After a disappointing effort in Boston, the Orlando Magic face the debuting James Harden and the Brooklyn Nets. A game that will test their defensive and offensive capabilities.
Orlando Magic (6-6) vs. Brooklyn Nets (7-6)
6 p.m./FOX Sports Florida
No Tickets Available
2020 Season Series:
in Orlando on Jan. 6;
in Brooklyn on Feb. 24;
at the NBA Campus on July 31;
at the NBA Campus on Aug. 11
2021 Season Series:
Tonight in Brooklyn; Feb. 25 in Brooklyn
The Orlando Magic did not look much more organized or tied together following their extra day off. This is a team that still seems very unsure of itself. They are trying to figure out roles and their way to play. And frustration is certainly growing. The wake-up call is either going to come or it is going to bury this team and make it a lost year. The Brooklyn Nets will be figuring out who they are too — they still largely are. The difference is they have Kevin Durant and now James Harden. This is not the kind of game the Magic are really ready for. Brooklyn’s offense will pull apart everything Orlando’s defense has struggled with of late.
3 Keys To Watch
Assists and Passing
The Orlando Magic’s offense is struggling for several reasons. Shooting is the biggest and most obvious reason the Magic are struggling. They do not have a ton of 3-point shooting and most of their 3-point shooting is injured right now. The team has not been able to spring Terrence Ross free — he is shooting 7.7-percent from three in the last four games! It is a major problem.
But those issues are a symptom of larger problems in the way the Magic are executing. That is merely the end product. The Magic’s struggles to shoot are as much about how things lead up to the shot.
The Magic currently rank last in the league with 20.4 assists per game. This is a team that does not have a true isolation threat. They do not have someone who can create offense out of nothing against set defenses. This team needs to pass the ball to create better shot opportunities. Orlando has to solve this problem and find a way to move the ball to get better shots to solve the problem.
James Harden’s debut
James Harden finally arrived in Brooklyn on Friday for an introductory press conference. He promised that he was ready to take fewer shots and be a better playmaker to fit in with Kevin Durant and eventually Kyrie Irving (he has already been ruled out). Harden was listed as questionable as the trade got finalized in the 8:30 p.m. injury report Friday. But the Magic are expecting he will play.
Harden is clearly a good enough passer. In the Orlando Magic’s loss to the Houston Rockets, Harden posted 13 assists on a night when he was taking it easy offensively. There will be hiccups as he learns the playbook and where players like the ball. But Harden should find his spots.
A lot on Aaron Gordon’s plate
Coming out of Monday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, coach Steve Clifford was singing Aaron Gordon’s praise as the point guard saying he did a good job organizing the team and they had positive minutes with him as the primary playmaker. Friday then was a step back to Clifford. The team was not as organized as effective. It will be a work in progress.
The Magic are putting a lot on Aaron Gordon’s plate. They are trying to leverage and flash grow Gordon’s playmaking which they secretly believed in and wanted to foster and grow this season anyway. Orlando is doing it by necessity as Cole Anthony eases into his role as the starting point guard.
Gordon has to do so much. He has a huge offensive role and then he defends the best player on the other team. He is going to be matched up with Kevin Durant during Saturday’s game. It is hard to ask him to be the primary playmaker and primary defender. Gordon’s biggest struggle on Friday was him trying to force the ball. He has to set the tone and pass it.