Tonight the Orlando Magic are on the road again, with the 4th & final matchup of the season against the Atlanta Hawks. The game has a U.K. tip time again of 12:30am. It will as always be available live & on demand via the NBA League Pass.
Now we are into the business end of the season I’m going to start this game preview again by taking a look at the playoff picture & our position.
The Eastern Conference Playoff Race
We sit very firmly in the 8th seed position but we aren’t guaranteed qualification yet, there is a lot of basketball to be played between now & the end of the regular on April 15th. This position is a relatively strong one but as I have said before a record of 25 & 32 is not impressive.
We are now 5 wins ahead of the Washington Wizards in 9th, who have played 1 game less than ourselves with a 20 & 36 record. The Chicago Bulls with a record of 20 & 39 are sat in the 10th seed spot, 5 wins back from us but also having played 2 games more. With our win last time out over the Nets we closed in on them for the 7th seeding, they have a 26 & 30 record. At this point we trail by a win & they have played a game less than us.
We do hold the tiebreaker over all three teams, the Nets (2-0), the Bulls (1-0) & the Wizards (4 & 0).
The Race For 7th & 8th
Looking at the remaining schedule for Brooklyn & Orlando it would appear that ours is more favourable.
If we reach the 7th seed spot again it would likely set up a repeat of last season’s first round matchup against the Toronto Raptors. The Bucks who lead the East have already assured themselves of postseason qualification & are now playing for seeding. On a final point about the race for 7th & 8th I will be keeping an eye tonight on Brooklyn who travel to Washington.
We face the Nets & Bulls each twice more by the season end:
Home – Chicago March 12th
At – Brooklyn March 23rd
Home – Brooklyn March 27th – Orlando Magic UK’s Mikey & Geraint will be in the Amway!
At – Chicago April 13th
Let’s turn to tonight’s game & we’ll start by looking at our guys, the Orlando Magic!
We all know that last time out we had our best comeback performance of the season against the Nets to take a hugely important road win by 115-113. It was genuinely a game of two halves, we were as poor in the first half as we were excellent in the second. A dismal first half on offence gave us only 41 pts scored, including successfully hitting only 3 of 18 attempts on 3 point shot. Early into the 3rd & it got worse as we went 19 pts down. Our response was to go on a 15-4 run. The win eventually came on the back of strong defensive play & a huge offensive improvement with 74 points scored in the 2nd half, where we went 10 of 16 on the 3 pointer. What a turnaround!
A positive stat is that the Magic are now 16 & 1 when we score at least 110 points in a game. Across our last 10 games we have a 4 & 6 record but perhaps as importantly it feels like there may be some momentum building. Our home form (currently at 15 & 14) has been better than our road performances, which has been poor all season. That road record of 10 wins & 18 losses will be tested again tonight.
Offence & Defence
In the NBA offensive rankings we remain 26th, our rating improving slightly to 106.3, as did our average scoring to 104.2 points per game (which is still the 29th worst record in the NBA for ppg).
Our defensive ranking was also constant, remaining 8th though the figures worsened marginally to 108, whilst still allowing only 105.8 points per game (still the best record for opponents ppg in the NBA).
The Magic Injury Report & Starters
The injury report is unchanged with 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.
It has been great to see JI with the team at games & video of him in light training putting some shots up.
Expect our starting lineup to be Evan Fournier (18.9 ppg), Nikola Vucevic (19.1 ppg), Markelle Fultz (11.8 ppg), Aaron Gordon (14.3 ppg) & James Ennis (5.9 ppg) again.
From the bench we appear to have tightened the rotations to a 9 man one using DJ Augustin (10.2 ppg), Michael Carter-Williams (6.4 ppg), Terence Ross (13.6 ppg) & Mo Bamba (5.4 ppg) with Wes Iwundu (5.1 ppg), Khem Birch (4 ppg) & Gary Clark (3.5 ppg) getting squeezed out on Monday night against the Nets. 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).
The Orlando Magic PR have tweeted out that we wear the white Association uniform again tonight.
As we take a look at our opponents & South Eastern Division rivals their form has dropped back a little since our most recent meeting. This is not true however of their figures for offence.
Atlanta rank 27th offensively in the NBA with a rating of 106.1 whilst scoring an average of 110.6 points per game. Defensively is where the Hawks have issues, their rating of 114.2 whilst allowing opponents an average of 119 points per game puts them in the 29th in the NBA (they were 27th when we met on February 10th).
They come into the game as the 14th team in the East, with a 17 & 42 losing record. Atlanta lost in their last outing, which was on Monday night in Philadelphia by 112-129. On the road they have won 6 of their 31 games this season (including one in the Amway), whilst having a 4 & 6 record across their last 10 games. The Hawks were much fancied by the NBA media at the season start to be in the playoffs come April 2020 so have to be considered to have heavily under performed.
They have 5 listed injury issues. De’Andre Bembrey (5.8 ppg) (abdominal), Skal Labissiere (5.8 ppg) (knee) & Clint Capella (13.9 ppg) (heel) are all out. Listed as probable for the game are Dewayne Dedmon (5.5 ppg) (elbow) & De’Andre Hunter (12.5 ppg) (abdominal).
Therefore their starting lineup is likely to see star point guard Trae Young (29.9 ppg) joined by John Collins (20.8 ppg), De’Andre Hunter (12.5 ppg), Kevin Huerter (12.1 ppg) & Dewayne Dedmon (5.5 ppg). From the bench they can bring Jeff Teague (11.1 ppg), Treveon Graham (4.4 ppg), Bruno Fernando (4.2 ppg), Brandon Goodwin (6.3 ppg), Charles Brown Jr (2 ppg), Cam Reddish (9.6 ppg), Damian Jones (5.9 ppg) & the legend Vince Carter (5 ppg) in his goodbye season.
After playing Atlanta three times this season the record is disappointing, losing both opening fixtures but winning most recently. We lost by 99-103 in our first meeting in October. In December, the Hawks came into the Amway having lost 10 straight games, only to see them leave with a 101-93 victory in what was probably our most frustrating result of the season. On February 10th Atlanta came back to the Amway & we took the win 126-135. Last season we swept the 4 games series. The all time head-to-head record in the 119 regular season games played sees the Magic just losing by 59-60. In the 15 games played in the post season we are up 10 & 5 (not having met in the playoffs since 2011).
Keys To The Game
Tonight is a game to make another statement & to build on our last outing, we need the momentum. I take no games in the NBA as easy being wins but if we hope to build we have to take wins against the sub 500 teams.
Our defence is going to be a key; for if we can contain their offence we should be able to score the ball. Their threat is from an obvious source but that being said it is no mean feat to contain Trae Young & John Collins.
Once again we must recognise who on the night has the “hot hand”. We ideally want 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 & as I wrote earlier being 16 & 1 when score at least 110 points.
WE BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM!
LET’S GO MAGIC!