Without Andre, no way we win the game last night. Well, actually, the Magic were horrible, and we might have, but Miller was golden. He was calm, his passes crisp, his defense passable, and he was in position to make key fouls that sent Howard to the line rather than dunking the ball. It was a pleasure to see the ball in the hands of someone who really delivered the ball to the right people at the right time. The other thing that stuck out was his ability to finish at the rim. Whereas Bayless drove the lane, head down at full speed, with everyone knowing where he was going (and ultimately the shot being deterred by Gortat or Dwight), Miller has mastered (much like Roy) the art of deception. He's not going that fast, leaving defenders hanging, and then he's got the quick final burst and lays the ball in off the lowest part of the backboard. Dwight actually did block him once, later in the game, in an incredible play, but Miller just looked great. Do want to note that Bayless did dish once, albeit a bit wildly, to one of our guys for a jam, so it wasn't a total bust. I'm not a Bayless hater, but he would do well to develop more than two gears (barely moving and full out blast) and also develop a floater (Rudy and Jameer had nice ones last night.)
Blake was entirely ineffective early. The Magic closed the gap with their second team, with Jason Williams really outplaying Blake, but then Blake got very hot in the second half and made a big difference in crushing the meager spirit of the Magic. Still, it just seems entirely clear to me that Miller is a far better point guard than any alternative. Maybe we stagger the rotation so that Blake and Roy get some time together, but Miller needs to get the majority of minutes at PG, in my opinion.
Everyone, with the exception of Bayless (just not his night), played very well. Martell was huge, sinking threes, pretending to get fouled when he missed and sinking three free throws, and again working his tail off on defense and the boards. Juwan essentially fouled Howard on every trip but managed not to get called for it much at all, and took Dwight out of his game. Between him and Miller, our "wily veteran" quotient was way, way up. Pendergraph was very tough--he takes no %$#* from anyone. Speaking of such, at the end of the first half, in the faux Blake-Howard brouhaha, Vince Carter decided that he was going to follow Blake toward the Blazers lockeroom. As he was approaching, Dante put his hand in Vince's chest and gently but firmly stopped him. Vince then realized that he really didn't want any part of the kid and that there was no way to redeem his exceptionally poor night (he had zero points at that stage, I think.) Rudy was definitely high energy and effective off the bench, and LMA really played a fine game. He made several tough baskets, worked hard to get close to the basket, and looked like he was on the edge of being an All-Star. It was a great performance by the team.
It must be said that the Magic looked terrible. They were wholly uninspired, Nelson was highly ineffective (they were really better with Williams on the floor), and they flat out could not shoot the ball. I think they had 28 points with about 3 minutes to go in the 2nd period. If they don't turn something around pretty quickly, something's going to change there. I would happily take Marcin Gortat if they're unloading him.