The 2010-11 NBA season tipped off for the final two teams on Wednesday night: the Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic. Here are some of the notable happenings and box score items from their match-up and the only other contest of the night, Phoenix at Utah.
The Magic Looked Good, Like Championship Contender Good
Orlando won by 112-83 over the now-with-more-John-Wall Wizards, and it wasn’t even that close. The score was 58-34 at halftime, so the Magic were able to rest their starters for most of the second half, allowing five reserves to log between 16 and 21 minutes, and a sixth to play 12. Numerous members of the team have made comments about the Heat needing to win games before we anoint them the champs, so you got to think they’re going to burn through this year with a giant chip on their shoulders, and it’s definitely not out of the question to think they’ll earn the conference’s #1 seed (I know it’s early, but anyone who’s paid attention to what they’ve been saying and how their first unit was playing in the preseason would have agreed with this comment before the win). Even though they won by 29 in an everyone-plays laugher, their 3-point shooting was nothing special (8-for-24) and they didn’t take care of the ball (21 turnovers compared to 20 assists); they’re only going to get better.
John Wall’s Debut Was Kinda Bad
Nearly going for a double-double in an NBA debut sounds good. But not if it requires 19 shots to reach 14 points (most of which came against Orlando’s second unit when the game was already over) and enough bad play overall to result in a -31 plus/minus, which I believe is the worst in the entire league right now for any player – so yes, it was the worst on his own squad in a 29-point drubbing. His 9 assist to 3 turnovers were good, as were his 3 steals, but only 1 rebound and 3 free throw attempts in 35 minutes? He’ll have a chance to get things going a little more smoothly on Saturday in Atlanta and Tuesday against Philly.
Jazz Surprisingly Look Lost
Utah dropped their opening match 110-88 on Wednesday to an undermanned Denver team. They had more turnovers than assists and shot like crap, plus they got outrebounded by a team missing 2 of their 3 top big men. They had a chance to redeem themselves on Thursday against the Suns, and it was a whole lot more of the same. They lost by a similar 110-94 score, which again was deceptively “close” (were already down by 16 at halftime). They again shot like crap and allowed the other team to shoot well, but they did eek out 3 more assists than turnovers (19 to 16 – still bad). Deron Williams and the whole offense have just looked “off,” and the game plan for opponents seems to be to bother Al Jefferson early since a) he’s rattle-able, and b) Paul Millsap isn’t exactly going to carry the offensive load for you inside the paint. You have to think Williams and coach Jerry Sloan will have these problems worked out soon, so expect either a surprise win over the Thunder on Sunday, or three beatdowns in a row next week over Toronto (Wednesday), Golden State (Friday), and the Clippers (Saturday).
Box Score Items Worth Mentioning
Jazz rookie SF Gordon Hayward had 3 blocks and 6 rebounds against Phoenix. I’m saying right now that he won’t surpass 3 rejections in any game this year and 6 boards will probably be one of his top-5 outputs for the season, assuming injuries don’t force him into a starting role with more minutes. --- Steve Nash had an un-Nash-like 5 assists and turnovers in the win, which followed up a terrible 6 assists and 9 turnovers in Game One against Portland. Old age setting in? --- Despite all the Washington players you’ve heard of, it was reserve Cartier Martin who lead the team with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting (plus a perfect 6 for 6 from the stripe) Thursday. Thank you world wide web for letting me know he’s only played 52 career games since entering the league as an undrafted G/F in 2008. --- How’s this line for Dwight Howard: 23 points (7-for 9 shooting, but 9-for-19 on free throws), 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, and only 3 turnovers (good for him) in 30 minutes. --- New Sun Hakim Warrick dropped 18 points (on 11 shots) and snagged 11 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench. If you’re one of those fantasy players, I seem to recall mentioning he might do well in this system to you a month ago.