Brooklyn is favored by 3.5 points at home over the Magic
The Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets will face off against each other for just the second time this season later tonight in a game that could have a major impact in the hunt for the postseason. As it stands right now, the Nets are the seventh seed in the East while the Magic are the eighth seed. Orlando is just two and a half games back from the Nets in the East, so a win tonight could go a long way in helping the Magic move up in the playoff standings.
These teams have only played each other once so far this season. That game came back on January 6th at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. The game was close for short periods of time as the Nets managed to find leads in the first and fourth quarters. However, the Magic would end up running away with the game late and would take home the victory by a final score of 101-89. Markelle Fultz was the star of the game as the former number one overall pick led all players in the with 25 points. Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris both put up 16 points for Brooklyn, but it would not be enough as Orlando managed to hold every other player on the Nets to single digit scoring outputs. I worry that the outcome in tonight’s game could be similar.
When these teams first faced off, they were trending in opposite directions. The Nets were in the midst of a seven-game losing streak while the Magic were 4-3 in their previous seven games. This time around, things look a bit different. Brooklyn is 8-4 in the 12 games they have played dating back to January 25th. Meanwhile, the Magic have struggled recently, posting a 4-9 record in their last 13 games.
Last time these teams played, Orlando had the league’s top scoring defense and that is still the case. The Magic are only allowing their opponents to score 105.7 points per game which is the best mark in the NBA. However, defense has not been the issue for the Magic this season. Their struggles come on the offensive side of the ball. Orlando’s 104 points per game makes them the second worst offense in the entire league, ahead of only the Charlotte Hornets. They have improved in their last six games, averaging 109.2 points in those contests, but their record has not led to much improvement as they have only managed to post a 2-4 record in those match-ups.
The problem here is that the Nets offense is not blowing anybody away, especially without Kyrie Irving. Brooklyn is tied for 20th in the NBA in points per game (110.5 PPG). They are playing slightly better than the numbers indicate though in recent outings. Over their last seven contests, they are 5-2 and are averaging 113.1 points per game. On the other end, the Nets are just middle of the road when it comes to playing defense. They are 16th in the NBA in points per game allowed. In the end though, I don’t think the outcome of this game will be determined by a full team effort for either squad. I think the winner in this one will just need a few specific individuals to step up in order to achieve victory.
The backcourts will be the difference in this game. Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie will need to step up big time if the Nets want to secure a win against a team they are competing with in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Now that Kyrie Irving is done for the year, Spencer Dinwiddie is leading Brooklyn with 20.8 points per game. He has managed to do it all for Brooklyn recently. In Dinwiddie’s last 10 games, he is averaging over 18 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds. Furthermore, Caris LeVert has stepped up in Kyrie’s absence as well. The former first round pick has 18.2 points and 4.1 assists in his last ten games, which are both higher marks than he has averaged throughout the season. The issue is that the Magic have a trio of guards that are playing some of their best basketball as of late. In their last ten games, Markelle Fultz is making over 50% of his shots while Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier are averaging over 30 points per game combined. This matchup will be determined by how these backcourts face off against one another.
I really want to pick the Nets in this one, but I just think the Magic are a little more motivated right now. They have slightly more production coming from their entire backcourt. It’s simple math: three good players are better than two good players. On top of that, Brooklyn has struggled at containing their opponent’s big men, and Nikola Vucevic leads the Magic in both points and rebounds per game this season. I think Orlando will win this game outright, and move a step closer to possibly surpassing the Nets in the Eastern Conference Playoff race.