The Magic Demolish the Hornets

Published: October 10, 2010

When High School and College teams schedule their Homecoming games, they often place a sacrificial lamb on the schedule in order to guarantee an enjoyable weekend for their fan base. Tonight the Orlando Magic had a Homecoming of sorts as they played their first game ever in the brand new Amway Center, and the Hornets played the role of sacrificial lamb, losing by a score of 135-81.

It got ugly pretty early as the Magic led 34-17 after the first quarter. The Magic were able to get practically any shot they wanted, shooting 14 for 19 in the opening period, including an astounding 11 for 12 on their two point attempts. Joe Alexander started the game for David West, who was held out because of a sore wrist, and the Magic attacked him immediately. Rashard Lewis posted Alexander up on the first play, and when the Hornets doubled, Lewis kicked it out to Q Rich for an open three. It was a sign of things to come.

When the Hornets ran out on shooters, the Magic exposed the Hornets inability to protect the paint. When the Hornets helped out to cut off penetration, Orlando kicked it out to its open shooters. And when the Hornets tried to play straight up defensively, the Magic ate them alive. Though it was just a preseason game, it would be hard not to have thought of the 58-point debacle while watching this game if you are a true Hornets fan. It was that bad.

The Hornets were better on the offensive end than they were on the defensive end, but not by much. Truth be told, after the first quarter the Hornets just seemed to be going through the motions because it was apparent that the game was already over and the primary objective had become to avoid an injury.  To start the game, the Hornets seemed determined to get Belinelli involved, much like they did the previous night in Memphis. I assume Monty believes that doing this will serve two purposes: One, it will give Marco incentive to be active defensively and; Two, it will serve as notice to teams that they must account for all five players on the court, rather than focusing on West and Paul.

On this night the strategy did not work as Belinelli hoisted 3 three-pointers in the first four minutes of the game and missed them all. In addition, Ariza started off 1-5 in the first quarter and Joe Alexander had two of his first three shots rejected by Dwight Howard. On a positive note, CP3’s stroke looked as sweet as ever and Okafor was aggressive offensively as those two scored 11 of the Hornets 17 first quarter points on 5-6 shooting.

Thornton entered with about 4 minutes left in the first and played two minutes with the starters, hoisting up brick after brick in the first half. Thornton has absolutely no interest in getting any of his teammates involved offensively- which is fine when he is on- but tonight (like last night) he was not. Thornton finished with 5 points in 22 minutes, going 2 for 13 from the field and 0 for 2 from three-point range.  And if Thornton is not scoring, then he is not contributing as is evidenced by his 1 rebound, zero assists, 1 turnover and 3 personal fouls. I do not want to get on the guy for two bad preseason games, but it makes me laugh when people say they would be hesitant to make this guy part of a package for Melo. I’ll leave that for another day, another time.

This was a preseason game and we have to remember not to take too much from these games- good or bad. But it is clear that there are elite teams in this league and the Hornets simply are not one of them, and like D West said last week they have to be fine with that right now. This team is trying to build towards something- something that teams like the Magic have built over the past few years. It is going to take time and patience, and for now they are going to have to be satisfied with making progress each and every game. And on that note:

Player Notes:

Emeka Okafor- You can tell Emeka has been working on his free throws this offseason. He actually finishes and follows through on his shot now and that will lead to him being more consistent at the line.  In this game he finished 3 of 4, but even if he hadn’t made the free throws, I would have been pleased with the new stroke. I expect him to jump up t 68-70 percent this year.  Defensively, the effort was there but the cold hard truth is that Okafor just doesn’t have the length to effect shots the way that an elite defender can. The Magic had no worries about taking it right into the paint when Okafor was on the court and Okafor did not register a single block.

Trevor Ariza- There is something about Ariza’s game that will be very familiar to Hornets fans. On three separate occasions, Ariza caught a ball in position to shoot wide open but pump faked instead, jabbed in toward the defender, stepped back and then shot- and missed. Sound familiar? This is a disease D West contracted in 08-09 and apparently it is contagious. Look, Ariza is going to fit in with this team eventually but he has to know that he is not on the floor to create his own shots or try to lead a fast break (which was almost unwatchable). He needs to slash to the basket or spot up- that’s it, that’s all. No 3rd option, no “but what if…”, NOTHING.  The ball belongs in CP3’s hands and when he gives it to you, it will either be on a back door cut where you are attacking the rim or it will be when you are spotted up, in which case you just shoot. Don’t over think it.

Oh yeah and on a side note, you can almost always tell the second the ball leaves Ariza’s hand if it is going in or not. On his misses from outside, he always pushed the ball rather than released it fluidly at the top. For some players the difference is miniscule, for Ariza it is not. Just something to watch out for.

CP3- His shot is as fluid and beautiful as ever. I really think this might be the best version we have ever seen of CP3 and I just hope he is not wasted on a lottery bound team. As for negatives, I did catch him just standing around and watching when the ball was not in his hand. I would prefer if he were more active and playing the roll of a decoy.

2nd unit- The Hornets came out with a 2nd unit of Green, MT5, Pondexter, Peja, and Gray which I actually saw suggested here by some members the other day. Green brought the ball up in this unit, but Marcus was responsible for creating the offense in the half court. The problem was that all he looked for was his own shot and as I said already, that shot was off tonight. Peja hit some open shots and looked like he could fill the role that Dell Curry used to fill years ago- a shooter who can get hot and stretch defenses in spurts. I am not saying that Peja can be as consistent as Dell, but I still think he scares defenses more than a guy like Thornton when he is on. The question is whether Peja and Thornton can play on the same unit due to the fact that they both need shots to be effective and they are both below average defenders. Something tells me that we will see a hybrid unit with CP3, Green, and Peja during stretches of games and that Thornton will mesh better with Belinelli and either Ariza or Pondexter.


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