Tonight sees our Orlando Magic playing a game which is huge if we are to have ambitions of moving up to the 7th seeding, as we take on the Brooklyn Nets in the Barclay’s Center, Brooklyn, New York. The game has a U.K. tip time of 12:30am. It will as always be available live & on demand via the NBA League Pass.
This fixture will be the second of 4 meetings for the season & leads us nicely to take a look at our playoff picture.
The Playoff Race
We sit in the 8th seed position firmly in the chase for qualification for the post season for the second season running. An appearance is not guaranteed but that position is a relatively strong one, which is probably a clear commentary on the strength of the Eastern Conference this season. Our record of 24 & 32 is far from impressive.
We are 4 wins ahead of the 9th placed Washington Wizards, who have played 1 game less than ourselves with a 20 & 35 record. The Chicago Bulls with a record of 20 & 38 are sat in the 10th seed spot, 4 wins back from us but also having played 2 games more. As we look to close in on the Brooklyn Nets for the 7th seeding we saw them win at Charlotte on Saturday night to move to a 26 & 29 record. At this point we trail by 2 wins & they have played a game less than us.
We do hold the tiebreaker over the Nets (1-0), the Bulls (1-0) & do so over the Wizards having swept them 4 & 0. Perhaps in season defining games we face the Nets & Bulls each twice more by the season end.
Let’s turn to tonight’s game.
We took a disappointing loss last time out against the Dallas Mavericks by 122-106, a result which was very much based on our woeful shooting display. Any team basing its offence on shooting the long ball then going only 20.9% on those 3 point shots (9 successful shots of the 43 attempted) is going to struggle. We also have to be honest & say that they were good open looks, not forced efforts at the end of the shot clock. Across our last 10 games we have a 3 & 7 record. Our home form (sitting now at 15 & 14) has been better than our road performances, which have been dire all season. That road record of 9 wins & 18 losses will be tested again this week, it is something can & must be improved upon.
Offence & Defence
In the NBA offensive rankings we dropped back to 26th, our rating of 106.1 remaining constant, whilst our average scoring improved slightly but is still only 104 points per game (which remains the 29th worst record in the NBA for ppg). Our defensive ranking dropped back to 8th at 107.9, whilst still allowing only 105.7 points per game (which is still the best record for opponents ppg in the NBA).
The Magic Injury Report & Starters
An unchanged injury report sees both Jonathan Isaac (12 ppg) (severe left knee strain & bone contusion) & Al-Farouq Aminu (4.3 ppg) (torn meniscus) being out for the rest of the season.
Therefore Steve Clifford will likely use a starting lineup of Evan Fournier (18.8 ppg), Nikola Vucevic (19.1 ppg), Markelle Fultz (11.9 ppg) & Aaron Gordon (14.1 ppg) being joined by James Ennis (5.8 ppg) again.
From the bench we have DJ Augustin (10.4 ppg), Michael Carter-Williams (6.4 ppg), Terence Ross (13.5 ppg), Mo Bamba (5.4 ppg), Wes Iwundu (5.1 ppg), Khem Birch (4 ppg) & Gary Clark (3.5 ppg). If not with the Lakeland Magic then we can also call on BJ Johnson (1.6 ppg), Vic Law (0 ppg) & Melvin Frazier Jr (1.3 ppg).
What We Wear
The Orlando Magic PR have tweeted out that we wear the white Association uniform tonight.
As we take a look at our opponents they come into the game as already mentioned as the 7th placed team in the East, with a 26 & 29 record. On their home court they have been solid, having won 16 of their 28 games this season, whilst having a very strong 7 & 3 record across their last 10 total games.
Ranking slightly above us in offensive rankings at 23rd in the NBA with a rating of 107.6, whilst scoring an average of 110.6 points per game. Defensively their rating of 107.7, whilst allowing opponents an average of 110.5 points per game puts them in the 7th place for defensive ranking. The Nets come into tonight having beaten the Hornets comprehensively in Charlotte on Saturday by 115-86 in their last outing.
Brooklyn have only 2 injuries listed: some blokes called Kyrie Irving (shoulder) & Kevin Durant (achilles). Unfortunately for them they now have the news that Kyrie Irving (27.4 ppg) is out for the season after having to have shoulder surgery. It is worth noting that the Nets have a better record without Kyrie (18-17) than with him (8-12) on the season.
Their previous starting lineup was Caris LeVert (15.6 ppg), Taurean Prince (12.4 ppg), Spencer Dinwiddie (20.8 ppg), Jarrett Allen (10.9 ppg) & Joe Harris (13.8 ppg). From the bench they can use Garrett Temple (10.2 ppg), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (5.7 ppg), Wilson Chandler (6.2 ppg), DeAndre Jordan (8.3 ppg), Theo Pinson (4.1 ppg), Rodions Kurucs (4.6 ppg), Chris Chiozza (2.3 ppg) & Nicolas Claxton (4.4 ppg).
We played the Nets in the Amway on January 6th, seeing us win by 89-101. Across the 114 regular season games played the Magic lead 64-50, with us having taken the last 2 W’s. Since season 2015-16 have in the 15 games played we have 9 wins & are 2 & 4 on the road in that time. Last season we lost the series 1-2. We have never met in the playoffs.
Keys To The Game
Tonight is a game to make a statement to a team we are locked in a battle with for seeding. Containing the scoring of Dinwiddie, along with stopping Harris from beyond the arc could be key to our chances. From our own perspective we must have a plan B if the 3 ball isn’t falling. Once again we must recognise who on the night has the “hot hand” then give them opportunities. We need to go into the 4th quarter level or with a lead at which point we can feel hopeful as from that position we are 20 & 2 this season, whilst being 15 & 1 when score at least 110 points.
WE BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM!
LET’S GO MAGIC!