The Magic split two contests on back-to-back nights in the Lone Star State.
Monday, 10/9 - at Dallas Mavericks
The Magic faced the Mavericks Monday night for the second time this preseason. Last week, the Magic scored their first victory of the year against Dallas 112-89. In that contest, the Mavericks rested Dirk Nowitzki, Nerlens Noel, Harrison Barnes, and Wesley Matthews (and a few others).
It was a different story Monday; this time the Magic rested a large group of guys including Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, Aaron Gordon, and Bismack Biyombo.
The contest was relatively close and competitive for the majority of the game considering how many people were out for Orlando. The Mavericks ultimately got the better of the Magic, winning at American Airlines Center 99-96. The Magic hit 17 three-point attempts on the night, including six from the hot hand of D.J. Augustin (who led all scorers with 24 points). Marreese Speights aka “Mo Buckets” chipped in with 15 points off the bench (in 18 minutes, 4-7 3PT, but six turnovers somehow?).
With a slew of Magic players resting, Mario Hezonja found himself in a position to get a lot of minutes (at power forward in fact). Hezonja scored 10 points on 4-9 shooting, but did turn the ball over four times.
“He had some good stretches,” coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s still got to just play. He’s still a young player, and he missed the whole summer [playing five-on-five] and he’s just got to get out there and play the game.”
Dallas was led by rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who many Magic fans thought would be the team’s sixth overall selection this past summer (according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, Smith Jr. thought he would be Orlando’s pick as well). Smith Jr. scored 15 points, dished out seven assists, and pulled down six rebounds in the contest. Living legend Dirk Nowitzki added 10 points in 21 minutes as he prepares to begin his 20th season in the NBA.
Tuesday, 10/10 - at San Antonio Spurs
Coach Frank Vogel again held out starters Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross Tuesday night, as well as Nikola Vucevic, D.J. Augustin, and Marreese Speights. However, Payton, Gordon, and Biyombo did return to face a Spurs team that was playing most of their regular rotation. The Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker; neither are expected to play in the preseason (Parker may be out until mid-December).
It was a homecoming last night in San Antonio for newly-acquired Orlando swing-man Jonathon Simmons. Simmons, who went undrafted out of college, earned a spot on San Antonio’s D-League team in 2013 through an open tryout. After Kawhi Leonard went down with an injury, Simmons helped the Spurs defeat the Houston Rockets in last year’s Western Conference semifinals.
Simmons, who started in the contest, scored 20 points (7-15, 2-5 3PT), recorded a couple steals, and dished out a game-high 10 assists. Simmons’ play was a key factor in helping the Magic secure a 103-98 victory over the Spurs.
The Texas native’s former coach, Gregg Poppovich, is a huge fan of Simmons. “He’s got a big heart and he’s come a long way,” Popovich said. “This is a guy that paid his way to go to the D-League tryout, and here he is with a contract and everything. So it’s a whole new world for him, and I’m glad he has this life now. He’s obviously a talented player.”
Magic coach Frank Vogel was pleased with what he saw from Simmons Tuesday night as well.
“I loved the game that he played: sharing the basketball, playing for his teammates, scoring when needed and bringing some tough defense,” Vogel said. “So he had a great return.”
Aaron Gordon had a monster of a game against the Spurs as well. Playing 38 minutes, Gordon recorded a double-double, posting 27 points to go along with 11 rebounds. Gordon has come on strong in the preseason, especially in his last three games in which he’s averaged 21.0 points and 9.0 rebounds. I say this for no particular reason, but remember: The Magic have until Monday to agree to an extension with Aaron Gordon, after that, it’s restricted free agency for Gordon next summer. I wrote about the likelihood of either Gordon or Elfrid Payton receiving early-extensions here.
Bismack Biyombo played major minutes last night for the first time this preseason, and broke out in a big way. Biyombo hit on 8-11 attempts from the field en route to an 18 point, 5 rebound effort.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 16 points in 25 minutes for the Spurs, and Dejounte Murray contributed 15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks.
The Magic will be back in action Friday night in Orlando to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Friday’s game will be Orlando’s final preseason test before things tip-off officially next week.
Credit for the quotes used in this recap goes to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.