Tonight’s game: Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder, 7 p.m.

TV: Sun Sports
Radio: 580 WDBO

Orlando Magic (5-1) PG Jameer Nelson SG JJ Redick SF Matt Barnes PF Brandon Bass C Dwight Howard
Top story: The Magic are down to nine active players – just one more than the league minimum – with Rashard Lewis (suspension), Vince Carter (ankle), Ryan Anderson (ankle) and Adonal Foyle (knee) missing in action. Matt Barnes is sick, and based on the contagiousness of the swine flu and the fact that Orlando sent home Mickael Pietrus with flu-like symptoms a week ago, it’s likely that he wouldn’t be playing if the Magic weren’t so already depleted. Health issues aside, the Magic are coming off two quality home victories against the Suns and Pistons.

Who you’re watching: We’ll see some different looks from the magic, including Anthony Johnson at shooting guard, JJ Redick at small forward and Matt Barnes and Marcin Gortat at power forward. If you’re a fan of the Magic going with the twin towers look or the two-point look, tonight will be a good time to watch.

Why they’ll win: Even with so many players out, Orlando’s two healthy all-stars – Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson – can carry the Magic against a team such as Oklahoma City. The Thunder are young and exciting, but it’s unclear how they plan to stop Howard, who posted his only career triple-double against the Thunder last season.

Oklahoma City (2-3) PG Russell Westbrook SG Thabo Sefolosha SF Kevin Durant PF Jeff Green C Nenad Krstic

Top story: Sam Presti has constructed one of the league’s most exciting young cores, led by the run-and-gun trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbroko and Jeff Green. The Thunder are similar to the Magic of three seasons ago. They have plenty of talent that will almost certainly be good in time, but they’re going to go through some growing pains while at this stage in their development. They’ve showed flashes of briliance early on, starting 2-0 and staying close in games against the Blazers and Lakers. If Oklahoma City can keep this core together – as well as add a piece or two via free agency – the Thunder will be a contender every year.

Who you’re watching: Durant is primed to join the class of LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and the like in the upper echelon of young NBA stars. His mix of length, shooting ability and ball skills is nearly unheard of. It’s not a great matchup for him, as Mickael Pietrus and Matt Barnes are two perimeter defenders with the length to at least get in his line of vision, but it’s not like Durant can be shut down.

Why they’ll win: A win against Orlando would be a benchmark victory for Oklahoma City, similar to the Magic’s regular-season win over San Antonio a few seasons ago (when Howard received an alley-oop from Hedo Turkoglu as time expired to win the game). The Thunder are playing at a pretty good defensive rate – they are seventh in defensive efficiency, and if they catch the Magic on a not-blazing shooting night, they can pull out the home victory.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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