Orlando Magic vs. New Orleans Pelicans (Jan. 20, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Franz Wagner had a stellar rookie season and the Orlando Magic forward is n a star trajectory. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner had a stellar rookie season and the Orlando Magic forward is n a star trajectory. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic return home from their longest road trip after a week off to take on the struggling New Orleans Pelicans as the race to the All-Star Break begins.

Orlando Magic (16-28) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (26-19)

Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Pelicans by 1
Tickets: $24-$510 on StubHub
Season Series: Tonight in Orlando; Feb. 27 in New Orleans

PaceOff. Rtg.Def. Rtg.eFG%O.Reb.%TO%FTR
New Orleans100.5114.4111.354.430.114.929.4

OMD Prediction

The Orlando Magic have reached a certain level of maturity that is worth noting. The team feels confident enough that when it hits a little pothole that it can focus and right the ship. There is a response to poor games more and more and that is how winning teams stay above water.

When Orlando got blown out in Sacramento, the team bounced back immediately with an impressive performance the next night against the Portland Trail Blazers. They never trailed and controlled that game completely. The same could be said for their second-half response in Denver in how they erased a 15-point deficit on the last night of the longest road trip of the season.

The Magic are confident right now after that 2-3 road trip, but there is still a bit of hunger that exists thinking they were a Nikola Jokic jumper from a 3-2 road trip and a Walker Kessler offensive rebound from a chance at 4-1. This team feels like it is close.

The question is how focused will they be for this one? And, I suppose, who is going to be out on the floor — Franz Wagner is QUESTIONABLE with a right ankle sprain suffered in practice Wednesday but Wendell Carter and Markelle Fultz are not on the injury report and appear set to play.

The New Orleans Pelicans are dealing with their own adversity right now. They suffered a blowout loss at home to the Miami Heat on Wednesday and will be without Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. The Pelicans are 3-7 in their last 10.

69. 113. 38. Prediction. 107

3 Keys To Watch

Free throw slowdown

One of the biggest keys for the Orlando Magic this season has been their sudden surge in free throw shooting — check out this great post from Garrett Townsend of Orlando Pinstriped Post on just what effect Paolo Banchero’s ability to get to the line has had on the team.

The Orlando Magic rank fourth in the league in free throw rate at 29.4 percent (the same as the New Orleans Pelicans by the way). This is an essential part of the Magic’s offensive identity.

How did the team stay in the game against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday? A 40.5 percent free throw rate (four free throws for every 10 field goals taken) certainly helps. That was the fifth time the Magic hit 40 percent this season — that is something the team never did last year.

In their last 10 games though, there has been something of a slowdown at the line. Orlando has just five games with a free throw rate better than 30 percent in that time and three games with a free throw rate worse than 20 percent.

This is simply something the Magic cannot do. And you can always judge Orlando’s offensive force and activity by how the team is getting to the line. As obsessed as everyone can get with the team’s 3-point shooting, free throws are a bigger factor in their offensive success.

Home cooking

The Orlando Magic have started to build better habits on the road and have strung together more wins. The team is 6-16 on the road. That puts them at 10-12 at the Amway Center. That is not an impressive mark, but something this young team can build on.

If Orlando wants to be a postseason team, it has to start building up its homecourt advantage again. And that is where the Magic have still played their best.

At home this season, Orlando has a -1.3 net rating (113.9/115.3) at the Amway Center this season. That is still among the worst in the league. But since Markelle Fultz’s return on Nov. 30, the Magic are 6-5 with a +0.1 net rating (114.4/114.3 split). Since the Magic began their win streak on Dec. 7 in the midst of a five-game homestand, they are 6-3 with a +2.5 net rating (117.0/114.5).

That is a nice little turnaround. But the big difference that should be noted is the improvement on offense. As much as the Magic want to be a defensive team, they are pretty consistent on that end both at and away from the Amway Center.

Going through it

The New Orleans Pelicans were one of the best stories in the NBA.

Zion Williamson was a pinball machine, bouncing off players in the paint and being a huge matchup problem as the most unique big man in the league. Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum were dynamic scorers on the perimeter. And they filled in the roster with exceptional role players like Jonas Valanciunas and Jose Alvarado. Every piece of the puzzle fits.

Now Williamson is out for the foreseeable future with a right hamstring strain. Ingram is dealing with a left great toe contusion and will miss Friday’s game. That has left New Orleans searching a bit behind McCollum and Valanciunas leading the way.

Next. Orlando Magic are neither buyers nor sellers at the deadline. dark

New Orleans is just 3-5 since Williamson went out (with a -3.1 net rating and 112.8 offensive rating). The team’s offense has struggled without that unique weapon in the middle leading the way and bending defenses. Any team is going to struggle with two of its stars out.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.