Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans hung 40 points on the Orlando Magic in the second quarter.
In the entire second half, they managed only 35 as Orlando scored a 115-99 victory at Smoothie King Center on Monday.
The Magic won this game with solid bench play, strong defense, aggressive transition scoring and lights-out shooting. Those four things have typified a red-hot start to the 2018 season for a team few expected to make any waves at all.
Davis came out strong and never let up. He got Aaron Gordon into early foul trouble (Aaron Gordon ended up playing just 18 minutes) and finished with an impressive 39 points on 20 field goal attempts. Jonathan Isaac subbed in for Aaron Gordon until he too picked up some quick fouls. Then, it was up to Marreesse Speights to guard Anthony Davis and play power forward.
In the first half, it looked like the Magic had no answers for Davis, who had his way over and over again in the paint. Nikola Vucevic appeared to shy away from shooting threes in favor of going at DeMarcus Cousins in the post, which was largely ill-advised aside from a few nice hook shots.
But the Magic started bringing hard double teams in the third quarter and managed to do so without giving shooters any openings beyond the arc. Every defender on the floor trusted each other, rotated properly and allowed the Pelicans no breathing room.
Once the defense gathered its bearings, everything else seemed to fall into place.
Per Cleaning the Glass, the Magic were near the top of the league in transition opportunities off steals entering this game. Aggressive defense from Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons and D.J. Augustin may have caused that ranking to rise tonight, in addition to creating excellent scoring opportunities for their teammates.
Later in the game, coach Frank Vogel entered an intriguing lineup with Marreese Speights at center and good defenders all around: Shelvin Mack, Jonathon Simmons, Terrence Ross and Jonathan Isaac. Speights went absolutely nuclear, draining six threes, five of which came in the second half, and finishing with 18 points.
The Magic were clearly firing on all cylinders at this point.
The Pelicans began to look listless, getting little offensive production from anyone but Davis and Cousins, who seemed to look more to pass than to score at times. They did not let up and pulled away, winning by 16 and outscoring the Pelicans by more than 20 points in the second half.
A rough first half clearly did not discourage this team. They made good defensive adjustments and seemed to beat their opponents into submission as the clock ticked down. That is how the Magic will win games this season.