The numbers for Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic and Elfrid Payton in the Orlando Magic’s season opener Tuesday night told an encouraging story.
Everything else, however, was a different matter as the New Orleans Pelicans held the Magic to 38.1 percent shooting overall and pulled away in the second half to a 101-84 victory.
Harris, the Magic’s leading scorer during the preseason, carried over that level of performance to the start of the 82-game regular season by pouring in 25 points. Vucevic had 15 points along with 23 rebounds, matching his best output in that category from last season, and tied his career high in blocked shots with four. Payton, who became the first rookie point guard to start a Magic opener, had seven assists and only two turnovers in 31 minutes.
But five of Payton’s eight field-goal attempts were blocked, and that was a recurring theme for more than just him. The Pelicans recorded 17 blocks, almost equaling the number the Indiana Pacers had against the Magic in last season’s opener, and also grabbed 26 offensive rebounds.
Vucevic, who posted 36 double-doubles in 57 games last season, had 11 points and 14 rebounds by halftime. The Magic trailed 48-41 at the half but bounced back to go ahead 53-52 on a 3-pointer by Harris almost four minutes into the third quarter. That would be their last lead of the game.
Aaron Gordon, the first of the Magic’s two first-round draft picks, played 28 minutes off the bench and had 11 points but only three rebounds.
As expected, the Magic were without Victor Oladipo and Channing Frye because of injuries. What was not expected was that neither Maurice Harkless nor Andrew Nicholson got in at all after playing in 80 and 76 games last season respectively.
Former Magic forward Ryan Anderson knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers as the Pelicans went on an 11-0 run to end the third quarter and take a 78-64 lead. They had made one 3 all game up to that point.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
Anthony Davis, who nearly finished with a triple-double for the Pelicans in the Magic’s only trip to New Orleans last season, came close again with 26 points, 17 rebounds and nine blocked shots.
STAT OF THE GAME
Vucevic is the first player in Magic history with 20 or more rebounds in an opener. The previous high of 18 was set by Shaquille O’Neal.