The Orlando Magic continue their road trip and get some good news with Jalen Suggs set to return and boost the team’s guard depth against a good Charlotte Hornets team.
Orlando Magic (7-35) at Charlotte Hornets (23-19)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
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Line via WynnBet: Hornets by 11
Tickets: $10-$302 on StubHub
2022 Season Series: Hornets 120, Magic 111 in Orlando on Oct. 27; Hornets 106, Magic 99 in Orlando on Nov. 24; Tonight in Charlotte; April 7 in Charlotte
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The Orlando Magic continue to deal with the frustration of coming up just short of winning in the fourth quarter. The team has not had a double-digit loss since the second loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at home in late December. And they were tight in the fourth quarter in that one before the Bucks overwhelmed them. This 10-game losing streak is frustrating, but the Magic seem to have a positive attitude about things.
They will get a little bit of a boost from some reinforcements on Friday. Jalen Suggs is returning to the lineup after a 20-game absence with a fracture in his right thumb. His return will be a much-welcomed relief, even if it is a small boost off the bench. The team could use just another ball-handler as much as anything.
The Charlotte Hornets will be a challenge though. They are one of the best offensive teams in the league and riding a four-game win streak that includes back-to-back wins over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Hornets are able to score a lot and will pounce on all turnovers and mistakes.
3 Keys To Watch
Jalen Suggs’ return
The Orlando Magic are certainly going to be happy to have Jalen Suggs back, even if it is just for developmental purposes. The young guard has been out since late November with a fractured bone in his right thumb. He will reportedly be on a minutes restriction and coming off the bench. Caution is certainly warranted.
Suggs is averaging 12.3 points per game this season. He has struggled with his shooting throughout the year, shooting worse than 30-percent on 3-pointers overall and a 38.9-percent effective field goal percentage. The game was only starting to slow down for him before his injury.
The biggest boost the Magic will receive from Suggs’ return is not just a full-time backup point guard and guard depth. It is his defense. Before Suggs’ injury, the Magic had a 111.4 defensive rating overall. With Suggs on the floor, the team gave up just 106.2 points per 100 possessions. A significant difference.
According to NBA.com’s tracking statistics, Suggs gives up 0.57 points per possession when defending pick and rolls. That places him in the 96th percentile in the league. Suggs is already a high-level defender. Just getting that back will boost the team.
That is coming on top of a general improvement from the Orlando Magic defensively. As the latest graph of the team’s defensive rating in the last 15 games from Kirk Goldsberry shows, the Magic are starting to make some gains defensively.
The promise of not only Jalen Suggs’ return but also Jonathan Isaac’s return in the coming weeks is only growing excitement for the team’s defense. Wendell Carter’s return from a sore left hamstring will help with that too.
OK, so these are still only small improvements. In the last 15 games, the Magic are 17th in the league at 111.2 points allowed per 100 possessions. That is still not impressing too many people. But it is something for a team looking to build its defensive identity.
During January, the Magic are giving up 108.6 points per 100 possessions. That is 14th in the league. Still a small sample but these are all positive signs for a team that is trying to carve out a defensive identity. Little victories right?
All gas, no breaks
The Orlando Magic will get a big challenge of that defense though against the Charlotte Hornets. There is always seemingly one team that is a speeding bullet offensively but a train wreck defensively.
The Hornets rank second in the league in offensive rating at 112.6 points per 100 possessions and 26th in defensive rating giving up 112.9 points per 100 possessions.
That is fine for who the Hornets want to be. They push the pace with LaMelo Ball leading the pack and Miles Bridges filling in the wings and plenty of scorers beyond that. Charlotte is third in the league with 15.2 fast-break points per game and third with 19.1 points off turnovers per game.
The Hornets are a team nobody wants to try to outscore.
Certainly not a scoring-challenged team like the Magic. They have to stay steady offensively and play at their pace while limiting their mistakes.