Orlando Game Recap/Notes: Game #1. Magic 116 - Heat 109. (1-0)

Excellent start to the season for the Magic in a solid win over a team that figures to be in the playoffs. They got pretty much everything you would've hoped to see, and the only thing that isn't good about this game is that it is just one game so you can't read too much into it.

 

Box score.

 

Elfrid Payton:

A very good game in perhaps the most Elfrid Payton way possible. 13 points on 12 shots, 3 rebounds, 9 assists (against 4 turnovers), 3 steals, and a block. Offensively he turned the ball over a little more than you want, or are used to with him, but he still did a good job of orchestrating the offense and picked the right spots to attack the rim to look for his own points. He also played very good defense on Goran Dragic who scored 17 points but needed 22 equivalents to do so. This is a big year for Payton as free agency looms, and while this may not be the sort of great performance he hopefully has occasionally, this is the kind of game the Magic will need from him in order to chase the playoffs this year.

 

Terrence Ross:

15 points on 12 equivalents, with 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block in 31 minutes. He played his role really well, letting fly from deep and hitting a couple of really tough shots, and even though he isn't ever going to be a great defender, he was mostly engaged on that end and used his length and athleticism to be a pest at times. The best thing out of this game for him was his 4 assists, which is mostly indicative of the great ball movement that the Magic were working for most of the night against a Miami team that is pretty tough defensively. It should also be mentioned that he had a (pretty easily) game high +18 on the night.

There will be nights when he can't miss and scores a lot more, and there will be nights where he can't hit and will score a lot less, but if he can make something like last night the regular game for him then he will be right in line with what the Magic should need from him.

 

Evan Fournier:

Fournier was excellent, probably the best player on the floor. A super efficient 23 points on 18 equivalents, with 1 rebound, 3 assists, and a steal. Those 23 points included several clutch buckets as the game came down to the end to fend off the Miami comeback attempt. He remains the Magic's best getter of buckets and he showed up in a big way in this game. Toss in a nice 3 of 5 from deep and he really had a nice outing on the offensive end. Defensively he didn't really stand out much to me, but that isn't a bad thing. Even though he specifically didn't, it was clear at several points that the overall length of the Magic bothered Miami, and he certainly contributes to that.

 

Aaron Gordon:

Came down to earth a little bit after a monster preseason, but 14 points on 16 equivalents with 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks in 34 minutes of play certainly isn't a bad outing. Offensively he did struggle, and if it wasn't for him getting to the line a bit it would've been worse. As expected however, the real goods for him came on the defensive end, where he was a great all around wrecking ball, guarding all positions at different times and providing great rim and paint protection. Him having a not so great night scoring is really the only downside of this game given how well he scored in preseason.

 

Nikola Vucevic:

Vuc pretty much did as Vuc does. 19 points on 16 equivalents, 13 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 2 blocks. The only thing that was really out of the ordinary for him was that 7 of his points came at the line. Although it was nice to see him get a couple notches in defensive statistics, he obviously isn't about to become a reliable rim protector and other than those two blocks he was taken advantage of several times, but he did seem to be comfortable executing the conservative defensive scheme that Frank Vogel prefers. He just needs to keep from being too much of a negative and they can probably make it work. If the Hornets were able to be a good defensive team with Al-freaking-Jefferson as their center a few years ago then I absolutely think that the Magic could do it with Vucevic.

Even though he isn't flashy on the offensive end, his reliable ability as a tough shot maker will be important all year and, whether or not he ever becomes an effective three point shooter, his ability to space the floor as a center will be very important as long as Payton and Gordon are in the starting lineup.

 

Jonathon Simmons:

12 points on 11 equivalents with 2 boards in 28 minutes for Simmons. Even though he finished with a team low -10 on the night, I thought he mostly played well. He got called for a couple of ticky-tac fouls and otherwise mostly played good and frenetic defense which will be important for him to do as a change of pace from Fournier/Ross. He figures to be their most used bench player this year and it showed in this game as he played more than 10 minutes more than any other bench guy. It will likely be hard to judge his play by his numbers a lot of the time, but the eye test was solid in this one.

 

Jonathan Isaac:

I will be honest and say that I know/knew very little about Isaac before watching this game, but I like what I saw. The best way to have a super young player be a real contributor to a (hopefully) winning team is to have a guy who is a good athlete with good size (for his position) come off the bench for short periods of time and tell him to just play his tail off. Isaac checked all 3 of those boxes on his way to 4 points on 3 shots with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks in just 17 minutes. I'm not sure if he is capable of doing much more offensively, but my guess is that as long as they don't ask him to do much more than this he can be a positive force on this team, which is something most guys his age can't really say.

 

DJ Augustin:

7 points on 6 equivalents with 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 16 minutes. He didn't have much of an impact on this game given his low minutes total, but I have pretty much total faith in him to be able to do his thing as a good scoring guard off the bench.

 

Bismack Biyombo:

Whenever covering the Magic I'm going to try and ignore Biyombo's contract and focus just on his play on the court. Because if I do that then I can come away saying that he was perfectly fine in this game with 9 points on 9 equivalents, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 16 minutes. He is a rock solid backup center who cleans the glass and is a good rim protector, who is able to use his good athleticism to great effect in small doses of effort. He also provides a nice change of pace from Vucevic if they ever feel like they need it.

 

General:

I actually picked the Magic to get the 8th seed in the East this year, and while that obviously is not exactly a lofty accomplishment, I did see most of what I wanted to see out of them in game one. I really like Fournier and Ross on the wing as they are both really good shooters to make up for the lack of shooting from Gordon and Payton. When combined with Vucevic's mid range skill, if Gordon can find any sort of reliable long ball then the Magic could suddenly find them with a pretty spacey starting lineup. And even though Fournier and Ross are not great defenders, they are long and athletic and I think that Vogel can coach them into being a solid defensive team.