Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks (March 3, 2021): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Nikola Vucevic and the Orlando Magic are trying to work him in the high post and beyond the 3-point line in their base sets. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Nikola Vucevic and the Orlando Magic are trying to work him in the high post and beyond the 3-point line in their base sets. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic close the first half of their season battling a fellow division foe in the Atlanta Hawks with the playoff chase well underway.

Orlando Magic (13-22) vs. Atlanta Hawks (15-20)


8 p.m./FOX Sports Florida




$11-$388 on StubHub

2021 Season Series:

Tonight in Orlando; April 20 in Atlanta; May 13 in Atlanta

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OMD Prediction

The Orlando Magic can relate at least somewhat to the struggles the Atlanta Hawks are going through. The Hawks have lost 11 of their last 16 games. That ultimately led to the team dismissing coach Lloyd Pierce. The Hawks have not played to their expectations at all. With the investment the team made, that part is extremely disappointing.

Atlanta is still a dangerous team despite these struggles. Trae Young is liable to go off at any moment. Any close game he is in, he can take over and win. That is what happened in Tuesday’s win over the Miami Heat. But something is still off about the Hawks. Their offense can get stagnant and over-reliant on Young. A disciplined defensive team can slow them down. And the Magic are playing well.

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3 Keys To Watch

Ice Trae

When it comes to the Atlanta Hawks, everything revolves around Trae Young. Why are the Hawks struggling this year? It is because Young has not taken the step forward as an efficient playmaker and scorer. He is averaging 26.2 points per game and 9.5 assists per game. But he is shooting a 49.7-percent effective field goal percentage. This is despite shooting better from beyond the arc on almost three fewer attempts than last year.

He is trying to be a better teammate and that is showing to mixed effect. The splits when the Hawks win or lose are pretty telling. Young scores 32.2 points per game and shoots 48.2-percent from beyond the arc in wins. He scores only 21.2 points per game and shoots 25.5-percent from beyond the arc in losses. That is pretty telling and shows why teams are loading up on Young to slow this Hawks team down.

Improved Defense?

Coach Steve Clifford has been praising the Orlando Magic’s defense for several weeks now. The team has observationally played much better defense. The numbers support that a bit too. Since the Magic’s West Coast road trip, the Magic are giving up 111.0 points per 100 possessions. That is 15th in the league during that time. It is nothing to write home about. But it is an improvement from the team’s season averages.

Clifford always talks about the team getting better as the season progresses. This is usually the time of year under Clifford where everything clicks together for his team. It is all going to start on defense. The team knows that. And that has been the frustrating part of the last week. The team has done some things well defensively but have missed key pieces and struggled to get everything to fit together.

One for the road

The Orlando Magic are still pushing and trying to build momentum. The team is not giving up on its playoff dreams even in the face of what everyone acknowledges will be a difficult second-half schedule. This is not a team that is built to give up — nor should anyone want them to, lest they become the team they were under Rob Hennigan.

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Things will be tough no doubt. The Orlando Magic are three games behind the Chicago Bulls for 10th, but three teams separate them from that spot. The Magic are four losses behind the 10th spot but only two wins behind it. this is a very weird season. The Magic defeating the Hawks would go a long way to keeping the team inside the playoff chase. But the question is just how quickly will this thing dry up.