Orlando Magic at New Orleans Pelicans (April 1, 2021): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Undoubtedly, the NBA is interested in finding a way to keep Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans involved in the end of the regular season. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Undoubtedly, the NBA is interested in finding a way to keep Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans involved in the end of the regular season. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic head east after a huge comeback win in Los Angeles to take on the surging New Orleans Pelicans as they hit the midpoint of their West Coast trip.

Orlando Magic (16-31) at New Orleans Pelicans (21-25)


8 p.m./Bally Sports Sun




$14-$49 on StubHub

2021 Season Series:

Tonight in New Orleans; April 22 in Orlando

PaceOff. Rtg.Def. Rtg.eFG%O.Reb.%TO%FTR
New Orleans99.0115.9115.555.

OMD Prediction

The Orlando Magic have not seen Zion Williamson in action yet. Williamson was out with an injury for both meetings last year. They have not yet dealt with the wrecking ball that he is. They may get lucky in this game with Williamson listed as questionable. His presence will have a major impact on the game.

The Pelicans are one of the best rebounding teams in the league with that front line of Zion Williamson and Steven Adams and the Magic are now very thin up front. If there were a game the Magic needed their two-big lineup, this would be it. But Williamson is the exact kind of player who would give even a solid defender like Wendell Carter problems.

This Pelicans team is more than Williamson though. Brandon Ingram continues to be on a tear — 23.8 points per game and a 53.4-percent effective field goal percentage for the year and 24.6 points per game on 48.0-percent shooting from three in his last five games. This is one of the top offensive teams in the league for a reason. And while they are still young have trouble holding onto leads, they are always going to be a tough out.

69. Prediction. 102. 38. 109

3 Keys To Watch

Beginnings of an identity

One of the big things to watch right now is for patterns. Who is this team going to be? The Orlando Magic are still trying to come together and build a consistent way to play. What is going to make this team successful? Steve Clifford has been honest about this: The Magic are not going to score 110-115 points per game. They are not made up that way. And so their defense is going to have to carry the day.

Giving up 96 points in each of their first two games is definitely a good start. But it has to be more than the raw numbers. Since Sunday, the Magic have forced a 15.1-percent turnover rate. That is the 10th best mark in the league and far better than the team’s 12.8-percent rate (25th in the league). Clifford said one of the issues with the Magic’s defense throughout the year was this low opponent turnover rate. The Magic orced turnovers when their defense was great.

Your small sample size alert should be blaring. But it will be interesting to see if this trend continues. The Pelicans can be a fairly high-turnover team if the Magic keep their defensive pressure up.

Starting changes?

Steve Clifford has been fairly cautious integrating new players into the roster. He has put out a lineup to start games that is full of holdovers from before the trade. these are essentially players that are likely more comfortable playing together rather than the best players. He has still finished games with Otto Porter and Wendell Carter on the floor. It is hard to complain about those results for the most part. He clearly has some trust in them.

The issue is that starting lineup has not been good. And while Clifford has treated this trade with kid’s gloves, it is time to fully integrate the roster. Wendell Carter has likely earned a starting spot — and especially if Zion Williamson ends up playing to give the team some bulk on the inside — and Clifford has to get to a more normal rotation.

It is not yet clear whether this 11-man rotation will be the norm. But with Cole Anthony and Gary Harris coming back fairly soon, the Magic have to start establishing clearer roles and more certain and consistent playing groups. The new players helped key the comeback in Tuesday’s win. It is time to put some trust in them.

Chuma Hype Train

Everyone is starting to get aboard the Chuma Okeke hype train. He is averaging 17.8 points per game in his last four outings with a 76.7-percent effective field goal percentage. He has made 12 of 19 3-pointers in that span. Even some people outside Orlando are starting to take notice. And his game is expanding beyond just being a catch-and-shoot option — where he is making 47.2-percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers.

This matchup will be an intriguing one though. Chuma Okeke will likely either be defending the bull that is Zion Williamson or the versatile length of Brandon Ingram. Neither matchup is an easy one to crack on either end. It will be interesting to see how Steve Clifford tries to use — or protect — Chuma Okeke in the game. He has been careful in expanding his role. And while he is seeing more post-ups and opportunities to drive develop now that defenses are respecting his shooting, these are elite matchups for anyone.

Next. Wendell Carter creates competition for future at center. dark

This is going to be a big test one way or another for the Magic’s rookie. But his growth to this point has been one of the most exciting aspects of the season so far.