Ups & Downs

Last Wednesday, the Orlando Magic tipped off their 2018/19 season in dramatic fashion, something we’ve grown accustomed to over the last few years before more ups and downs to close out the first week of the season. Orlando faced the Miami Heat and we got to see an NBA debut for sixth overall pick Mohamed Bamba, as well as point guard Jerian Grant who was traded to the Magic in the offseason. The Magic starters struggled early by getting off to a slow start and for D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic, their struggles continued throughout the game.

After trailing by 6 points after the first quarter, Orlando were ignited by the bench who came in during the second quarter holding Miami to just 20 points and turned up the dial defensively. The second and third quarter saw the second unit provide the Magic with needed grit, effort and relentless defence not allowing Miami any easy shots, playing for each other. That was the first sign of what this team can become with a defensive mindset led by Jerian Grant, Terrence Ross, Jonathon Simmons, Aaron Gordon and Mo Bamba.

A sequence of highlight plays in the fourth quarter, sparked the Magic and really helped get the crowd into the game, starting with a 3 point play from Jonathon Simmons who was fouled as he drove to the hoop, was followed up by an outstanding block by center Mohamed Bamba, on the next play Terrence Ross had a double block on Miami’s Hassan Whiteside before getting out on a fast break and Bamba got the offensive rebound off of a Jerian Grant missed and dunked it home.

But the Orlando Magic never make it easy on themselves, up 11 with under 3 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, with the game supposed their to close out and start 1-0, Orlando allowed the Heat back into the game in the closing minutes. Miami cut the lead to 1 with 3.5 seconds to go with a chance to win, second year forward Jonathan Isaac forced Josh Richardson to step out of bounds as he looked to get a shot up, turning the ball over and the Magic won by 3 points.

Their were a lot of things to like from the win over the Heat, that included an impressive 26 points and 16 rebounds from Aaron Gordon who scored the majority of his points in the flow of the offence, as well as 13 points, 7 rebounds and that huge block from Mohamed Bamba on his debut. Bamba his also in the record books as his 13 point effort is the most points scored by a Magic rookie on debut, more than Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway and Dwight Howard. Despite letting the Heat hang around, it was a positive opening night win.

Friday was a chance to repeat the good things that the Magic displayed and to improve on them against the Charlotte Hornets. Charlotte came into this one after a disappointing 1 point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and were searching for a way to get their first win of the season. Orlando lost this one heavily, by 32 points in a night that nothing went right offensively or defensively as the Hornets dominated and got anything they want from the opening tip. The first half, Orlando actually defended very well, holding the Hornets under 40% shooting but their offence never got going and couldn’t keep pace with Charlotte who eventually took the Magic apart in the second half, giving the Magic one of the worst defeats, with as bad a performance as I can remember.

Not a lot else can be said for Friday’s embarrassing loss to Charlotte but Orlando had the chance to respond to that by taking on the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday. The Sixers who are one of the better Eastern Conference teams, were expected to win this game comfortably and it looked like that could’ve been the case midway through the third quarter. The Magic actually got off to a hot start to the game, getting out to a quick 9-0 run, leading by as many as 14 points before JJ Redick and Embiid pulled the Sixers back and took over. Former Magic man Redick poured in eight 3 pointers and finished with 31 points, who always seems motivated to face his former team.

The game seemed to be getting away from the Magic but a solid third quarter left them hanging around before they pulled it back with a couple of minutes to go. Down by 2 with under 2 minutes to play, Terrence Ross picked up the ball off a deflection inside his own half as the shot clock wound down, he threw a mid court heave in desperation that miraculously dropped and gave the Magic a 1 point lead. When that shot went in, it felt like it could’ve been Orlando’s night, but another Redick 3 followed pegging the Magic back before Aaron Gordon was fouled and went to the line.

Gordon missed his second free throw that could’ve tied the game was rebounded by Vucevic and in a tussle, the referee called a jump ball. Vucevic won the tip, the Magic called timeout with a chance to win the game, down 1 with 4.2 seconds remaining. The ball was inbounded to Ross who jacked up a 3 which fell short but he actually had enough time that he could’ve drove and got himself a better shot, but time ran out and the Magic sit at 1-2.

There were certainly some positives from the games against Miami and Philadelphia, but they also have a lot to clean up. Head Coach Steve Clifford was not happy after the game against the Sixers, who felt the Magic defended well for most of the game, gave two big plays up defensively that made the difference between winning the game and losing it. The Magic’s tough start to the season, gets tougher this week as they travel to Boston and Milwaukee, with a home game in between against the Portland Trailblazers.

Monday 22nd October

Orlando Magic @ Boston Celtics (TD Garden)

Tip Off: 12:30am

The Magic continue their road trip by travelling to Boston to take on the 2-1 Celtics who won their opening home game against the Sixers and at New York on Sunday evening, their only loss coming against the Toronto Raptors. There is no doubt that this is a game that Boston will be expected to win if they want to finish 1st in the Eastern Conference this season and build on their impressive campaign last year. The Magic have lost 7 of their last 8 games against the Celtics but they did pick up a win on their last visit to the TD Garden, winning 1o3-95 back in January.

Boston will be without Aron Baynes on Monday because of a hamstring injury whilst Marcus Morris is questionable to play with a sore knee. Gordon Hayward who missed all of last season after breaking his leg on his Celtics debut has been dealing with a sore ankle but is expected to play. They will be very cautious with him this season as he makes his gradual return hoping to have him ready for the playoffs in April.

Jonathon Simmons missed Saturdays game in Philadelphia after he attended the funeral of his Uncle, but he will be available for the Magic on Monday. Timofey Mozgov has been ruled out with a knee injury but is unlikely to feature most of the season.

Thursday 26th October

Orlando Magic vs Portland Trailblazers (Amway Center)

Tip Off: 12:00am

The Blazers make their only trip to Central Florida on Thursday who start a four game road trip at Miami, at Indiana and finishing with Houston. Portland are just one of six teams who remain unbeaten to start the season after picking up wins against the Lakers and Spurs, they will face the Wizards on Tuesday before taking on Orlando.

Portland have won the last 3 games against Orlando and lead the all time head to head 32-25. Portland have no injury concerns heading into their game with the Wizards so a near full strength Blazers will face the Magic on Thursday.

Saturday 28th October

Orlando Magic @ Milwaukee Bucks (Fiserv Forum)

Tip Off: 1:30am

Orlando will get their first look at Milwaukee’s new home, the Fiserv Forum on Saturday night and will be hoping to slow down All Star Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. The Bucks will be on a second night of a back to back after facing the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, as the Magic hope to win their first game in Milwaukee since 2015.

Milwaukee has won five of the last seven against the Magic including the last five games at home. The Bucks will be keen to settle into their new arena and make it a difficult place to visit, something they did on Saturday beating the Indiana Pacers 118-101 to open up their new home.

The home team only have one injury concern to D.J. Wilson who won’t play on Monday with a hamstring injury, but is also a player who may not even make the rotation.

Orlando Magic UK Predictions (Week 2)

Geraint: 1-2 (2 of 3)

Ian: 0-3 (3 of 3)

Mikey: 0-3 (3 of 3)

Paul: 1-2 (2 of 3)

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