We are on the road & tonight is the second night of this 4 game trip, taking on the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second & final time this season. The game has a less than friendly U.K. tip time of 1am. It will as always be available live & on demand via the NBA League Pass.
Starting by looking at the playoff picture we saw everyone around us losing so the standings remained unchanged.
The Playoff Picture
We are sat in the 8th seed position with 20 games to play between now & the end of the regular season on April 15th. Our record is at 27 & 35 after losing our last three games.
The Nets are 7th with a record of 27 & 34, still having played a game less than ourselves. We remain 5 wins ahead of the Washington Wizards who are in 9th, having played a game less than ourselves with a 22 & 39 record. The Charlotte Hornets (21 & 41) & Chicago Bulls (21 & 41) are sat at 10th & 11th. We hold the tiebreaker over all four teams; the Nets (2-0), the Wizards (4 & 0), the Hornets (2-0) & the Bulls (1-0). The Toronto Raptors (44-18) have joined the Bucks (53 & 9) in assuring themselves of postseason qualification. The Boston Celtics (42-19) remain 3rd but are still seeking that second seeding.
Tonight sees a full slate of games in the race for 7th & 8th. Besides ourselves being in Minnesota the Nets are at home game against the Spurs, Washington are at home to the Hawks & Chicago are at home to face the Pacers. We still have work to do but look good for a second season running of making the first round.
We are firmly locked in a battle with the Nets, we face them 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!
And so to tonight’s game in Minnesota.
Our road record being 11 wins & 20 losses is exceptionally poor & needs improvement. Our home form is currently at 16 & 15, which is also far from impressive. Across our last 10 games we have a 5 & 5 record but after 3 defeats it feels like that momentum we had been building has stalled.
Looking honestly at our last game (the road loss in Miami) I felt we played hard & could have taken the W. We met a team that shot the lights out, making a franchise record for 3’s scored. That being said the defence was poor again at times. Again, it was evidenced that as a team we need to get off to a better start than of late, we can’t keep going down by double digits during the first half. The Magic are now 11 & 23 when trailing after the first quarter, 14 & 10 when they lead.
The Miami game was only the second defeat this season when we score at least 110 points, that stat now standing at 18 & 2. As these following stats did not apply to the Miami game they remain unchanged; that we are 22 & 2 when we lead or are level entering the 4th quarter & undefeated if we hit 115+ points when we have won all 14 games. Scoring 120 points or more & we’ve taken all 9 games.
In the NBA offensive rankings we stayed 25th with both our rating improved at 107.3 & average scoring 105.4 points per game (now the 28th worst record in the NBA for ppg). Our defensive ranking remains 9th, but our rating worsened 108.9 whilst allowing 107.1 points per game. The opponents points per game conceded is again showing our defensive struggles, which up until very recently was the best in the NBA & has now slipped further to the 4th best record.
The Magic Injury Report & Lineup
Looking to the injury report Evan Fournier (18.8 ppg) (elbow) is confirmed now as being out for tonight. Both Jonathan Isaac (12 ppg) (severe left knee strain & bone contusion) & Al-Farouq Aminu (4.3 ppg) (torn meniscus) remain out for the rest of the season.
Our starting lineup will therefore change likely being Nikola Vucevic (19.4 ppg), Markelle Fultz (11.7 ppg), Aaron Gordon (14.4 ppg) & James Ennis (6.1 ppg) joined by Wes Iwundu (5.1 ppg). From the bench we will likely see DJ Augustin (9.8 ppg), Michael Carter-Williams (6.4 ppg), Terence Ross (14.6 ppg) & Mo Bamba (5.6 ppg) again in the 9 man rotation that Coach Clifford is using.
Therefore again Khem Birch (3.9 ppg) & Gary Clark (3.5 ppg) may not feature. We can if needed also call on BJ Johnson (1.6 ppg), Vic Law (0 ppg) & Melvin Frazier Jr (1.2 ppg) from the Lakeland Magic though I don’t believe they have travelled. 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. They sit 14th in the Western Conference with a 19 & 42 losing record. Currently they rank 22nd offensively in the NBA with a rating of 108.3 whilst scoring an average of 113.3 points per game (which is 10th of 30). For defence they are 21st in the NBA, with a rating of 112 whilst allowing opponents an average of 117.3 points per game (putting them 27th for conceding points per game). D is clearly their issue.
In their last outing, which was on Thursday they beat the Bulls at home by 108-115. On the road they have won 11 of their 31 games this season, which is better than their home record of 8 wins from 30 games. Across their last 10 games they have a 3 & 7 record.
They have only 1 listed injury being Karl Anthony Towns (26.5 ppg) (wrist fracture) who is out. Therefore if they keep the same starting lineup as against Chicago it will be Malik Beasley (10.8 ppg), D’Angelo Russell (23.5 ppg), Juancho Hernangomez (5.8 ppg), Josh Okogie (8.7 ppg) & Naz Reid (8.6 ppg) From the bench they can bring James Johnson (7.9 ppg), Jordan McLaughlin (7.6 ppg), Jarrett Culver (9.2 ppg), Kelan Martin (6.5 ppg), Jake Layman (8.8 ppg), Jacob Evans (4.4 ppg), Jaylen Nowell (3.8 ppg), Jarred Vanderbilt (1.1 ppg) & Omari Spellman (7.6 ppg) & Evan Turner (3.3 ppg). They waived Allen Crabbe (4.6 ppg) at the end of February.
History is with us on this one. We met Minnesota in the Amway last week on game day 59, the Magic taking the W in a high scoring affair 125-136. Last season we split the 2 game series, winning in the Amway. The all time head-to-head record in the 60 regular season games played sees the Magic leading by 38-22.
Keys To The Game
As to what we need from our guys tonight little if anything has changed from the Miami game preview I wrote.
For us to take a win our defence needs to be better than of late. Against the T-Wolves if we can contain their offence then we should be able to score the ball. With KAT being out again their biggest threat is from an obvious source, D’Angelo Russell. 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.
We need a good first quarter. Ideally we want to go into the 4th quarter level or with a lead at which point we can feel hopeful. We need to see the ball movement return & that comes from having Markelle on the court & with the ball in his hands. That movement can get us good looks at which point we have to hope the shots drop. Continuing to recognise who has the “hot hand” at any time & feed them opportunities is a must.
WE BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM!
LET’S GO MAGIC!