ORLANDO – Sometimes the box score doesn’t tell the whole story. That was the case on Saturday when the Magic outlasted the Grizzlies.
Jonathan Isaac didn’t score in 18 minutes. We know he’s still trying to figure himself out on the offensive end. Isaac’s defense, though, which has been admirable since the day he arrived in Orlando, was extraordinary.
Perhaps the most compelling stat from Orlando’s second straight win was Isaac’s defensive field goal percentage.
In the second half, when Isaac played most of his minutes, the Grizzlies shot 2-of-9 from the floor when the prized rookie was the closest defender (5-of-13 for entire game). In nearly all of those instances, Isaac either blocked or altered the shot attempt.
Isaac is a rare find. He has supreme length. He’s now grown to 6-foot-11 and has a wingspan of about 7-foot-2. He’s also very athletic and sprightly, which helps him guard more explosive opponents on the perimeter. Isaac just simply has a knack for hindering shots on the defensive side of the floor with his excellent anticipation, timing and instincts.
For a team to be elite defensively, they must guard the pick-and-roll well. When on offense, teams generally look to get slower-footed opposing bigs switched onto their ball-dominant wing players. With a player like Isaac, though, that advantage is taken away because he has the ability to keep pace, both laterally and vertically, with agile perimeter players.
The other thing that really stands out about Isaac and his defensive prowess is his precision when he challenges a shot. He almost always goes straight up on his contests and he rarely leans in or gets fooled by a shot fake.
Here’s a look at a few defensive plays from Isaac during the Magic’s victory over the Grizzlies.