Our Orlando Magic are back in the Amway tonight to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves for the first time this season. The game has a U.K. tip time of 12:00 midnight. It will as always be available live & on demand via the NBA League Pass.
I’m going to start this game preview by taking a look at the playoff picture & our current position.
The Playoff Picture
We are very firmly sitting in the 8th seed. Our position is a strong one, qualification for the postseason isn’t guaranteed yet but we are looking good at this point for a second season running of making the first round. Including tonight we have 24 games to play between now & the end of the regular season on April 15th. With wins in 4 of our last 5 games our record is improved but not where many of us hoped or feel it should be, presently standing at 26 & 32.
With the Nets having dropped their last 2 games we have closed in on them for the 7th seeding, they have a 26 & 31 record. At this point we trail by win percentage alone as they have played a game less than us. We are 5 wins ahead of the Washington Wizards in 9th, who have played 1 game less than ourselves with a 21 & 36 record. The Charlotte Hornets (20 & 38) & Chicago Bulls (20 & 39) are sat at 10th & 11th. We do hold the tiebreaker over all four teams; the Nets (2-0), the Wizards (4 & 0), the Hornets (2-0) & the Bulls (1-0).
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 could set up a repeat of last season’s first round matchup against the Toronto Raptors (42-16) but the Boston Celtics (41-17) are fighting hard for that position. The Bucks (50 & 8) lead the East easily, having already assured themselves of postseason qualification & are likely to await the 8th seed.
In the race for 7th & 8th Brooklyn travel to Atlanta tonight, Washington are in Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Jazz & Charlotte are in Toronto. The Chicago Bulls play Saturday night.
We face the Nets twice more by the season end, being at Brooklyn on March 23rd & home on March 27th when Orlando Magic UK’s Mikey & Geraint will be in the Amway!
We have a way to go yet but it is looking good again.
Now to turn to tonight’s game & we’ll start by looking at the good guys, the Orlando Magic!
Across our last two road games our ball movement has been brilliant. It brought us back in the second half in Brooklyn & allowed us to get a good lead for the win in Atlanta.
We have seen good numbers on the assist as a result, in Atlanta Fultz had 8, Gordon 6 & Fournier 5. There have been points where we have upped our defensive efforts, including having 9 teams blocks against the Hawks, Gordon getting 3 & Mo Bamba 4.
We have seen Aaron Gordon playing through February with an intensity & efficiency that is at a level we Magic fans have always wanted to see & many of us believe he is capable of achieving with regularity.
Points production has been good across the whole team with the 3 point shot dropping consistently.
Our home form is currently at 15 & 14, which as with the road record needs some improvement. Our road record is a little improved at 11 wins & 18 losses. Across our last 10 games we have a 5 & 5 record but importantly it feels like there may be some momentum building again.
Offence & Defence
We are 21 & 2 when we lead or are level entering the 4th quarter. We are also 17 & 1 when we score at least 110 points, if we hit 120 points we have won all 8 games.
Looking at the NBA offensive rankings we climbed to 25th with both our total rating improving to 106.6 & our average scoring to 104.6 points per game (though this is still the 29th worst record in the NBA for ppg).
Our defensive ranking remains at 8th though the figures worsened marginally to 108.2 whilst allowing 106.1 points per game (the best record for opponents ppg in the NBA).
The Magic Injury Report & Starters
Our 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.
JI is travelling with the team, supporting them from the bench at games & has been involved by the coaching team to do video scouting reports on our opposition. It was good to see footage of him in light training putting shots up.
Barring any late issues expect Coach Clifford to retain our starting lineup of 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).
From the bench we appear to have for the past 2 games tightened the rotations down 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. We can also call on BJ Johnson (1.6 ppg), Vic Law (0 ppg) & Melvin Frazier Jr (1.3 ppg) from Lakeland.
What We Wear
The Orlando Magic PR have tweeted out that we wear the black Icon uniform tonight.
To our opponents now, who we are seeing for the first time this season. The T-Wolves sit 14th in the Western Conference with a 17 & 40 losing record.
They rank 22nd offensively in the NBA with a rating of 108.1 whilst scoring an average of 113 points per game (which is 9th of 30). They are 20th in the NBA for their defence, with a rating of 111.9 whilst allowing opponents an average of 116.9 points per game (putting them 27th for conceding points per game).
D is clearly their issue. Their record & ratings are similar in many ways to Atlanta. In their last outing, which was on Wednesday they beat the Heat in Miami by 129-126. On the road they have won 10 of their 29 games this season, which is better than their home record of 7 & 21. Across their last 10 games they have a 2 & 8 record.
They have 3 listed issues on their injury report being Allen Crabbe (4.6 ppg) (personal) & Karl Anthony Towns (26.5 ppg) (wrist fracture) both being out, with Evan Turner (3.3 ppg) being day-to-day.
Therefore if they keep the same starting lineup as against Miami it will be Malik Beasley (9.9 ppg), D’Angelo Russell (23.7 ppg), Juancho Hernangomez (4.9 ppg), Josh Okogie (8.6 ppg) & Naz Reid (8.1 ppg) From the bench they can bring James Johnson (7.3 ppg), Jordan McLaughlin (7.4 ppg), Jarrett Culver (9.1 ppg), Kelan Martin (6.8 ppg), Jake Layman (9.8 ppg), Jacob Evans (4.4 ppg), Jaylen Nowell (4.2 ppg), Jarred Vanderbilt (1.1 ppg) & Omari Spellman (7.6 ppg).
Last season we split the 2 game series, winning in the Amway. The all time head-to-head record in the 59 regular season games played sees the Magic leading by 37-22.
Keys To The Game
Tonight is a game to make another statement & to build on our form, we need to keep the momentum going. There are no games in the NBA that are easy wins but if we hope to build on our position we have to take wins against the sub 500 teams.
As usual our defence is going to be a key for if we can contain their offence we should be able to score the ball. With KAT being out their biggest threat is from an obvious source, D’Angelo Russell.
For our offence it remains imperative again that we move the ball & recognise who has the “hot hand” at any time & feed them opportunities.
As already highlighted above 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 21 & 2 this season & again we are 17 & 1 when we score at least 110 points, hit 120 points & we have won all 8 games.
WE BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM!
LET’S GO MAGIC