Our Orlando Magic are on the road tonight, on the second night of a back-to-back to take on the San Antonio Spurs for the final time this season. The game has a U.K. tip time of 1:30am. It will as always be available live & on demand via the NBA League Pass.
Let’s start this game preview by taking a look at the playoff picture & our current position.
The Playoff Standings
As we look we see our Magic are sitting in the 7th seed after the Nets took a battering from the Atlanta Hawks 118-141. Our position is a strong one, qualification for the postseason isn’t guaranteed but we are genuinely looking good for a second season running of making the first round. We have 23 games to play between now & the end of the regular season on April 15th. With wins in 5 of our last 6 games our record is hugely improved but still not where many of us hoped it would be or feel it should be, presently standing at 27 & 32.
The Nets have now lost their last 3 games & have a 26 & 32 record, still having played a game less than ourselves. We are 6 wins ahead of the Washington Wizards in 9th, who have played 1 game less than ourselves with a 21 & 37 record, losing last night to the Jazz. The Charlotte Hornets (21 & 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). If we finish in the 7th seed spot again it could set up a repeat of last season’s first round matchup against the Toronto Raptors (42-17) but the Boston Celtics (41-17) are fighting hard for that position.
The Bucks (51 & 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 Miami tonight, the Bulls travel to the Knicks Washington & Charlotte both play on Sunday.
The Race For 7th & 8th
Looking at the remaining schedule for Brooklyn & Orlando it would appear that ours is more favourable.
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!
Now to turn to tonight’s game & we’ll start by looking at the good guys, the Orlando Magic!
Our ball movement of late has been brilliant. It brought us back in the second half in Brooklyn, got us a good lead for the win in Atlanta & last night against Minnesota was how we scored a season high on points, scoring 30+ points in each quarter whilst shooting a field goal percentage of 54%. We have seen good numbers on the assist from that ball movement & last night we got a season high of 36, Gordon getting 12.
We have seen Aaron Gordon playing through February with great intensity & efficiency. With the performances he’s turned in this week if he does it again tonight he has to get the award for Eastern Conference Player of the Week surely? His play is at a level we have always wanted to see & believe he is capable of achieving with regularity.
Our home form is currently at 16 & 14, which as with the road record still needs improvement, the road record being 11 wins & 18 losses. Across our last 10 games we have a 6 & 4 record but it feels like there is some momentum building after 3 wins consecutively & 5 in our last 6.
Offence & Defence
A great stat I have read from Josh Cohen is that over those 6 games our Magic are averaging 123 points, second in the league over that period only to the Houston Rockets.
We are now 22 & 2 when we lead or are level entering the 4th quarter. We are also 18 & 1 when we score at least 110 points, hit 115+ points & we have won all 14 games, 120 or more & its 9 games.
Looking at the NBA offensive rankings we stayed 25th with both our total rating improving to 106.9 & our average scoring to 105.1 points per game (now the 28th worst record in the NBA for ppg).
Our defensive ranking remains constant at 8th rating 108.2 whilst allowing 106.4 points per game (the 2nd 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 & has been involved by the coaching team by doing video scouting reports on our opposition. He’s also 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 (19.2 ppg), Markelle Fultz (11.8 ppg), Aaron Gordon (14.6 ppg) & James Ennis (6 ppg).
From the bench we have tightened the rotations down to a 9 man one, using DJ Augustin (10.2 ppg), Michael Carter-Williams (6.3 ppg), Terence Ross (13.9 ppg) & Mo Bamba (5.6 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 blue Statement uniform tonight.
To our opponents now, the Spurs are currently 12th in the West with a 24 & 33 losing record. They come into tonight having been beaten at home in their last outing by the Dallas Mavericks 109-103 & are presently on a 2 game losing streak. Their home record is 14 & 13, whilst across the last 10 games they are 3 & 7. The Spurs are 12th on the offensive ranking at 111.7, scoring 112.8 points per game. Defensively they are 25th with a rating of 113.3, whilst allowing 114.5 points per game.
Looking to tonight & the Spurs have only one injury listed being that LaMarcus Aldridge (18.8 ppg) (shoulder) is out. Therefore the great Gregg Popovich will likely start DeMar DeRozen (22.8 ppg), Lonnie Walker IV (5.8 ppg), Trey Lyles (5.5 ppg), Dejounte Murray (10.4 ppg) & Bryan Forbes (11.1 ppg). They are supported by Derrick White (10.1 ppg), Patty Mills (11.6 ppg), Marco Belinelli (5.8 ppg), Rudy Gay (9.4 ppg) & Jakob Poeltl (5.4 ppg) amongst others.
We took the W by 109-111 when we met in the Amway on game day 12 on November 15th. For the last 3 seasons we have split the series 1 & 1, before that the Spurs had won 10 games in a row. The all time head-to-head record in the 62 regular season games played sees the Magic losing 19-43.
Keys To The Game
Tonight is a game to make another statement against a Western Conference team to build on our form, we need to keep the momentum going. There are no games in the NBA that are easy wins & that is certainly true of whenever you play the Spurs, especially on the second night of a back-to-back. However if we want to build on our position we have to take wins against the sub 500 teams.
Our defence needs to be better than last night as their offence is better than some we have played recently. Containing their multiple threats will not be easy. 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 22 & 2 this season. We want to see the ball movement again as this leads to us getting good looks, recognising who has the “hot hand” at any time & feed them opportunities.
Remember the Magic are 18 & 1 when we score at least 110 points, hit 115+ points & we have won all 14 games, 120 or more & its 9 games.
WE BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM!
LET’S GO MAGIC!