Culture of Hoops

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans too much for Orlando Magic

Image courtesy of Keith Allison.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

After a rare win against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Orlando Magic traveled to New Orleans to play the Pelicans. Both teams tipped off tonight’s game missing some key players. Nik Vucevic remains out for Orlando with a concussion, but did travel with the team, indicating he may be nearing a return. For the Pelicans, Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday were unable to suit up, both missing extended time this season.

A sloppy start to the game led to the officials stopping the game with eight minutes remaining in the first quarter due to a cut on Tobias Harris’ hand. Coming off his best game of the season in which Harris recorded 20 points and a career-high 28 rebounds, it was clear he was eager to start the game tonight. Off to another great start, Harris came out of the gates hustling for loose balls and pushing the rock up court every opportunity he got. This is the type of play Magic fans were hoping for out of the third year forward out of Tennessee and it looks like he may have finally flipped the switch.

Tyreke Evans has been in and out of the lineup this year, and although he’s battling the flu, he checked in for head coach Monty Williams with about five minutes remaining in the first quarter. It was the defense of star forward Anthony Davis, however, that kept the Pelicans competitive. His team had six turnovers in the first quarter, but Davis was able to counteract that with four early blocked shots, two of which came off three-point attempts from the corner. The first quarter came to a close with a late clear path foul on Arron Afflalo, sending Tyreke Evans to the line and contributing to a 27-21 lead for the Pelicans.

The second quarter was off to a fast start with Anthony Morrow hitting a quick three, then Austin Rivers stealing the ball and pushing the break leading to two free throws for fellow guard Tyreke Evans. The Magic came out with a popular squad as of late, featuring; Doron Lamb, Victor Oladipo, Mo Harkless, Tobias Harris and Kyle O’Quinn. This extremely young lineup has seen an increase of time on the floor together as coach Jacque Vaughn believes they provide energy and a much needed spark when his team begins to look sluggish. Unfortunately, this “young gun” lineup, as Jeff Turner calls them, made a number of mistakes that led to turnovers and easy baskets for the other team. Vaughn finally decided to call a timeout and make a change, but not before the Pelicans exposed the inexperience of the lineup, mounting a 15-point lead. It was revealed during the game that Vucevic had to spend a couple of days in dark lighting after hitting his head on the ground a few weeks ago, which is exactly how Magic fans felt early on in this game as it was a constant struggle for Orlando on both ends of the floor.

The halftime buzzer sounded with a 54-44 lead for the home team, led by Anthony Davis’ first half double-double and four blocks. Surprisingly, Austin Rivers put together a nice second quarter with six points and two steals against his hometown team. Orlando trailed by 16 but ended the half on a 6-0 run to cut it to 10.

Orlando looked to continue the momentum it built going into the half and quickly cut the lead down to four thanks to the physical play of Harris and Davis up front. The Pelicans eventually battled back with a nine-point run of their own as Anthony Davis began to look like a man among boys on the court. The second-year Kentucky product tallied a career-high-tying 18 rebounds through just three quarters, and was nowhere near done. Magic rookie Victor Oladipo quietly put together a good game in his own right and his absence was felt when Vaughn decided to sub him out in the third quarter. Victor’s aggressiveness on defense was one of Orlando’s bright spots on that end of the floor and it often led to much needed fast breaks.

E’Twaun Moore found a rhythm in the fourth quarter, and behind his scoring the Magic remained in striking distance. Although the Pelicans led the entire game, the Magic were always able to put together runs and prevent the lead from ballooning out of control. It seemed like a matter of time before Orlando would strike, and with eight minutes left in the game, Jacque Vaughn’s young team looked primed to push for a dramatic finish. One thing that was standing in the way was Tyreke Evans catching fire and scoring the first 10 points for his Pelicans in the final period.

As the fourth quarter progressed, it was the veteran Arron Afflalo coming up big for Orlando. He looked inspired and worked hard for every bucket as he always does. At the three-minute mark, the Pelicans held a six-point lead. If Orlando could just hang on to the ball (they had 16 turnovers at this point), the game could have easily seen a lead in the other direction. Still, the Magic were very much in the game and Glen Davis went to work in the paint against Anthony Davis and his seven blocked shots. Then Anthony responded in a big way with a monster alley-oop jam from teammate Tyreke Evans. Just about a minute later, Anthony Davis put Glen Davis on a poster by jamming on him and creating an instant SportsCenter Top 10 highlight.

At this point, although there was still 47 seconds left, the Pelicans’ six-point lead looked insurmountable. Orlando was able to come back from 16 down, but those final few points the Magic needed were just too difficult to overcome. The game ended with a win for the Pelicans after a monster game by Anthony Davis and a strong showing by Tyreke Evans. Top performers for Orlando were Afflalo with 25 points and Oladipo with 18 points and five steals.

Magic Game Notes

Anthony Davis is good, very very good

Anthony Davis is a beast. He has talent and athleticism. Not only is the future bright for this young man, but the scary part is how fast he has developed into one of the league’s premier big men. His final stat line: 22 points, 19 rebounds, 7 blocks and 2 steals. It seemed as if he were playing against a D-League opponent and was a huge reason the Pelicans came away with a victory.

Bench scoring

The second unit was atrocious for Orlando, recording a combined eight points. E’Twaun Moore had a six-point streak to begin the fourth quarter, but other than that, the Magic bench chipped in next to nothing. Combine this with New Orleans’ 42 points off the bench and you spell a recipe for disaster.

Tyreke Evans looked like a rookie again (in a good way)

Four years ago Tyreke Evans was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year and tonight you saw why. It’s no secret Evans has talent and he is able to go off on any given night. That is exactly what happened, finishing with 23 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals. He also had a huge fourth quarter and was a major factor behind Orlando’s inability to fully come back and take a lead. It was questionable whether bringing him to New Orleans was a good decision, but he looks like a great asset for the team to have going forward.

Stat of the Night

Anthony Davis recorded a career-high 19 rebounds, contributing to what will prove to be one of his best overall performances in his short time in the league.

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