For a half of basketball, Orlando finally looked like it was early October. Then Vince Carter caught fire and things started to click again.
Sure, the second half of Tuesday's game and the first half of Friday's 93-86 win over the Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse were both lessons in offensive struggles. But what the Magic have seen in a full game of basketball spanning those first two games has been relatively impressive (at least for this early in the preseason).
Vince Carter led a 33-13 third quarter barrage that put Orlando comfortably ahead and allowed the team to exert its dominance over the young Indiana squad. Carter started dropping 3-pointers with ease as Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis, playing the 3, drove in and found him open for long-range shots. Vince scored 25 points, shooting 6 of 8 from beyond the arc and 8 for 11 from the field overall.
He was about the only player who shot the ball well as Orlando finally began to resemble a team that just opened the preseason. The Magic shot 35.1 percent from the floor and committed 18 turnovers. A sure sign they are still working to get their legs under them.
Not helping was Orlando's over-reliance on the 3-pointer. It is great the team feels comfortable shooting 3-pointers, it is part of the strategy, but an 11 for 33 performance from beyond the arc is probably not what Stan Van Gundy wants. Especially considering the team took 77 shots. That means nearly 50 percent of the team's shots came from beyond the arc.
In fact, Carter and Brandon Bass were the only players on the team to shoot better than 50 percent. You have to hope that is just a by-product of the early season.
There were some absolutely abysmal shooting performances in this game. Ryan Anderson: 3 for 13. Mickael Pietrus: 4 for 10. Dwight Howard: 2 for 8. These are guys that typically have good shooting games who simply were not delivering tonight.
Pietrus and Anderson have something resembling an excuse as they were in for much of the fourth quarter as the starters got their rest.
Howard's night was puzzling. After dominating Houston in Tuesday's game, he struggled to break free from Roy Hibbert and the pesky reaching of Indiana's guards. Howard went to the line for 14 free throws and made only 6 of them. It appears the Pacers will continue their strategy of fouling Howard at every turn.
This was an ugly, ugly game as you can tell from the stats above. Orlando's defense was pretty lax until the third quarter when the team started picking up its intensity and lock down Indiana's drives to the basket -- mostly from Darren Collison and Danny Granger -- and post ups from Roy Hibbert.
A big part of that pick up in defense was the noticeable defensive improvement from Brandon Bass.
I would not call starting Bass at the four and Lewis at the three tonight a success or a failure. It probably is not the starting lineup we will see October 28 against Washington. But Stan Van Gundy got a good look at what he can give to the lineup.
The big question with Bass was his defensive ability. He often looked lost last year as he learned Stan Van Gundy's defensive scheme. Friday, he looked very comfortable as a backup help to Howard.
Howard was roaming a bit tonight and doing a good job denying access to the paint. It was Bass' job to fill in and keep the ball from rotating to Hibbert while Howard recovered. Bass was generally in the right position and did a very good job recovering on defense. He even came over form the weak side and blocked three shots. That was one more than Dwight, by the way.
Very impressed by Bass' play tonight.
There is not going to be a whole lot to take from this game. The third quarter was some beautiful Magic basketball as they got the ball moving inside-out with some dribble penetration and passed hte ball very efficiently. You cannot ask for anything more.
There were some struggles in this game. But none to be too worried about considering it was the second preseason game. Van Gundy I am sure will be emphasizing putting in a full game's effort. But when the Magic dialed it up, they were very very good.
There are still some things to work on and experiment with in the remaining seven games. But it appears Orlando is on track.