When they review the film from Wednesday’s preseason contest against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Orlando Magic’s players will be pleased with their energy and effort in the first quarter. As they watch the rest of the tape from their 104-86 loss, though, they will be reminded that withstanding big runs by the opponent is a big part of a team’s growth and success.
Acquired at the trade deadline last season from the Bulls in the Nikola Vucevic deal, Wendell Carter Jr. is looking to show that a change of scenery was exactly what he needed to advance his game and career. Key for him is becoming a more dependable outside shooter. Through two preseason games, he’s knocked down three 3-pointers. He made 15 of them last season with the Bulls and Magic combined. Much of his time on the floor on this night was at the four-spot playing alongside Robin Lopez.
Three-point shooting was the biggest factor. The Pelicans made 18 of their 35 attempts, while the Magic connected on 11 of their 34 tries. The one Orlando player who was cooking from deep was Hassani Gravett, formerly a member of the Magic’s G League and summer league teams. The 6-foot-2, 187-pound combo guard sank all three of his attempts.
A one-point Pelicans lead early in the fourth quarter ballooned to 18 just a few minutes later. Trey Murphy III, the 17th overall pick in the 2021 draft out of Virginia, buried three of his six 3-pointers in the final frame. Orlando, which led by as many as 13 in the first quarter, had their backend reserves on the floor most of the fourth.
Out for Orlando were Jonathan Isaac (left knee), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle) and Chuma Okeke (right hip). On a fast break midway through the third quarter, R.J. Hampton rolled his ankle. He was able to walk under his own power to the bench, however. Zion Williamson (right foot surgery), Brandon Ingram (knee soreness) and Jaxson Hayes (left ankle sprain) were out for New Orleans.
Last season was a disappointment for the Pelicans. Most figured they’d at minimum be in the play-in tournament. But optimism remains high. Not many teams can say they have two All-Stars under 25 years old. Williamson, currently recovering from offseason foot surgery, might play a lot of point forward/point guard this season. Ingram is an elite scorer. It’s just going to come down to the supporting cast. How much of an upgrade for New Orleans is DeVonte’ Graham over Lonzo Ball and Jonas Valanciunas over Steven Adams?
Quote of the Night
"I love that you asked that question because people do assume that it's just going...playing fast, throwing the ball across the court. For us, it's the pace in which you make cuts, the pace in which you come off of a screen. I think it's the pace that – a lot of teams speed you up, but it's doing things with aggression. Making sure that, you know, teams feel you. Defensively, getting to the basketball aggressively. But just offensively being able to push the ball up the floor is one piece of it, but again for me it's about how you come off a screen, how you dive on the back side, how you roll out of a back screen. All those things are very important when it comes to pacing." – Jamahl Mosley on how he defines playing with pace
The Magic will play their first of two home preseason games on Sunday at 6 p.m. against the San Antonio Spurs. Like Orlando, San Antonio features a nice collection of young players. Among them are third-year swingman Keldon Johnson, a member of gold-capturing Team USA this past summer in Tokyo at the Olympics, and Josh Primo, the youngest player in the NBA after being chosen 12th overall by the Spurs in the 2021 draft.