Orlando Magic vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (Jan. 4, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Wendell Carter has dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder with two straight career performances in his last matchups against them. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Carter has dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder with two straight career performances in his last matchups against them. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic come off their long break for a tricky back-to-back starting with an Oklahoma City Thunder team that has proven potent especially after an impressive showing Tuesday night.

Orlando Magic (13-24) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (16-21)

Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Thunder by 1
Tickets: $23-$1,522 on StubHub
Season Series: Thunder 116, Magic 108 in Oklahoma City on Nov. 1; Tonight in Orlando

PaceOff. Rtg.Def. Rtg.eFG%O.Reb.%TO%FTR
Oklahoma City102.6111.3112.052.628.413.824.9

OMD Prediction

The Orlando Magic are glad to have a few days to reset.

That was the general message after practice Monday and Tuesday. The team will still be a bit short-handed because of various injuries (Jalen Suggs MAY play Thursday against the Memphis Grizzlies) and suspensions (Moe Wagner and Franz Wagner are among those suspended after last Wednesday’s kerfuffle in Detroit).

The question though is just what that reset means for the team and whether the team can bounce back and regain their form.

Having some rest advantage may help — the Oklahoma City Thunder played Tuesday night (more on that in a moment). But the team needs to get back to defending at a high level and maintaining their offensive momentum and confidence.

Swagger is really a big thing for this Magic team. They go as their confidence goes for sure.

And they will have to break an Oklahoma City Thunder team that is feeling confident after scoring 150 points in Tuesday’s win over the Boston Celtics. They have lost three of their last five though, but this team is plenty potent to score a ton of points.

114. 38. Prediction. 112. 149

3 Keys To Watch

Wendell Brings the Thunder

The last two times Wendell Carter has faced the Oklahoma City Thunder, he has found a living on the inside. The Oklahoma City Thunder, like the Orlando Magic, like to value size and positional versatility often featuring Josh Giddey at point guard or using Aleksej Pokusevski as a ball-handler (he is out Wednesday). They do not exactly have a big presence on the inside.

Carter has taken advantage of that of late. Carter scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the November loss to the Thunder earlier this year. He had 30 points in a March 30 win over the Thunder last season. Those are the only two 30-point games of his career.

Whatever it is, Carter has had a strong presence inside and has been able to dominate the Thunder on the interior. That will remain vital to the Magic as they hope to get back on the winning track, presumably with Carter back in the starting lineup as he works his way back from his injury amidst the team’s suspensions.

First Quarter Starts

Cole Anthony made an interesting observation when talking about the Orlando Magic’s reset occurring over the last few days. In all three of the team’s losses during this losing streak, the team got punched in the mouth fairly early, having to climb uphill.

Indeed, in the first quarter of the last three games, the Magic have a -20.9 net rating in the first quarter (92.1 offensive rating/113.0 defensive rating). That certainly leaves a lot to be desired for this team and makes it harder to climb uphill (especially since the Magic have noted struggles starting third quarters too).

The Magic overall are 20th in the league in first quarter with a -1.9 net rating (109.7 offensive rating/111.5 defensive rating). Offense, notably, is the problem for the team as they often struggle to find their groove to start games.

The Oklahoma City Thunder? They have had some awful first quarters, coming into the game with a -9.4 net rating in the opening quarter.

With and without Shai

Without a doubt, the driving force for the Oklahoma City Thunder this year has been Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He is in line to be an All-Star this year, averaging 30.8 points per game and leading the league with 24.4 drives per game. Gilgeous-Alexander is a constant assault on the rim and he makes his living scoring in the paint.

The Thunder rely on him a lot to get their offense moving and create easy scoring opportunities, turnovers and shots in the paint where they are third in the league with 55.8 per game.

Gilgeous-Alexander missed Tuesday’s game with a non-COVID illness but is slated to play Wednesday. The key then will be to keep him out of the paint and try to limit his ability to control the pace of the game.

Next. Franz Wagner is crucial to every lineup the Orlando Magic have. dark

That kind of control is what will be the balance for the game.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.