The losses just keep piling up for the Magic, and the season hasn’t even started yet. It was bad enough having to fire Stan Van Gundy, who is undoubtedly one of the game’s best strategic minds, because of some overblown drama caused by a petulant star. It was even worse having to trade Dwight Howard (petulant or not, the best defensive player in the league) for an overpaid shooting guard and receive no franchise altering pieces, draft picks or substantial salary relief in return. But, now? Et tu, Gustavo Ayon?
Via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel
Gustavo Ayon alone going down for a few weeks with a sprained left thumb isn’t the iceberg to the Magic’s ship — it’s more like one of the lifeboats sinking. Ayon was a pleasant surprise last year for the Hornets, and is a joy to watch sneak around the baseline with clever little duck-ins and good instincts around the rim. He’s an energy guy who works hard and plays smart, and that’s something that can be cherished in what’s almost certain to be a really, really bad season for the Magic overall.
It certainly doesn’t help that the Magic are dangerously thin up front as is. Everyone’s favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lookalike, Al Harrington, is already out for the first few weeks of season with a knee injury. Same goes for rookie forward Moe Harkless, who is sidelined with a sports hernia.
That leaves the frontcourt duties to (gulp) Glen Davis, Andrew Nicholson, Josh McRoberts and Nikola Vucevic — not exactly a quartet that strikes fear into the hearts of their opponents. Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu aren’t exactly nails as perimeter defenders, either, so we could be looking at a team defense that reaches all-time levels of bad. Ayon could have at least mitigated some of the damage early on, but just like Orlando’s hopes of being competitive, that will have to wait.
The Hawks almost came back and won this — Atlanta went on an 8-0 run in the final minutes to tie the game at 94-94 with Orlando. The Magic had one last chance with 2.2 seconds left.
Nikola Vucevic nailed it.
Can’t blame Al Horford‘s defense on this one, he pushed Vucevic out and contested the shot. But in a make-or-miss league Vucevic nailed the game winner, Orlando wins 96-94.
If that looks familiar, Vucevic knocked down pretty much the same shot against the Lakers earlier this season.
We know Stephen Curry — who spent many of his formative years in Charlotte and still thinks of the city as his hometown — is all in on the Carolina Panthers today against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 30.
On this, he and LeBron James agree.
LeBron sounded like the politically cautious, image-conscious version of himself at the start of this quote from Uninterrupted on Facebook, but as he gets going, you can quickly see who he wants in this game (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
“I don’t know if I quite got a prediction but I definitely want to see a great Super Bowl,” James said in the video. “But if it was a life and death situation and I had to choose one team and one player, I got to go with Killah Cam. Got to go with the Carolina Panthers, they’ve been playing the most consistent football all year round. Both offensively, defensively and special teams. Got to go with Cam and one of my boys plays for them too as well, Ted Ginn Jr., that’s been showing out all year as well.
“No disrespect to the Broncos. I love their team. They got the legend at quarterback, they got that defense that’s out of control. They got some receivers that be balling out as well. They’re really well coached as well and that’s the reason they are in the Super Bowl. But I’m rolling with the Carolina Panthers today.”
A lot of NBA players like the way Cam Newton plays — with exuberance, wearing his heart on his sleeve, dancing and celebrating. That’s how Curry and LeBron and other NBA players want to play their game, and they feel reined in by the league. They relate to Cam Newton and the ridiculous role model/celebration debate.
We’ll see how much celebrating the Denver defense lets Newton do.
We’d seen this movie before. Against the San Antonio Spurs. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Golden State Warriors offensive machine got cranked up, dropped 73 on Oklahoma City in the first half, led by 14 at the break, and it was about to turn into another rout, and another statement win for the Warriors.
Except the Thunder came back. OKC held Golden State to just 18 third quarter points and got the lead down to two points — the Thunder pushed the Warriors away from the things they like to do (Stephen Curry/Draymond Green pick-and-roll) and made life difficult for them. It was a fantastic performance for OKC, even if Golden State still prevailed with a 116-108 win.
After the game Durant would have none of any moral victory talk — even though it was — and he said the Thunder were not intimidated by the Warriors or anyone else, via Royce Young of Oklahoma City.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do,” Durant said of the comeback. “When we get down, we’re supposed to tie the game up. No moral victories in here…
“Man, we’re not scared of neither one of those teams,” Durant said, including the Spurs. “We’re going to play our game. Nobody in this locker room is scared. We gotta play ’em. If we want to get to where we want to get to, we gotta play ’em. We’re not ducking nobody.”
The NBA isn’t professional boxing; nobody gets to duck anybody.
But a Thunder team searching for respect gained a measure Saturday night. The Thunder picture themselves contenders and for much of the season listened to talking heads (myself included) say the Warriors and Spurs are in a different class. Saturday night was a step in showing that they belonged. There are still questions about how Golden State or San Antonio could exploit players such as Dion Waiters or Enes Kanter is a seven-game series, but the Thunder have two of the league’s top five players — they can beat and hang with anyone.
They have a shot at a title.
If Durant believes that, it would impact his decision this summer, but that is another discussion.
Kevin Durant won the one-on-one battle — he dropped 40 points on the Golden State Warriors, while Stephen Curry had “just” 26 and needed 26 shots to get there (but did add 10 assists).
But the Warriors built up a lead thanks to their depth and were able to withstand a late Thunder run to get the win.
Enjoy watching Curry and Durant putting on a show Saturday night in the Bay Area.