Tonight our Orlando Magic are back in Charlotte, taking on the struggling Hornets for the second time this season.
This one has a U.K. tip time of 12:00 midnight & the game will as always be available live & on demand via the NBA League Pass.
The Magic are now at a disappointing 21 & 28 losing record for the season, sitting 8th in the Eastern Conference. Across our last 10 games we are 3 & 7, having lost 5 consecutively. Some of those performances have been underwhelming & difficult to watch to boot. Undeniably the road form has been poor all season, sitting at 8 & 16. Our last outing ended in defeat again, being to the Miami Heat by 102-89.
In the NBA offensive rankings we have dropped back to 27 with a rating of 105.5 & scoring only 103.2 points per game (which remains the 29th worst record in the NBA for ppg).
Our defensive ranking remains the 7th best at 107, whilst still allowing only 104.7 points per game (though this is still the best record for opponents ppg in the NBA). The defensive figures hide a worrying stat; being that of late we have been one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA.
The Magic Injury Report & Starters
The injury report for the Magic has one change. Evan Fournier (18.6 ppg) has been dealing with a back injury for some time & is again questionable for tonight. Jonathan Isaac (12 ppg) is out with a severe left knee strain & bone contusion & will not be re-evaluated until early-mid March. Al-Farouq Aminu (4.3 ppg) (torn meniscus) is out indefinitely after surgery. DJ Augustin (10.7 ppg) is out with a knee injury. An MRI scan has resulted in his being out until at least mid February.
Therefore depending upon Evan & who Coach Clifford feels matches best to our opponents our starting lineup will likely be Nikola Vucevic (18.7 ppg), Markelle Fultz (11.7 ppg) & Aaron Gordon (13.5 ppg) joined by either/both Khem Birch (4.1 ppg) &/or Wes Iwundu (5 ppg).
From the bench Orlando have Michael Carter-Williams (6.5 ppg), Terence Ross (13.2 ppg), Mo Bamba (5.4 ppg), BJ Johnson (2.2 ppg), Amile Jefferson (0.9 ppg) & Gary Clark (3.8 ppg) who has been resigned to a second 10 day contract.
The Orlando Magic PR have tweeted out that we wear the black Statement uniform tonight.
As we look at our opponents for tonight it is important to remember they are in a rebuilding cycle. Going 39-43 the Hornets missed the playoffs last year. In the close season they lost their star player Kemba Walker, along with Tony Parker, Frank Kaminsky & Jeremy Lamb.
They come into the game with no reported injury issues, having a full squad to select from. Last time out they started Terry Rozier (18 ppg), Devonte’ Graham (18 ppg), Marvin Williams (6.8 ppg), Miles Bridges (12.4 ppg) & Cody Zeller (11.2 ppg).
From the bench they can bring Dwayne Bacon (6.2 ppg), Nicolas Batum (3.6 ppg), Bismarck Biyombo (7.5 ppg), Willy Hernangomez (5.6 ppg), PJ Washington (12.2 ppg), Cody Martin (4 ppg), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (4 ppg) & Malik Monk (9 ppg).
The Hornets are at a record of 16 & 33 for the season, sitting 12th in the Eastern Conference. Across their last 10 games Charlotte are 1 & 9, having lost 2 games on the bounce. They have won only 8 of 23 games at home in the Spectrum Center. In their last outing Charlotte lost 90-104 in San Antonio to the Spurs.
Looking at the NBA offensive rankings Charlotte rank 26th with a rating of 105.6 & scoring 103 points per game. This is the worst record in the NBA for ppg. Defensively they are 27th at a rating of 113.3 whilst allowing 110.6 points per game.
In the single matchup with the Hornets so far this this season, on January 20th the Magic won 106-83. This was in fact the last game we actually won! After tonight we will meet twice more by April 2nd, with both being in the Amway.
Last season the 4 game series was split, the Magic taking the last 2 meetings as we fought them for the postseason seeding. Prior to these 3 Magic victories the Hornets had won the previous 13 matchups. This was a run we were all desperate to see broken against our South Eastern Division rivals. The all time head-to-head record saw the Magic level it those few days ago at 53-53 of the 106 regular season games played. Of the 8 games in the playoffs the Magic are ahead 5-3.
The Keys To The Game
Reading the stats this game doesn’t jump out as being a feast of attacking basketball.
This is one in which we could get a result & break the slump in form we’ve been through recently. As disappointing as the form has been from Orlando it cannot be ignored that the Hornets have been in free fall, having only won 4 games since the 15th December. Make no mistake it could be tough game but it is also one in which we can win.
We still come into the fixture undermanned with our road form not good & our offence being dysfunctional. I hope to see a reaction from the Coach & senior players to the lacklustre effort in the Amway against the Heat last time out.
Charlotte could still look to making the 8th seed spot in the East but are in danger of getting cut adrift, being 5 games back of us. Therefore it is important for us to turn up, produce a disciplined performance & leave with the win.
The Hornets are a team I feel we should beat, especially if our ambition is to be more than a team who appear regularly in the first round of the playoffs. As I said in the preview for our last matchup in Charlotte we can not underestimate them just because of their poor season record (both home & away) or their present struggles as they remain capable of getting the win.
I say again: there are no easy games & neither team will look at this one as a nailed on win.
WE BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM! LET’S GO MAGIC