Orlando Magic at Charlotte Hornets (May 7, 2021): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Orlando Magic rookie Cole Anthony has improved throughout the preseason into his regular season debut. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
Orlando Magic rookie Cole Anthony has improved throughout the preseason into his regular season debut. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic hit the road to face the Charlotte Hornets, who are on the verge of clinching a spot in the play-in tournament.

Orlando Magic (21-45) at Charlotte Hornets (32-34)

Time/TV: 8 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Hornets by 7
Tickets: $17-$379 on StubHub
2021 Season Series: Hornets 107, Magic 104 in Orlando on Jan. 24; Magic 117, Hornets 108 in Orlando on Jan. 25; Tonight in Charlotte

PaceOff. Rtg.Def. Rtg.eFG%O.Reb.%TO%FTR

OMD Prediction

The Orlando Magic are going to lay some eggs. The reality of their roster and their experience is that there will be some stretch of the game where they struggle to find consistency. And the question facing the team in a lot of games is whether they will be able to survive those stretches — or limit them to one. Orlando had two really poor stretches to start both halves in the loss to the Boston Celtics. But the Magic can find pockets to compete in games against young teams that do not quite know how to put games away.

The Charlotte Hornets are that kind of young team. Undoubtedly talent and a sure bet to make the playoffs — they can clinch a spot in the play-in tournament with a win and Chicago Bulls loss on Friday — they are a dangerous team that can put up points in a hurry. They play extremely hard. But they are prone to mistakes and missteps. That happened in a frustrating game Friday against the Bulls.

38. 109. 170. Prediction. 101

3 Keys To Watch

Into the Paint

One thing Steve Clifford pointed out after Wednesday’s game was how poor the Orlando Magic were at getting into the paint. Their drives were getting cut off and they were not able to work inside-out. The Boston Celtics put a lot of pressure on ball-handlers and did a good job disrupting any flow or rhythm the team had.

The Celtics were able to do this even without a great inside presence. Orlando has been at least decent scoring in the paint with 46.1 points in the paint since the trade deadline (18th in the league). Since the deadline, Charlotte has been 11th in the league, giving up 46.2 points in the paint. Credit the work from Bismack Biyombo, P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges plus James Borrego’s defensive philosophy. Orlando has to do a better job getting shots in the paint and using that to kick out. That kind of flow is necessary to keep things going.

LaMelo’s Return

Undoubtedly one of the reasons the Charlotte Hornets have put themselves in the playoff picture is the emergence of LaMelo Ball. If not for his five-week absence with a fractured wrist, Ball would likely be the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. As it stands, Ball is averaging 15.6 points per game and 6.2 assists per game with a 51.6-percent effective field goal percentage.

The Hornets are trying to integrate him back into the lineup as they finish up their season and look to wrap up a playoff berth. Ball has still been impressive. In four games, he is averaging 13.0 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game and 7.0 assists per game. That includes a strong closing flourish to hold off the Detroit Pistons. He made only 1 of 10 shots in Thursday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls. He still made an impact with nine assists. Ball’s rookie year has been impressive.

Mo’s numbers

A lot of the last 24 hours, on my timeline at least, has been spent debating what Mohamed Bamba’s gaudy stats mean. Bamba has averaged 15.0 points per game, 11.0 rebounds per game and 2.8 blocks per game in his last four games and 12.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game in his last 10 games. That looks like a really good player and seeing Bamba put up these numbers is encouraging. It shows he has that capability.

But context matters too. Bamba’s 16 of 22 points in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons was impressive and necessary to win. That has meaning but should come with the note that both teams were not helping themselves win in that fourth quarter. He had 19 points and 15 rebounds in the loss to the Celtics. But five points and seven rebounds came in the first half. The rebounding at least feels a bit more real.

Next. Which Magic players can win future NBA awards. dark

Mohamed Bamba will get a second consecutive start Friday in Charlotte with Wendell Carter still out with an eye abrasion. He has to do better with the opportunity and make his presence felt to give these gaudy numbers some weight behind them.