ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic won their season opener fairly comfortably mostly because of their defense. The Cleveland Cavaliers shot 37.1 percent from the floor and 26.5 percent from beyond the arc while attempting only 15 free throws and committing 16 turnovers.
What also made a difference – even though the Magic didn’t shoot the ball that efficiently – was their passing. Orlando logged 24 assists and 50 potential assists, which is when a player, following receiving a pass, takes no more than one dribble before attempting a shot.
Also noteworthy, the Magic had three secondary assists, which is when a player passes to a teammate who records an assist within one second and without dribbling. While that may not sound like a lot of them, it actually is considering the number of shots Orlando made (37) and how many assists it accumulated.
What do secondary assists generally mean in the NBA?
Winning. A lot of winning.
The Raptors, the reigning champs, led the NBA in 2018-19 in secondary assists, while the team they played in the Finals, the Warriors, ranked second in this category. The Jazz, Celtics and Nuggets – three other elite teams – were all in the top six. The Magic were tied with the Sixers for eighth.
Wondering if that was a fluke?
Well, Golden State led the league in this area in both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons when it won back-to-back titles.
And this isn’t just something that started during the Warriors’ reign of dominance. The Spurs led the NBA in this same category during the 2013-14 season, the year they captured their fifth championship in franchise history.
What’s also fascinating is that Charlotte ranked in the top 10 in secondary assists all five seasons Steve Clifford was the Hornets’ head coach.
What is the bottom line? The Magic will have a very good season offensively – and in general – if they keep moving the ball like they did against the Cavs on opening night.