Dwight’s “Cast-Offs” Dominate Denver for Opening Night Victory
Pardon me for a second while I present you with a very applicable cliche; games are played on the court, not on paper.
This certainly wasn’t what the experts predicted. With his coaching idol, Roy Williams, cheering him on from the stands, new Magic coach Jacque Vaughn came out and impressed as he led the Magic to an opening night 102-89 victory over the Denver Nuggets. Vaughn went all George Karl on George Karl and literally ran the Nuggets out of the building with small-ball and quick rotations.
Vaughn was a step ahead all night of his saavy veteran coaching opponent, subbing early and often ensuring his team stayed fresh and had it’s most important players on the court when they had the chance to do the most damage. Coach even earned the game ball from captain Jameer Nelson after earning his first win.
Glen “Big Baby” Davis led the team in scoring with 29 points, while J.J. Redick put up 21 points. It was truly a team effort tonight with Davis the only starter who scored in double figures, yet the team still found a way to score over 100 points and earn a 13-point victory against the Nuggets. (Reminder – Denver was unanimously picked as a playoff team in the west)
Coach Vaughn after the game describing how proud he was of the team, “Extremely proud. One of the things we have been stressing since day one is that on any given possession you never know who is going to shoot the ball.”
Big Baby came out and showed he was serious when he said he could lead this team. Davis took a career-high 25 shots to get those 29 points, but he wasn’t forcing them and most importantly he was making them. Baby certainly proved that last seasons playoff scoring bonanza when he averaged 19 and 9 was no fluke. Davis after the game, “We’re taking baby steps and we are building.” Fortunately for the Magic, his actions spoke louder than his words.
“It’s tough. As a competitor you want to tweet him, and tell them their wrong. But at the end of the day it’s their opinion. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, opinions are like buttholes. Everyone’s got them. And some of them stink.” – Glen Davis on trying to ignore the national media predictions.
The offense flowed and cut in ways that haven’t been seen in an Orlando Magic uniform in a long time. “The shots can come from anywhere on the floor”, said J.J. Redick post game, “We have a lot of guys can pass the ball and with all the movement we’ll be a tough offense to guard.” Orlando outscored Denver 60-36 on points in the paint, which was indicative of the team flashing to the rim and sharing the ball.
Despite all the positives, the team wasn’t able to escape completely unscathed as Hedo Turkoglu broke his left hand. With the team already missing Al Harrington, Maurice Harkless and DeQuan Jones due to injury, to say the team is short on small forwards would be kind. Expect to see heavy doses of small ball for the next few weeks as this group all works through their recovery. Jameer Nelson also injured his hip in tonight’s game, but was able to return.
It’s only one game, but it’s an important one. This team won’t return to the level of the last few years after one game, but they do gain that immediate gratification that the last few months of hard work and chaos was truly meaningful. It mattered. It’s a positive step, even if just a baby step, towards transforming from the shadow of a superstar’s group of cast-off’s back into a franchise where expectations are of excitement, rather than dread.
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“It’s exciting. There have been a lot of changes around here. The expectations haven’t been so high for us so to get off to this type of start is good for us. We’ll continue to take it one game at a time.” -Arron Afflalo after the win.