We go again tonight Magic fans & the good guys are in Memphis, Tennessee to take on the Grizzlies on the final night of this 4 game road trip. It will be the second & final time that we take on the Grizzlies this season. Due to the current time difference between the U.K. & the USA being less the game has a U.K. tip time of 12:00am midnight according to the NBA app or 12:30am according to the Orlando Magic tweet. As always it will be available live & on demand via the NBA League Pass.
The Playoff Picture
There was only one game played last night that affects our chances of securing postseason basketball for a second season running. That result saw Charlotte lose in Atlanta 138-143 meaning the Hornets (22 & 42) are 10th & 7 wins behind us, whilst having played the same number of games as ourselves. The Chicago Bulls (21 & 43) are sat 11th & have dropped almost out of contention now being 8 wins adrift with the same games played as ourselves.
We remain in the 8th seed position with 18 games to play between now & the end of the regular season on April 15th. Our record is at 29 & 35 after beating the Rockets in our last outing in what was a superb performance. The Nets are 7th with a record of 29 & 34, still having played a game less than ourselves. We are 6 wins ahead of the Washington Wizards who are in 9th but they’ve played a game less than ourselves with a 23 & 40 record. We hold the tiebreaker over all four teams; the Nets (2-0), the Wizards (4 & 0), the Hornets (2-0) & the Bulls (1-0).
Tonight; the games in the race for 7th & 8th has the Nets at the Lakers, Washington at home to the Knicks & Bulls at home to the Cavs. Charlotte play tomorrow night in Miami. A win tonight could be a boost to our qualification chances & seeding.
And so to our matchup for tonight.
Being honest our road record remains poor, being 13 wins & 20 losses. This genuinely needs improvement. Our home form is a little better, currently at 16 & 15 but is also far from impressive. Across our last 10 games we have a 6 & 4 record, winning our last 2 outings in spectacular fashion. During those games against the T-Wolves & Rockets we hit all of our significant markers for games where we win.
The Magic are 16-10 when they lead after the the first quarter & we led. As a team we need to get a good start in games as we are 11-23 when we trail at the end of the first quarter. That is the responsibility of our starting unit & they have begun to step up to that challenge. Some are suggesting this is in part due to a better balance in the team with the absence of Evan Fournier. We moved to 24 & 2 when we enter the 4th quarter with a lead or are level. We are 20 & 2 when we score at least 110 points, hit 115+ points & we have won all 16 games. Where we have scored 120 or more & its wins in all 11 games.
In the NBA offensive rankings we stayed 24th but with our rating improved at 107.9 & average scoring 106.2 points per game (now the 28th worst record in the NBA for ppg). The ratings are across the season but in the past 11 games we rate as the top offensive team in the NBA.
Our defensive ranking remains 9th, but our rating improved to 108.9 whilst allowing 107.2 points per game. The opponents points per game conceded is an indication of our defensive struggles. This figure stayed even after the Rockets game which is the first time in many a week it hasn’t gone downhill. Up until very recently we had the best record for average points conceded in the NBA but slipped back as far as 5th, though we now rank 4th. The last two occasions we held an opponent to 100 points or less both came against Charlotte on February 4th (100 points) & January 20th (83 points).
Magic Lineup & Injury Report
Looking to the injury report Evan Fournier (18.8 ppg) (elbow) is confirmed as being out again for tonight, no dates being present but Coach Clifford has said it could be an extended period of absence. 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 likely be Nikola Vucevic (19.5 ppg), Markelle Fultz (12 ppg), Aaron Gordon (14.5 ppg), James Ennis (6 ppg) & Wes Iwundu (5.2 ppg) again. From the bench we will likely use DJ Augustin (10.3 ppg), Michael Carter-Williams (6.9 ppg), Terence Ross (14.6 ppg) & Mo Bamba (5.5 ppg), therefore Khem Birch (3.8 ppg), Gary Clark (3.3 ppg) & Vic Law (0 ppg) may not feature. We can if needed also call on BJ Johnson (1.6 ppg) & Melvin Frazier Jr (1.2 ppg) from the Lakeland Magic though they have not travelled. The Orlando Magic PR have tweeted out that we wear the black Icon uniform tonight.
Taking a look at our opponents & we see the Grizzlies come into the game as the 8th place team in the West with a 32 & 32 record. Their last outing was a home-court win on Saturday over Atlanta. They are 4 & 6 across their last 10 games & have a 18-14 home record. Memphis rank 20th on offence with a rating of 109.4, whilst scoring an average of 112.6 points per game. Defensively their rating of 110.4 whilst allowing opponents an average of 113.6 points per game is very similar to the figures of Houston & gives them the 16th defensive ranking in the NBA.
Memphis have 4 injury concerns listed being Grayson Allen (7.4 ppg) (hip), Brandon Clarke (12 ppg) (quadriceps), Jaren Jackson Jr (16.9 ppg) (knee) & Justice Winslow (11.3 ppg) (back) are listed as out. The Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins doesn’t have the greatest depth chart in the league but at present is getting excellent production from his team, particularly rookie point guard Ja Morant (17.6 ppg), who leads the team in points & assists.
Therefore their starting lineup is likely to be Jonas Valanciunis (14.7 ppg), Ja Morant (17.6 ppg), Kyle Anderson (5.7 ppg), De’Anthony Melton (8.1 ppg) & Dillon Brooks (15.6 ppg). From the bench they have Tyus Jones (7.4 ppg), Josh Jackson (10.2 ppg), Gorgui Dieng (7.4 ppg), Anthony Tolliver (3.5 ppg) & John Konchar (3.5 ppg).
We met this season on game day 9 during November in the Amway, taking the win 86-118. Last season we split the 2 games played with Memphis. The all time head-to-head in the 46 regular season games played sees the record level at 23-23. We have never met in the playoffs.
As with the game in Houston I’m not writing us off but this is not an easy ask again. They are 8th in the West, sat at the 500 mark & have a winning home record. Against teams over 500 we now have a 5-26 record which tells you where our struggle for more wins has been this season.
Keys To The Game
Tonight will require our defence to be at its best again as they have production across the team. We have to try to contain Morant particularly as he leads their offence with impressive court vision & ranks 13th in the NBA for assists. He is a contender for Rookie of the Year & in interviews Markelle Fultz has said he is his choice. They are the team who shoot a high field goal percentage but from the 3 have a similar percentage as ourselves on the season.
Their defence is not the best in the league by any measure so we should be able to score the ball. Therefore as I wrote for the Rockets our keys for tonight remains. We need to see ball movement again, which comes from having Markelle on the court & with the ball in his hands. That movement has got us good shots. Continuing to recognise who has the “hot hand” at any time & feeding them opportunities is a must. We need a good first quarter & ideally want to go into the 4th quarter level or with a lead.
WE BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM!
LET’S GO MAGIC!