The Orlando Magic opened their season at home Wednesday night against the Miami Heat– their first home game since the passing of longtime owner Richard DeVos. The Magic have missed the playoffs each of the previous six years since trading Dwight Howard. With three minutes left in the first quarter, I (along with most of the Magic fan base I imagine) was thinking, “Oh no, here we go again”, as the Heat got off to a 28-14 lead. Then, suddenly, things started to turn around for the Orlando Magic. Coach Steve Clifford put in the lineup of Aaron Gordon, Mohamed Bamba, Terrence Ross, Jonathon Simmons, and Jerian Grant, which sparked a huge run that resulted in a three-point lead at the half.
Aaron Gordon to Credit For Magical Start In Orlando
This lineup proved to be more than a flash in the pan as all five players ended the game with a plus/minus of +9 or higher. They accomplished this with their defense. The Magic held the Heat to thirty-nine percent shooting and only twenty-nine percent from three on the game and added seven steals and seven blocks. The player from this unit that really stuck out to me, and I was most excited to see before the game, was one, Mohamed Bamba, this year’s sixth overall pick.
Great Debut For Bamba
He was absolutely electric! He had several key blocks and dunks to put Miami away in the fourth quarter and ignite the crowd. Bamba used his NBA-high 7’10” wingspan to his advantage and provided a presence under the rim that the Magic have so desperately needed over the last six years. He was also incredibly efficient offensively- going 6-8 from the field and even making a three-pointer.
A Glimpse of Greatness From Aaron Gordon
In addition, I couldn’t write this article without mentioning Aaron Gordon, who had one of the best games of his career. He scored 26 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while shooting fifty-percent from the field and knocking down four out of five three-pointers! The three-point shot was something that has been a huge hole in Gordon’s game and, if he continues to knock down at this rate, should put him in the conversation for the NBA’s most improved player.
Things to Improve On
It was not a perfect night, however. A bad turnover and some missed free throws at the end made this game a lot closer than it should have been. Free-throw shooting was abysmal all game; Orlando only shot sixty-one percent from there. This will need to improve if the team wants to make a playoff push this year. But, as a Magic fan, I do not have much to complain about.
We are off to a 1-0 start with a win against our biggest rival and the team that won the division last year. It seems they have taken the right steps to improve their interior defense, mainly the addition of Mo Bamba. The team is healthy and has more scoring options than ever; the Magic had 26 points from the bench, 13 from Bamba and 12 from Jonathon Simmons. Steve Clifford seemed pleased after the game and commented that it was a “happy locker room back there”. I can say earnestly that I am optimistic about the season ahead and our playoff chances for the first time in a while. The Magic play the Charlotte Hornets at home on Friday with a chance to keep the momentum going.
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