ORLANDO, Fla. — As far as matchups of the top two draft picks go, this wasn’t like when the Orlando Magic had the good fortune two decades ago to land Shaquille O’Neal and watched him go head-to-head against Alonzo Mourning.
Victor Oladipo and Anthony Bennett were never matched up against each other Friday night. But through three quarters, it was evident who held the upper hand. Oladipo’s pull-up 10-foot jump shot over Jarrett Jack at the buzzer gave the Magic an 86-85 lead through three quarters over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were getting next to nothing out of Bennett in his second preseason contest.
The final six minutes of the game were a completely different story. The 6-foot-8 forward out of UNLV, whose selection at No. 1 overall by the Cavs raised more than a few eyebrows in late June, put on an eye-popping display by knocking down six — count ’em, six — jump shots during a four-minute stretch.
“My boy just got hot,” Oladipo said after the Magic’s 110-105 loss. “That’s what he does. When he saw one go in, there was just no stopping him. He did a great job out there. Kudos to him, even though I really didn’t want him to do as well.”
“We know the young fellow can score,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said of Bennett, who knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in scoring 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. “That’s what he did in college. And he can score a lot of different ways. You guys only saw a taste of it out there. Believe me, he can put that thing in the hole.”
Neither player started the game, although Oladipo wound up playing more minutes (30) than anyone on the Magic. Although he finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, he had no steals and four turnovers in a game where the Magic gave the ball away 25 times and saw the Cavs shoot 46 free throws.
It wasn’t pretty to watch at times. That went double for Brown, who expressed disgust over his team giving up 62 points to the Magic in the first half.
“We had a few teaching moments tonight — not just with A.B., but with the entire team,” he said. “And not just X’s and O’s either. It was about what they have in here (pointing to his chest). And it can be that way. I said, ‘I don’t care if we’re here in Orlando, if we’re playing in Africa, if we’re playing in Europe, or if we’re playing back home. The way we played, we should be embarrassed in that first half.’ “
When Brown pulled Bennett with 7:39 remaining and the Cavs trailing 92-90, there was every reason to believe it would be the last anyone would see of the rookie against the Magic. Instead, Brown pulled him aside, diagrammed something on the dry erase board for him, and sent him back in 20 seconds later.
The results were more than anyone could have envisioned.
“Just like we challenge ourselves, we’re going to challenge him,” said Kyrie Irving, the guard whom the Cavs drafted first overall in 2011. “That’s our jobs as teammates and his brothers. We challenge him every night. He thinks he’s tired, but he can still give us more. He knows that, and we all know that.”
Oladipo talked to Bennett afterward, saying he “just told him to keep doing what he’s doing and stay healthy.” Clearly this is a different era from when O’Neal and Mourning would snipe and snarl at each other before they ended up becoming teammates with the Miami Heat.
“I have a good relationship with him from doing all the draft work, the NBA draft, the combine and stuff like that,” Oladipo said. “So I wish him the best. I wish everybody the best in our draft class, except when they play us.”
That feeling of good will extends to Irving, who has kept an eye on how far Oladipo has progressed from his freshman season at Indiana.
“He was known as just a defensive player,” Irving said. “Now to see his offensive game develop, it’s great to see. He’s coming into a league where the point guard position is definitely front-loaded. And he’s going to have nights where people are going to come at him. But he’s prepared for that.”