This or That: Isaac’s Return Performance, Ennis and Clark’s Production & More

by Josh Cohen

What was more impressive about Jonathan Isaac’s return performance against the Nuggets: the 13 points or the 7 rebounds?

For the first time since injuring his left knee on New Year’s Day, Isaac was back in action on Monday during the Orlando Magic’s scrimmage victory over the Denver Nuggets. He certainly exceeded expectations in the seven minutes he spent on the court. Showing no signs of rust, hesitation or excess fatigue was extremely encouraging, although it remains to be seen how much playing time he will get during the Magic’s seeding games.

Opinion: The obvious choice is the 13 points, largely because Isaac is still in the early stages of developing his offensive skills. The way he attacked the basket, crashed the offensive glass, and confidently launched 3-pointers even with defenders contesting was incredibly impressive. Gobbling up a rebound a minute, though, is a rare feat. Six of his boards came on the defensive end, where he also collected two steals.

Who stood out more during Monday’s win over Denver: James Ennis III or Gary Clark?

Ennis, acquired by the Magic at the trade deadline from the Philadelphia 76ers, posted 15 points, five rebounds and three steals. The top play of the night featured the 30-year-old versatile forward when he stole a pass and accelerated down the floor for a thunderous dunk. One of Ennis’ underrated strengths is his cutting. A few times Monday he zipped into the paint and a teammate found him for an easy basket inside. Clark, meanwhile, was scorching hot from 3-point range, where he buried four of his eight attempts. Orlando, as a team, drilled 48.6 percent of its 3-point tries.

Opinion: Both performances were impressive, unquestionably. But Clark’s definitely was more extraordinary. Starting in place of Aaron Gordon (rest), the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder showed no fear. He even knocked down a pair of shots inside the arc, which is extremely rare considering nearly 90 percent of his shot attempts in his NBA career so far have come from 3-point distance.

What went more under the radar during Monday’s scrimmage: Evan Fournier’s seven assists or Michael Carter-Williams’ plus-23 while on the court?

Fournier didn’t shoot the ball well, making just one of his five shot attempts and scoring four points in 25 minutes. However, he dished out seven assists, nearly four more than his season average. The 6-foot-7 Frenchman is an underrated playmaker, as he has very good vision and a high basketball IQ. The Magic outscored the Nuggets by 23 when Carter-Williams was on the floor. One of the reasons the Magic ranked No. 1 in offense over their final 12 games before the hiatus was their pace of play, and MCW, who excels when the game is sped up, played a big part in that.

Opinion: Of the Magic’s players who appeared in all three of Orlando’s scrimmage games at Disney, MCW probably played the best, or at least was the most consistent. He is an elite defender and, as mentioned before, excels playing at a faster pace. MCW’s plus-23 was a little more noteworthy than Fournier’s seven dimes, although if Fournier can find his teammates like he did in this contest in their seeding games, that would be a huge boost for the Magic who rely on their sharp ball movement and offensive execution.

Which will be more important for Nikola Vucevic to rack up many of during the seeding games: assists or 3-pointers?

The Magic’s first bucket of Monday’s game was a 3-pointer from Vucevic, who drilled 82 threes prior to the hiatus. A few possessions later, Orlando’s 7-foot center found Ennis rocketing toward the basket for a layup, the first of four assists he accumulated. Vucevic, an All-Star in 2019, is one of the most multi-talented big men in the league today. The Magic rely on him to play well in just about every aspect of the game.

Opinion: Both are clearly important. The Magic just simply play better when Vucevic is fully involved in the offense. For the purpose of the debate, though, let’s go with the 3-pointers. When the Magic won before the hiatus, Vucevic shot 38.5 percent from 3-point land. When they lost, he buried just 29 percent of his threes.


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