Orlando Magic at Washington Wizards (Jan. 21, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

The Orlando Magic had one of the best overall defenses in the league after the All-Star Break but there is still work to do to become a defensive team. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic had one of the best overall defenses in the league after the All-Star Break but there is still work to do to become a defensive team. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are back on the road to face the Washington Wizards in an early battle between two postseason hopefuls in the play-in chase.

Orlando Magic (17-28) at Washington Wizards (19-26)

Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Wizards by 7
Tickets: $17-$1,620 on StubHub
Season Series: Wizards 119, Magic 100 in Orlando on Dec. 30; Tonight in Washington, D.C.; March 21 in Orlando; March 31 in Washington, D.C.

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OMD Prediction

The Orlando Magic want to believe they are in the postseason chase. Trailing the Chicago Bulls by four games at this stage of the season is nothing to panic about as the team just needs to keep building up wins. But there is clearly some work to do. The first team to get over is the Washington Wizards, a veteran team that is also fighting to stay in the postseason hunt while figuring out their future.

The Orlando Magic faced off against the Washington Wizards at the end of December during an exhausting stretch of games and got torched by their 3-point shooting and speed. Washington is one of the few teams that seemingly can match Orlando’s size. And they did not have Bradley Beal for that game either.

Washington runs hot and cold. The Wizards are in a cold period right now, having won just two of their past seven games after winning five straight and six of seven. The Magic are on a tough back-to-back and even with some added rest from last night’s fourth quarter, this will be a tough but important game.

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3 Keys To Watch

Back-to-back troubles

The Orlando Magic have not been good in back-to-backs this year.

Orlando is 1-7 on the second night of back-to-backs this year. The only win came in the team’s last back-to-back over the Portland Trail Blazers. That came with an added focus following a blowout loss the night before against the Sacramento Kings.

But there is a clear difference in this team on back-to-backs without a doubt.

The Magic have a solid and improving 114.3 defensive rating for the season. But with zero days’ rest, the Magic’s defensive rating jumps to 120.2 points allowed per 100 possessions. Orlando’s overall net rating on the second night of back-to-backs is -6.9 points per 100 possessions.

This is the moment where teams have to dig in and rely on their identity. That is not what the Magic are doing on little rest. That will be even tougher considering the travel — home-to-road back-to-backs are the single worst thing in the NBA schedule.

3-point defense

When the Orlando Magic faced the Washington Wizards back in December, they got bombarded by 3-pointers. The Wizards went 15 for 35 from deep and that put the Magic’s defense in a blender for the game. Orlando was never really able to track shooters — Kyle Kuzma made four and Kristaps Porzingis hit three. And again, Bradley Beal did not play in this one.

But the Magic though are typically a solid 3-point defending team.

Opponents shoot just 34.0 percent from beyond the arc against the Magic, best 3-point defense by 3-point field goal percentage in the league. That was certainly boosted by a strong showing Friday night where the usually sharp New Orleans Pelicans hit only 10 of 35 from deep.

The catch here is that Orlando tends to give up a lot of 3-pointers as the team puts its focus on defending the paint. Opponents get 38.0 attempts per game against the Magic. That means they still make their fair share. But this is a good sign of the team’s ability to scramble and contest shots.

The volume is still a problem for the team and it is clear that sometimes giving up that volume of 3-pointers can burn the team. There is a lot of 3-point luck baked into these numbers.

Balanced stars

The Washington Wizards are a team that is centered on their stars.

Only five players score in double figures for the Wizards and the vast majority of their points come from their three potential All-Stars in Bradley Beal (22.7 points per game), Kristaps Porzingis (22.2 points per game) and Kyle Kuzma (21.7 points per game).

All three are potent from all three levels and the Wizards are a dangerous team in transition with athletic and long wings in Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija along with hot-shooting guards like Monte Morris and Will Barton. It is kind of surprising that this team is so imbalanced with its scoring and so reliant on its stars.

dark. Next. Orlando Magic find their starting five

That might explain why the Wizards are struggling where they are record-wise. They have not been able to put all the pieces together and win consistently. The key to beating the Wizards may not be stopping their three stars. It may well be in stopping the rest of the supporting cast.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.