Orlando Magic vs. Chicago Bulls (Jan. 28, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Wendell Carter has established himself as a consistent force for an Orlando Magic team finding its identity. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Carter has established himself as a consistent force for an Orlando Magic team finding its identity. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic return home from their trip south to take on the Chicago Bulls in a game that could prove important in the postseason chase.

Orlando Magic (19-30) vs. Chicago Bulls (22-26)

Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Bulls by 2.5
Tickets: $50-$2,420 on StubHub
Season Series: Magic 108, Bulls 107 in Chicago on Nov. 18; Tonight in Orlando; Feb. 13 in Chicago

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OMD Prediction

One thing Jamahl Mosley has always praised about his Orlando magic team is how they respond. When they take a dispiriting loss or a blowout, they usually respond with a strong effort in the next outing. This Magic team is resilient, it is clear to see that on the floor. And while they are prone to youthful mistakes, they will not let them linger. This Magic team always has a response.

That is how the Orlando Magic should be feeling after their loss to the Miami Heat on Friday night. They lost a nine-point halftime lead thanks to 20 turnovers. That has been an issue all year. So will the team take this mistake as a slight and respond with a more focused effort at home?

On top of this, will the Magic be able to break their hex with back-to-backs? The Magic still have only one win on back-to-backs this year. That was the win at Portland following a blowout loss to the Sacramento Kings. The Chicago Bulls should be focused too, having had to stew in Orlando after their surprising loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday.

38. Prediction. 107. 24. 111

3 Keys To Watch

Home shooting

Everyone around the Orlando Magic is always obsessed with the team’s shooting. It is still the team’s biggest overall weakness and the skill that will likely unlock the Magic’s latent offensive potential.

The Magic are getting better at it even if they do not have the volume quite yet.

Orlando ranks 20th in 3-point field goal percentage at 35.3 percent (albeit on 31.1 attempts per game, 24th in the league). That is steady progress. And the Magic are getting more comfortable from deep too — 36.9 percent (13th in the league) on 31.3 attempts per game since the totally not arbitrary Dec. 7 date.

As expected with any team, they are even better at home. Within the Amway Center, the Magic are shooting 36.6 percent from deep on 30.8 attempts per game. That is a pretty good bump and puts the team squarely in the middle of the league.

It is going to get harder to call the Magic a poor shooting team for much longer. They are much better than their numbers would suggest.

The next trick will be to increase the volume while continuing to get inside and work inside out. That is a big challenge. But Orlando is shooting it much better lately.

Early Isaac impact

As expected, the Orlando Magic sat out Jonathan Isaac on the road against the Miami Heat as part of the back-to-back. It is highly unlikely Isaac will play both sets of any back-to-back this season. Isaac is expected to be ready to go for his third game in his comeback Saturday against former teammate Nikola Vuceivc and the Chicago Bulls.

So even with just 19 minutes under his belt, it is never too early to look at his impact, right? Right?!

The Orlando Magic had an overall offensive/defensive rating split of 125.1/113.0 in two very different games — a defensive slugfest with the Boston Celtics and an offensive shootout with the Indiana Pacers. With Isaac on the floor in those two games, the Magic had a 115.0/94.9 offensive/defensive rating split.

Take all these numbers at face value for now. The sample size is too small. But the eye test would support that Isaac is already making an impact defensively to back these numbers up. His instincts on that end have become incredibly disruptive.

He no doubt is providing a good energy boost to the team regardless of what the early numbers say.

Standings watch

The Orlando Magic as an organization are not likely to tell anyone they are doing any standings watch. But the players are saying it fairly openly. They believe they can climb back into the postseason chase and their goal is to make the postseason this year.

It will take some work to do that and that is what makes Saturday’s game against the Chicago Bulls so critical. This is a veritable six-pointer as the Magic try to climb above several teams to get into the postseason.

Orlando is currently sitting at 19-30, three games in the win column behind the Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors for that final play-in spot. It is going to be a drag-out fight to get that final spot with all three teams featuring veteran players and playoff expectations. That is who the Magic have to overcome.

For the record then too, the Orlando Magic are five games in the win column and six games in the loss column ahead of the Charlotte Hornets for 14th. The Magic are not going to slide down the standings. At least, they should not.

The Bulls’ season has been a roller coaster but they have not found their footing quite yet. Chicago has lost five of its last eight games, including their last two, losing a 16-point halftime lead at Indiana and then falling to Charlotte by 15 on the road. Those three wins all came in a row and this losing stretch followed a three-game win streak.

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Chicago is a tough team to figure out. The Bulls can be world-beaters one day and then abysmal the next. Thus their 22-26 record.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.