is clearly what Jacque Vaughn wants.
Vaughn also wants the team to run. And the Magic did that as well. They outscored the Spurs on fast break and were constantly looking to run. The offense certainly seems to be clicking, shooting 49.4 percent in addition to the fast pace and all the assists.
The defense has been the biggest work in progress and it will continue to be such. But Orlando showed improvement from previous preseason games in that respect too.
San Antonio shot just 40.7 percent from the floor and never quite threatened Orlando's double-digit lead until a late rally in the fourth quarter with Orlando's deep-bench reserves in the game. In fairness, Tim Duncan played only 12 minutes, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds in those limited minutes. Manu Ginobili posted 12 points in 17.5 minutes. Duncan and Ginobili and Parker all had moments where they broke down Orlando's defense. Perhaps ill omens for the remainder of the season.
The Magic's defense was not perfect. They were over-rotating on occassions and gave up more open 3-pointers than you would like. There is still plenty to improve upon there as the Magic have to become better stopping ball penetration. Easier said than done against Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili however.
Overall, Orlando had to be very pleased with the progression the team has made and how it copied the positive results from Friday's game to Sunday. The trick is doing it again at Memphis and carrying it on when the games matter.