The 30-point victory is largest on opening night in Magic history
ORLANDO – An opening-night clash between the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets – two teams who have been rebuilding the last few years now hoping to take the next step (maybe a few steps) forward in their respective development – just made total sense.
Of course, nothing can be concluded from one game, no matter what juncture of the season we are in or where the contest takes place, but these two squads playing one another sure seemed like a good measuring stick for both.
If there’s validity to that, then there’s plenty for the Magic to smile about, as they played with the perfect amount of intensity, all while looking as advertised defensively in Wednesday’s 116-86 victory. The 30-point win is the largest margin of victory in an opening-night game in team history.
“I would say extremely (proud),” forward Jonathan Isaac said of his team’s effort. “Our mindset is just how are we moving forward? Can we keep that level of intensity and focus the entire 48 (minutes)?”
Orlando held Houston, which went out in the offseason and signed several free agents, including Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks, to just 32 points in the paint. It also out-rebounded the Rockets 56-31. Both stats are significant considering last season Houston ranked fourth in rebounding and fifth in points in the paint.
Also stellar was the Magic’s bench, which outscored the Rockets’ reserves 59-27. Cole Anthony, who signed a contract extension on Tuesday, scored a game-high 20 points and Isaac, playing in his first regular season game since last February, was stifling defensively while tallying 11 points.
“We did our thing,” Anthony said of the second unit. “We came in and I thought we brought great defensive intensity. I feel like as a unit we changed the game early, got us out to a good lead..It just felt good to be on that side of the court, the winning side.”
Franz Wagner led the starters with 19 points, while Paolo Banchero filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and one steal.
Orlando controlled momentum most of the way, with the exception being the first several minutes of the third quarter when Houston pulled within one after trailing by 17 in the first half. The Magic would jump right back into the driver’s seat, though, outscoring the Rockets 24-7 to close the period.
Much of the talk throughout the summer, and then even more so during training camp, was how the Magic have a chance to be a top 10 defensive team this season. Again, it’s just one game, but if Wednesday’s performance in front of rocking sold-out crowd was a sign of what’s to come, that certainly is within reach.
The question now is whether all this energy and hustle will travel. The Magic head out to the West Coast for a four-game road trip, which starts Friday in Portland.