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The game was already decided. The Orlando Magic had won and were waltzing to an easy victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. But coach Steve Clifford wanted more.
As the Magic came to a late timeout in the fourth quarter, Clifford was driving his team hard. Especially young guard Isaiah Briscoe. This is not the time to let go of the rope or let concentration slip. Even in a nearly 30-point game of a meaningless preseason game.
This is the time to focus in on those little details and make sure the team is getting them right. There is a standard the team must play to.
The momentary lapse was not going to distract from what looked like the Magic’s best overall game of the preseason.
One where the team looked connected and together defensively. Where the team limited the Grizzlies to one offensive rebound and worse than 40-percent shooting for much of the game. Where the Magic had 26 assists on 36 field goal makes and went to the line for 40 free throw attempts.
About the only thing the Magic might complain about from their key players in a 102-86 win over the Grizzlies at Amway Center on Wednesday was the missed free throws — exactly half of those 40 attempts. And perhaps the sometimes foul-heavy play.
But the Magic locked in defensively and shut down the Grizzlies in almost every facet. They had control of the game and raced ahead in the second quarter and maintained and grew the lead throughout the second half.
Orlando was not quite treating this game like a “dress rehearsal” as the penultimate preseason game often turns into. But the starters got plenty of minutes and just went about their work.
If there was a preseason game that showed exactly what the Magic want to be once the regular season begins in one week, this was it.
Jonathan Isaac returned to the lineup for the first time since the preseason opener last Monday. The sprained ankle seemed to leave Isaac no worse for the wear and he made an immediate impact for the Orlando Magic, scoring a team-high 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
Jonathan Isaac’s play overall was just impressive. He never forces anything offensively and does a good job keeping the ball moving. But he will also find his space to attack and be active. Defenses have to respect his shot — he made both of his 3-pointers. And offenses have to know where he is or he will disrupt the entire flow for them.
Isaac got caught a few times being overly physical and getting called for the NBA’s new point of emphasis. He had five fouls including four fouls through the second quarter. But the Magic were willing to let him play through it in the preseason. He made the most of his minutes.
Aaron Gordon continues to impress with his feel for the game and knowing when it is his time to take over. He scored a team-high 15 points on 7-for-13 shooting. Aaron Gordon hit his jumper fairly consistently and his shot selection was generally good. All the early concerns about him seem to be shedding away in many ways.
Gordon is moving off the ball far more effectively now, it seems. He scored on several cuts and was able to catch, turn, square up and shoot. Or just dunk the ball. Whatever the situation called for. He broke off isolation forays on several occasions throughout the game and that is a big step forward for him.
Things came easily for Gordon. And he added some strong defense to boot. Guarding Chandler Parsons much of the evening, Aaron Gordon did a good job keeping his man in front, keeping the ball moving and making shots when it called for. A solid game.