Orlando Magic defense dominant
The Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic debuted on Thursday night, and the Magic made it abundantly clear that they'll be a difficult team to score on this season (as usual). Dwight Howard, and to a lesser extent, Marcin Gortat made life miserable for the Wizards' big men, and John Wall was forced to try to score points all by himself. The rookie point guard managed 14 points but needed 19 shots to get there. He did manage nine assists to three turnovers.
The bright spot for the Wiz was third-year swingman Cartier Martin, who put up an efficient 17 points to go along with two steals in 24 minutes. The 24 minutes aren't enough to make me pick him up off the waiver wire, but that he got to the line six times (and is a career 80 percent free throw shooter) means he might be worth keeping an eye on.
Still the story, once again, was Orlando's defense. The Magic outrebounded the Wizards 53-25 (we may not see a margin that big again this season) and held the Wizards to an abysmal 37 percent shooting from the floor. Because of that, the takeaway from this game should be that the Magic are a great defensive squad, so don't start panicking about the poor performances from Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee quite yet.
Kirk Hinrich played 33 minutes and made three 3-pointers for the Wizards. It'll be interesting to see how many minutes he gets once Gilbert Arenas returns, but he should be a good source of 3s again when the Wizards face the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. Vince Carter looked good for the Magic (18 points in 25 minutes), but I'm curious to see how he performs against good teams. He'll have his nights this season, but I think he'll end up vastly underperforming to even the modest expectations most people have for him on the whole. Hakim Warrick followed up his atrocious debut for the Phoenix Suns with 18 points and 11 rebounds against the Utah Jazz. He's certainly not Amare Stoudemire, but if he's going to get 25 or so minutes per night he might be able to put up decent numbers as the dive man in the Suns' pick-and-roll game. The Jazz, on the other hand, continued to look terrible. They followed up their 39 percent shooting in the opener with 43 percent shooting against a putrid Suns defense. This is a team that shot 49 percent last season, so consider me a little worried. Paul Millsap put up 19 points and 13 rebounds to go along with 20 points and nine boards from Big Al Jefferson, so the pieces are there. I'll bet they get things going on the offensive end sooner rather than later. I'm going to assume that Gordon Hayward's three blocks off the bench from small forward were a fluke, but maybe he'll prove me wrong in the coming weeks.
After the Lakers gave up 110 points to the Rockets in their opener, it'll be interesting how the Andrew Bynum-less Lakers defense will perform against the Suns on Friday night. At the least, one would expect Steve Nash to post some huge numbers against the Lakers' terrible point guard defense. If you thought Blake Griffin looked great against the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, wait until you see him destroy the Warriors. I haven't been as impressed with a player in a while as I was with Griffin in his debut, and I honestly wouldn't be shocked if he put up 30 and 20 against Golden State. I'm not going to advise playing Shaquille O'Neal every night for the Celtics, but against the Knicks' flimsy frontcourt defense I don't see who is going to guard him. If his foul shooting is worrisome, keep him on the bench, but I'll be surprised if he falls short of a double-double. Keep an eye on the Cavs' Mo Williams. He's got a great matchup against the Raptors, but Byron Scott ended up sitting Williams at least partially because of a lack of conditioning in the opener against the Celtics. I'm guessing Williams will wind up playing, but it's certainly not a given as of right now. Another Cavalier whose status is iffy is Anderson Varejao, whom the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting will likely miss the game to be with his father, who is undergoing heart surgery. Adjust your lineup accordingly.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.