MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—A week after sustaining a concussion and getting eight stitches along his left eyebrow, Mike Miller showed he still has an eye for the basket.
Miller scored a season-high 25 points in his first game back from the injuries and led Memphis to its fourth straight win, 91-69 over the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
Miller made 8 of 13 shots, including 4-of-8 from beyond the arc, helping Memphis put the Magic away early. He missed two games after colliding with Houston’s Ryan Bowen on Nov. 25.
“It’s amazing how well you can shoot when you can’t see. I’m a better shooter when I can’t see, huh?” Miller said laughing and assuring everyone his eyesight was fine. “I was a little nervous at the beginning to get my nose in there because I didn’t want to get hit. I started getting use to it, took a few and it was fine.”
The game pitted the NBA’s top two defensive teams, but the Grizzlies built a 32-point lead midway through the fourth quarter and shot 53 percent for the game.
The Magic played without leading scorer, Steve Francis, who traveled to Washington earlier Friday for a second opinion on his bruised chest and left shoulder. That took an average of nearly 18 points away from an Orlando’s offense, which also is missing Grant Hill and Keyon Dooling to injuries.
Memphis coach Mike Fratello was surprised at the level of play from Miller on the shooting guard’s return.
“I honestly didn’t know how much I was going to play him,” Fratello said. “We had several checks we were looking for—if he does this, we get him out. When he dove for the ball one time, I was a little concerned, but he got up and was fine.”
“I was disappointed in our energy,” Magic coach Brian Hill said. “We were outplayed and outcoached from the beginning of the game until the end. If we don’t play with high energy all the time, we won’t play well.”
Memphis opened with a flurry, making 74 percent of its shots in the opening quarter to take a 33-15 lead. The 33 points was the highest Memphis total for a quarter this season, and the 15 was the fewest in the first quarter by a Grizzlies opponent.
Memphis continued to build the lead in the second as the Magic missed nine of their first 10 shots. That helped the Grizzlies take a 55-32 lead into halftime.
“We kept trying to answer their big shots, and then we look up all of a sudden and we’re down 20,” Stevenson said.
Miller, who started his career in Orlando, scored 20 points in a reserve role. All six of his rebounds came in the first half.
Stevenson led the Magic with 12 points in the half.
The Magic, using more defensive pressure, made a few dents in the Grizzlies’ advantage during the third period, but never mounted an extended run. Memphis carried a 69-47 lead into the final quarter.
“We tried to pick it up a little bit, but it was too late by that point,” said Magic guard Jameer Nelson, who started in Francis’ place.
Magic G Travis Diener, the rookie second-round pick from Marquette, saw his first action of the season. He had three points in 12 minutes. … The 21-point margin of victory marked the third straight game Memphis has won by more than 20 points. That is the best stretch in Grizzlies history. Memphis has an average winning margin of 18.3 points in its four-game streak. … Francis is expected to rejoin the team for Saturday night’s game in Milwaukee. …Orlando outscored Memphis 15-14 in the third period, marking the first time in 12 quarters an opponent outscored the Grizzlies.