Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Afflalo Debuts, Memphis Make Everything in Magic Loss

For about 42 minutes, the Magic and Memphis were in a dual of solid offensive proportions where each team did not hold much back. The Grizzlies won the high-scoring affair 115-100. Orlando fell to a 2-5 record in October. The final score isn’t at all indicative of how tight the contest really was. It was a heavyweight bout of scoring as each squad had 6 players pour in double digit points. We’re at the point in the preseason where NBA teams are taking the tail end of the exhibition schedule a little bit more seriously when it comes to using mostly rotation guys. It’s more about building chemistry with the guys who will actually get minutes, and less experimenting. The Magic roster is down to 18 after Christian Eyenga and Armon Johnson got the boot. The final three cuts/waivers to get down to the required 15-player team will be among five Magic men: Chris Johnson (No way he makes the team), Quentin Richardson, Josh McRoberts, Justin Harper, and DeQuan Jones. Wednesday allowed Jacque Vaughn to throw out what the majority of opinionated people believe will be the Magic’s starting five come November 2nd against the Denver Nuggets tonight in Memphis: Jameer Nelson-Arron Afflalo-Hedo Turkoglu-Glen Davis-Nikola Vucevic. Magic fans got to see (more like ‘hear’ since this was the final Orlando contest not televised) Afflalo finally debut for the franchise. Arron is the key cog in the Dwight Howard blockbuster deal that Magic GM Rob Hennigan gained from the transaction. On his 22nd birthday, Nikola Vucevic needed to up his performance with Gustavo Ayon out for 2 weeks with a sprained thumb. Marc Gasol is a wonderful challenge. ‘Vucci Mane’ did not disappoint with 16 points and 9 rebounds in 31 minutes of action. The Swiss-born Montenegrin is learning and adapting at a wonderful pace. The Magic made 48.7% of their field goals. Usually that'll give you a chance to win an NBA game, but not when the Grizzlies show their rebounding muscle and counter with their own impressive 51.1 FG%. JJ Redick had a game-high 23 points. Turkoglu with 14. Big Baby with 12. Jameer dished out 7 assists and added an efficient 10 points.

 The majority of the attention on this evening was focused on Afflalo, and man did he not disappoint out of the gate. Orlando’s first 3 buckets were off 3 assists. ‘AA’ had an assist to Glen and converted a reverse lay-up off a nifty Vucevic pass. Add a lengthy jumper and Afflalo was 2-for-2 in a flash. Vaughn held firm on his word about playing Arron for only short bursts to protect any re-aggravations of his hamstring. He was in the contest for the first 4:54 before JJ Redick relieved him. Afflalo finished with 10 points in 19 minutes on 4-of-7 shooting. Welcome to Orlando, sir. The remaining starting lineup played the first 9:56 of the period before being substituted out. Josh McRoberts got a few minutes as the backup center. ‘McBob’ didn’t fair too well and was hooked after 3 minutes. Coach Vaughn will be relying on Big Baby to play some time at center. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Marresse Speights deserve pats on the back for being the first true rebounding test of the Magic’s preseason. Orlando was down 55-49 at halftime in the FedEx Forum despite Jacque Vaughn’s men shooting 50% from the field. The Grizz were 51.1% on shot attempts, but transition points and their 24-13 total rebound advantage was the main factor in Lionel Hollins’ squad leading at the break.

Talk about a blast from the Stan Van Gundy past. Orlando made 8-of-15 three-pointers in the first half. Three bombs each from Hedo and ‘Redickulous’, as well as two made 3-pointers from Jameer. ‘Sharing is Caring’ might be an impromptu faux slogan as the Magic had 16 assists on their 19 made field goals. That’s absurd, and takes ball movement to an entirely new level. Hedo Turkoglu scored 9 points on 3-of-5 from 3-point range which is fabulous, but he can’t pull a Justin Harper and give Rudy Gay the majority of his 17 first half points on the other end. Can’t have it.

The 2nd half saw a Magic team looking to punch people in the mouth. There were some large doses of Vucevic and Big Baby getting great shots inside the paint. Arron Afflalo drilling two 3rd period attempts from downtown found the Magic only trailing 65-63 with 7:08 left in the quarter and at that point Orlando was 10-for-17 from 3-point land. The fire power potential is there. Orlando found themselves down 88-86 going into the final twelve minutes of this shootout. Hedo and Redick were a combined 8-of-11 from 3-point range at that point. Vaughn’s team as a whole was 12-of-20. The 4th quarter saw the Magic just not able to make any crucial defensive stops. 17 turnovers is something Jacque will chide the boys about. 

E’Twaun Moore got roughed up by Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless all night. Moore is still displaying continuous improvement. Moore’s first play on the parquet floor in the 3rd period was an assist to Redick for a basket. However, E’Twaun had few decent moments in Memphis. With that said, it’s not a shocker that Ish Smith is healing up faster than originally expected from left shoulder surgery. Smith will hopefully see court time in the final preseason game on Friday, at Amway Center, against the Houston Rockets. DeQuan Jones and Andrew Nicholson showed some hard-nosed production. Jones posted 7 points and 6 boards, and Nicholson had 6 points and 6 rebounds. The experience gained far outweighs the statistics. Harper and Kyle O'Quinn got almost meaningless scrub time minutes. The two healthy Magic men who didn't play were Chris Johnson and Q-Rich. Let the 'cut' rumors continue. Bottom line: Orlando took on a Western Conference competitive playoff team and pushed them for three and a half quarters. Once this squad improves on help defense, they'll have a better chance at prevailing in late game battles and situations. I don't believe in moral losses, but there are a lot of positives to take back home. 

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