Did anyone else see that? I could almost swear I saw Steve Francis playing defense. The guy next to me said, "Hey, Francis is playing pretty good defense tonight?" I chuckled, then politely said, "Good defense? Either Francis plays defense or he doesn't." All kidding aside, the two things I really liked about this Magic team are named Steve Francis and DeShawn Stevenson. Both played a very respectable game tonight. While the Magic played fairly well tonight, they end up losing a tough game to the Indiana Pacers, 90-78.
Four Magic players scored in double figures tonight. Steve Francis played a great game, scoring 15 points, pulling down 9 rebounds and dishing out 7 assists. DeShawn Stevenson contributed 12 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. The scoring was pretty balanced, but the Magic lost the touch towards the end of the game. They had a hard time getting the ball into the basket in the end, while the Pacers had no problems scoring.
On the defensive side, I think the Magic did a decent job of rebounding tonight. The help defense was a lot better than last year, though there are still improvements to be made. One area that will need significant improvement is the defense in the paint. The Pacers scored almost half their points, 42 to be exact, in the paint tonight. Not only is this too much, but it is unacceptable. Callers were wondering why Dwight Howard was on the bench at times in the 580 WDBO after game show. I believe Coach sat him because he was not playing defense the way he needed to. Don't get me wrong, he had some defining moments - giving us all a glimpse of what he could be. But, there were times when penetration into the paint was too easy - often resulting in silly touch fouls.
The Magic will need to improve the defense and believe in the system on offense in order to improve over the next couple games. With Keyon Dooling and Grant Hill out, the players will need to learn to trust each other and play with the intensity that we have not seen since the Heart and Hustle season.
Oh, one defining moment for those of you that missed the game. I know a lot of people are wondering why we signed Bo Outlaw. I'll tell you why. Three Pacers were on a fast break with one Magic player back in transition to play defense. Outlaw, faced with a three on one situation, stood his ground and ended up with a blocked shot which resulted in 2 points for the Magic on the other end. This one simple show of hustle proved why Outlaw has been such a popular player over the years. I know I was one that originally wanted the Magic to trade Darrell Armstrong in a package for a starting point guard to help out T-Mac, but I say trade that rookie Travis Deiner for Armstrong. He might sit on the bench all year, but I think he would prove to be a great leader for this team.
One last note. I'm calling out all you wanna be fans. I am so sick and tired of people leaving with 6 minutes to go and the team down by 10. Do you want to know why the Magic have a hard time finishinig games? The lack of support from the fans. I am embarrassed to be considered a fan when I see 40-60% of the arena emptying out with 4-5 minutes to go. I wish I had the money to buy five thousand tickets for a kids group or people that cannot afford to go to the games. If you want to see TRUE support from a Magic fan, look at that 7 year old kid screaming his head off for 48 minutes. Magic fans, you should be ashamed of the level of support you show.