Denton: Oladipo vs. Teague Showdown Will Be Key Matchup

   

Oladipo ignited some good feelings on Friday night what with the way he carved up the Detroit Pistons with his do-everything skills from the point guard position. When he wasn’t setting up teammates for open looks with passes, Oladipo was relentlessly attacking the rim off high screens and wreaking havoc. His electric play helped the Magic end a three-game losing streak and win at the Amway Center for the first time since Nov. 27.

Now, the mission for Oladipo is to do it again against Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague, arguably the NBA’s most improved player this season, on Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Amway Center. The Magic (9-20) have split two games this season with Atlanta, which will be without all-star power forward Al Horford after he suffered a pectoral tear earlier in the week.

Teague handed it to the Magic on Nov. 9 with 19 points and 13 assists in a 104-94 Hawks victory. But the Magic had a second half for the ages on Nov. 26 to wipe out a four-point halftime deficit in a 109-92 win. In that game, Oladipo overcame a first half in which he committed four fouls and finished with 18 points, five assists and just one turnover in 29 minutes.

``(Teague) is really good,’’ Oladipo said. ``Last time that we played them, he got me in some foul trouble. He can affect the game in several ways, so I’ll have to do a good job of trying to slow him down.’’

Oladipo has tried to walk the fine line of slowing the game down and using his elite athleticism and speed to also play fast. He’s had to do that while also making the transition from college shooting guard to NBA point guard. Admittedly, it’s been a chore for him knowing when to look for his own shot and when to set up scores for others. It’s all part of the large balancing act that a point guard must endure, said Magic coach Jacque Vaughn – a former point guard himself for 12 NBA seasons.

``There are always opportunities for him to play fast, but it doesn’t mean that his decision-making has to be fast,’’ Vaughn said. ``Those things can slow down internally in your brain to deal with the situations in front of you. But if he gets a rebound, we want him to push the pace and get up the floor. That part of the game stays fast for him, but eventually the decision-making process will slow down.’’

Vaughn has worked to give Oladipo different looks this season, pulling back when he feels like the rookie is getting overwhelmed and putting more on his platter as he advances. Oladipo opened the season as a reserve, then started a stretch of 16 straight games and was recently moved back to the bench with the return of Tobias Harris to the starting lineup.

Then, he went through a stretch where he played just 21 minutes last week against Sacramento and only 16 minutes versus New York. He didn’t play at all in the second half against the Knicks and joked that it was his job to keep his teammates ``hydrated’’ as the team’s de facto water boy.

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