NBA Game Notes: Rockets-Magic, Mavs-Spurs October 25, 2023

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  • Outstanding first half by Cole Anthony. Effort and shooting were A+
  • Franz Wagner destroyed the Rockets defense in the first quarter, both on and off-ball. Punished DHO vs Sengun
  • Jonathan Isaac is still a menace defensively and deters shots 
  • Sengun is the anchor to the Rockets offense. Was the only one scoring during scoring droughts by punishing Moe Wagner and creating for others.
  • Magic deflected lots of passes early on, especially towards the left corner in the first quarter.
  • Paolo Banchero had 7 free throws in the first half. He doesn’t need to be shooting to be the most effective version of himself yet, but his upside is when he can punish defenders for going under and maximize 1-on-1 scoring on drives off switches.
  • Fred VanVleet had a rough first half. Didn’t take the best shots and stopped the ball movement often. Fultz’s off-ball defense against FVV played a key role in the Rockets struggling to get their new guard going.
  • Gary Harris had a fantastic first half, scoring well at the rim against weak rim protection. He got back both of his misses and did what he was supposed to on easy shots.
  • Magic guards crashed the boards and poked rebounds loose, playing physical on boards


  • VanVleet shooting got going quickly to open the half
  • Fultz got equally hot in the 3rd quarter. Hit a tough jumper over Sengun
  • Jonathan Isaac dominated the 3rd quarter. Elite defender with outstanding flashes, plus scoring well at the rim and drawing fouls
  • Bench dominated this quarter, and held off another run after a timeout 3.5 minutes into the half by Orlando.

Overall takeaways:

  • Amen Thompson looked nervous. 4 turnovers, inefficient shooting. Interested to see how he counters Friday vs San Antonio. Can’t have him take only 30% of his shots inside the arc.
  • Fred VanVleet has to assert himself into the offense early and often. Had a stretch in the 3rd quarter of it, but didn’t have much of an impact otherwise
  • Overall Rockets P&R efficiency was poor
  • Alperen Sengun may have to be the lead offensive option to create scoring chances most efficiently
  • Paolo Banchero did his damage with minimal FGA. Drew fouls well, created for others well off drives
  • Cole Anthony looked the part of a strong sixth man. Jumper was smooth, and he played very hard to win several rebounds.
  • Magic offense goes as far as their ability to punish defenses playing under screens takes them
  • Magic bench has a lot of options. They can afford more off nights with Cole potentially growing even more, Gary Harris being consistent, and adding Jonathan Isaac back as a fully healthy forward
  • Amen Thompson’s jumper will hold him back for a bit, but his slashing will still shine a lot of nights because of his athleticism and intelligence.
  • Markelle Fultz played great defense. Locked up Fred VanVleet off-ball and held him well on-ball. The Magic perimeter defense has a high upside.
  • The upside of the Magic team is incredibly high when Isaac plays. His defense is still elite and can help limit and negate Orlando cold stretches offensively.
  • Jalen Green played more out of control than a third year player should be plaing. Struggled off the dribble, still plays quicker than he can process, and can drive without a plan too much. Need to see games like this eliminated for him to make the jump towards stardom.
  • The Magic dominated on the boards. This was partially due to the gap in effort between the two teams, but this is something to monitor for both teams. The Magic were scrappy and aggressive on almost every rebound attempt, and the Rockets didn’t have much of an answer.


  • How long does NAW starting last?




  • Wemby D right away stops Maxi from even looking at the basket, also blocked Kyrie first play
  • Doncic forces TO 9:38 on Collins
  • 7:16 THJ 3 despite run offense board from Luka was trapped well by Victor
  • 6:00 Luka score
  • Bassey stops lob leading to Vassell dunk
  • 0:30 lively lob
  • Mavs’ 3P defense, especially off OREB


  • 10:41 THJ misses corner 3 shooter on D
  • 10:22 Exum miss off great Luka pass
  • 9:22 Grant stops Sochan drive, Keldon misses 9:14
  • Luka scoring has taken Wemby out of the paint at play-start screens
  • 6:09 Kyrie assist to Grant takes out Wemby (common theme; mavs used drive and kick well so far)
  • 5:32 bad Kyrie P&R 3 D
  • 4:55 Green gets his own rebound with effort
  • 3:16 Kyrie finish
  • Cedi minutes have exposed holes quickly for Dallas
  • 1:40 Vassell jumper


  • 10:30 Luka assist
  • 8:02 Lively putback lefty
  • 6:17 Lively poster


  • 11:20 Vassell J
  • 10:10 Luka J
  • 7:31 Grant tip out then basket
  • 5:40 Lively putback
  • 4:10 Maxi Kleber assist to Grant Williams


  • Wembanyama’s foul trouble didn’t hurt the Spurs’ productivity like many expected. The Mavs’ gameplan was so heavily predicated on Wemby that the Mavs’ defense was rough at times because of more unpredictability from San Antonio. The trait we’ve seen since Summer League and Europe is that Victor bounces back. He doesn’t let bad or underwhelming outings faze him. Look for a big game vs a weak Houston defense Friday.
  • Luka Doncic had three extremely positive areas, one being more relative to his game: Slashing against Jeremy Sochan was dominant, passing off of screens to trap help defenders opened up the floor well, and he was good defensively for his standards because he rarely gave up on plays or complained, which went a long way for Dallas’ defensive efforts. He also was confident in playing fast in transition, which is abnormal to his past slow-tempo pace.
  • Derrick Jones’ lack of shooting killed the Mavs’ spacing at times. Josh Green should be the starter going forward over Jones. Another change that needs to come is Lively to the starting five over Maxi Kleber. The P&R ability and rim deterrence from Lively are key for the Mavs.
  • Zach Collins is going to be an X-Factor for San Antonio. His ability to ease up Wembanyama’s defensive shortcomings by being able to handle traditional style bigs that bang in the post should allow for Wemby to play his best style defensively as a free safety.
  • Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson will play well off of Wembanyama. The wings of the Spurs should be the biggest beneficiaries of Victor’s gravity. They shot a combined 16-32 with a lot of easy looks.
  • Speaking of easy looks, Cedi Osman found holes with ease through the Mavs defense, both in transition and in the half court. Cedi could be a sneaky pickup for the Spurs off the bench,
  • Tim Hardaway Jr’s scoring in the first half (15 points) was big for the Mavs. He wasn’t as present in the second half, but did make a noticeable impact in getting to the line, commanding hard closeouts, and hitting jump shots.
  • Grant Williams was my favorite signing of the offseason across the league, and it’s easy to see why right away. As I wrote in my preseason game review against Minnesota overseas, his shooting will be key, and he makes up for lack of size with strength and intelligence, holding down the rotations and being a de facto anchor to the defense.

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