Tonight sees our Orlando Magic in the Amway, taking on the Atlanta Hawks. We are back to the game having a tip time of 12:00am midnight here in the U.K.
As always the game will be available live & on demand via the NBA League Pass.
The Eastern Conference Playoff Position
This fixture will be the 3rd of 4 matchups this season in which we face our South Eastern Division rivals. The final game is coming on February 26th.
Somehow we are still sat in the 8th seed position, in the chase for qualification & seeding in the playoffs. This is not yet guaranteed but we are 4 wins ahead of the 9th placed Washington Wizards. Washington have played 2 games less than ourselves. As we look to close in on the Brooklyn Nets for the 7th seeding we trail by 1 win & they have still played 2 games less than us. At this time we hold the tiebreaker over the Nets & do so over the Wizards having swept them 4 & 0. We still have to face the Nets three times by the end of March.
The Magic now have a 22 & 31 losing record for the season. We took a loss last time out to the Milwaukee Bucks by 111-95, on the back of another poor 3 point shooting game. Across our last 10 games we have a terrible 2 & 8 record. Our home form requires improvement sitting now at 13 & 13.
In the NBA offensive rankings we dropped back again to 29th with a rating of 105.5 but our average scoring is still only 103.1 points per game (which remains the 29th worst record in the NBA for ppg).
Our defensive ranking remains the 7th best at 107.3, whilst still allowing only 104.9 points per game (which is still the best record for opponents ppg in the NBA).
The Magic Injury Report & Starters
The injury report for the Magic is slightly amended. Jonathan Isaac (12 ppg) is now OUT for the rest of the season with a severe left knee strain & bone contusion. Al-Farouq Aminu (4.3 ppg) (torn meniscus) is out indefinitely after surgery. DJ Augustin (10.7 ppg) is out with a knee injury which is due to soon be re-evaluated in mid February.
Therefore our starting lineup will likely be Evan Fournier (18.6 ppg), Nikola Vucevic (18.8 ppg), Markelle Fultz (11.7 ppg) & Aaron Gordon (13.7 ppg) likely to be joined by Wes Iwundu (4.9 ppg) or Khem Birch (3.9 ppg).
From the bench we have Michael Carter-Williams (6.7 ppg), Terence Ross (13.4 ppg), Mo Bamba (5.4 ppg), BJ Johnson (1.6 ppg), Melvin Frazier Jr (1.3 ppg), Vic Law (0 ppg) & Gary Clark (3.7 ppg) who has now been signed to the end of the season.
It is also highly likely that we see a debut from new signing James Ennis (5.8 ppg).
We knew some time ago that tonight is a City Night in the Amway. The Orlando Magic PR have confirmed by tweeting out that we wear the grey & orange City uniform tonight.
As we take a look at our opponents it is something of a surprise to see them in some decent form considering their League position.
They come into the game as the 14th team in the East, with a 15 & 39 record but won in their last outing. That game was last night, a double overtime victory over the New York Knicks in Atlanta, 135-140. On the road they have won 6 of 28 this season. The Hawks have a 5 & 5 record across their last 10 games.
Atlanta rank 28th offensively in the NBA (last) with a rating of 105.5, whilst scoring an average of 110 points per game. Defensively their rating of 113.6, whilst allowing opponents an average of 118.5 points per game puts them in the 27th place defensive ranking in the NBA.
The Hawks Squad
The Hawks were much fancied by the NBA media at the season start. Not being in the playoff contention come April 2020 will be an under performance.
Their starting lineup is likely to see star point guard Trae Young (29.7 ppg) joined by John Collins (20.5 ppg), De’Andre Hunter (12.3 ppg), Kevin Huerter (12.3 ppg) & Damian Jones (6 ppg).
From the bench they can now bring former Magic centre Dewayne Dedmon (5.3 ppg), Jeff Teague (11.7 ppg), Clint Capella (13.9 ppg) & Treveon Graham (4.5 ppg) to join Bruno Fernando (4.1 ppg), Brandon Goodwin (6.9 ppg), Charles Brown Jr (2 ppg), De’Andre Bembrey (5.8 ppg), Cam Reddish (9.1 ppg), Skal Labissiere (5.8 ppg) & Vince Carter (5.2 ppg) in his goodbye season.
That being said Clint Capella, Cam Reddish, De’Andre Bembrey & Skal Labissiere all missed last night’s game against the Knicks with injury.
We have played Atlanta twice this season losing both. In December, the Hawks came into the Amway having lost 10 straight games, only to see them leave with a 101-93 victory. That was probably our most frustrating result of the season, though losses to the Knicks & Warriors run a close second & third. We also lost by 99-103 in our first meeting in October.
Last season we swept the 4 games series.
The all time head-to-head record in the 118 regular season games played sees the Magic winning 58-60. In the 15 post season games we are up 10 & 5 (not having met in the playoffs since 2011).
Keys To The Game
With our form not good & our offence still dysfunctional we have to hope that the second night of a back-to-back & the double overtime efforts have their effects.
We desperately need our defence to build us a platform by containing the scoring of Young & Collins particularly. Our offence has to take advantage of the opportunity of going against a lesser ranked team. If we can go into the 4th quarter level or with a lead we should feel hopeful as we are 19 & 2 from that position this season.
Along with the scoring droughts a downfall has again been the uncharacteristic amount of turnovers & the points being scored against us from those. We have to take care of the ball.
The Bucks challenged us to shoot the 3 ball by heavily defending the paint. That response was found desperately wanting. The consensus of opinion on NBA media is that James Ennis can help us with this failing.
A Final Thought
Finally, I want to see 2 things from tonight.
The first is a good Magic win on the back of a strong performance. Secondly; for everyone present to rise to their feet (if able) & give an ovation to the legend Vince Carter on his final game in the Amway.
WE BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM!
LET’S GO MAGIC